An Introductory Timeline of Western Women's Fashion
I think a good place to start to get into dress history is general overview of the whole timeline. Understanding especially how the silhouettes change is really important ground knowledge to build the rest of the information on.
I'll start the timeline from Middle Ages and go till the first world war. I'll focus on upper class England/French sector, so keep in mind that before 17th century there were huge regional differences in fashion inside Europe and class differences too. There is a lot variance, changes and nuance inside any century and decade I'm about to discuss, but I'll try to keep this short and introductory and very simplified. I used a very scientific method of basically what makes most sense to me to divide the periods. I've made sketches what I would consider to be the basic silhouette of the period stripped mostly out of the detail and then I give couple of primary source examples.
12th century (Middle Ages)
Dress was simple one or more tunics over a chemise. They were overly long for upper classes, made out of straight lines. There were loose tunics often worn over another tunic, and tunics with laced bodice called biaut. In France bliaut sleeves often widened from the elbow, in England they often widened in frists.
13th century (Middle Ages)
Clothing was mostly very similar as in the previous century, though bliaut was mostly gone and new popular style was a loose sleeves surcoat.
14th century (Middle Ages)
Tailoring basically revolutionized clothing production, since clothes weren't made out of rectangles anymore and could be better made to fit form. Also functional buttons and lacing was popularized resulting in very fitted styles. The underlayer tunic, kirtle, became a fitted supporting layer.
15th century (Middle Ages)
Improvements in weaving technology and trade and growing prosperity in Europe showed in clothing as excess of fabric and variety of trends. Houppelande, a loose A-lined overdress lined with fur and fastened with a wide belt under chest, became a very popular clothing item, and in later decades developed into the iconic Burgundian dress (the red dress). Fitted overdress continued to be popular alongside the warmer houppelandes.
1500s-1550s (Tudor period)
In the renaissance era clothing became increasingly structured and elaborate. The bodice was heavily boned and the skirt was also structured.
1560s-1610s (Elizabethan Era)
Both structuring and elaborate decoration reach it's peak during Queen Elizabeth's reign. She became the defining fashion icon of the late renaissance.
In baroque era the bodice was still heavily structured, but more curved than the conical Elizabethan bodice. Otherwise though structuring was replaces with dramatic excess of fabric.
In the late 17th century there was a huge shift in the clothing industry as mantua, a loose open robe inspired by Japanese kimono, came to dominate fashion. Rigid bodice was replaces by structured under layer, stays. Stays brought back the conical silhouette of Elizabethan era.
Mantua developed into the iconic Rococo dress in France, robe à la francaise (first example picture), and in England robe à la anglaise with closed bodice. Rococo fashion was characterized by the wide silhouette of the skirt.
Since Tumblr won't accept more than 10 pictures per a post I'll have to continue in a reblog. So to be continued!
Could you please draw some of the historically accurate costume for the servants in Disney’s beauty and the beast, when you get the chance?
This is a fun idea, Anon! I love historical working class clothing, so I did a couple of sketches. So here's Mrs Potts, Lumiére and Featherdust!
Mrs Potts has bedgown, a typical working class dress. Lumiére has a fashionable men's wear, he would have been at least gentile. Feather dust has a robe a la francaise, definitely a hand down from a mistress, which was usual for maids, especially in fancier households. I dated them in around 1750s as I did with my historical Belle.
Disney’s Beauty and the Beast is very easy to place in a time period and setting, pre revolutionary France. I had a good idea of how I wanted to redesign Belle and I started by looking at paintings of Marie Antoinette and these ended up being the main inspiration for this piece. I love the rococo style and how over the top it is but I didn’t think this suited Belle’s character. I was initially going to go with a massive powdered wig look and an even bigger dress but thought something more simple seemed more fitting for Belle and Elizabeth Swann from the Pirates of the Caribbean films ended up inspiring me a lot.
I wanted to show her holding a book, something which was quite common in a lot of rococo portraits, but I also had to include roses somewhere. I would love to do a portrait of the Beast like this at some point, maybe even do one of them together.
i know this question is very general, but is there a list of the types of mantuas/robes there is out there? i thought there was only robe a la francaise, but it turns out that there are robe a l’anglaise and robe volante? are there more?
Thank you for the question! I'm actually working on a post about this specific subject! Or it will be more broadly about all the types of dress from 18th century. I want to do an in depth look and there's still some research to be done. It might not be my next post so I'll give a quick overview of mantua anyway here.
Mantua and It's Variants
So there indeed is more than robe a la francaise, robe a l'angaise and robe volante! Mantua was developed from banyan, which was a dressing gown used by both men and women and inspired by Japanese kimono. It was brought to Europe by the Dutch East Indian Company in mid 17th century. It was a very casual clothing, used only in home. In 1680s it was developed into a little more formal dress, appropriate to use outside in casual situations. The formal dress had a highly boned bodice and was used without stays. It was rigid and uncomfortable, and so naturally there was a need for a more comfortable casual dress that's not only reserved for home.
Here's an early mantua from 1680s worn with stays exposed in the front and contrasting fine petticoat. It became an instant hit. It was used with stays to still get the fashionable silhouette, but the mantua itself was very loose. It was draped to fit the bodice and fastened with belt. It was more comfortable and less restrictive and it could be easily adjusted for body changes, pregnancy and other people. It very quickly became the popular mode of clothing and in 18th century was developed into a lot of different dresses, though the old type of boned dress was still used as the court gown.
Robe Volante was a transitional dress from mantua to robe a la francaise in the early 18th century. The example is from 1731. It was basically mantua, except box pleats in the back and not belted to be fitted. It was only used in comfort of home, but young fashionable women started wearing it in casual park outings which at first cause a stir. After that it quickly developed into the robe a la francaise we all know and love today.
Robe a la francaise
Robe a la francaise is the most iconic Rococo mantua. It was also called sack-back gown or sacque because of the loose box pleats in the back. As said earlier it started as very informal dress. Like in this example from 1731 it's used in casual outing in a park. It's very loose in the back and front. This maybe could still be called robe volante as it's very much in the transitional phase and these terms are loose and we'll see how hard they are to pin down.
Later in the century it became very formal, the only more formal dress was the court gown. You might start to see a pattern here. It reached it's peak in elaboration and formality in 1770s like in this example from 1775. The formal gowns became extremely wide by 1770s. The pleats started to be sewn closed and not just pinned.
Pet en l'air
Pet en l'air was a short version of robe a la francaise. It came in to use fairly early in 18th century as robe a la francaise home version. It wasn't appropriate to wear it outside, but it was formal enough to receive quests in it. It started as about knee length but got shorter towards the end of the century. This example is from 1770s. And like everything else it became more formal, women also started to use it outside in as an informal wear in 1770s and 1780s.
Robe a l'angaise
Robe a l'angaise was popularized in the latter half of the 18th century. It was English origin as the name suggests. The English had a more subdued fashion than the French and it shows in the robe a l'anglaise. It was also more casual than the robe a la francaise which at that point had become formal. It was also called closed-bodied gown because the bodice was closed at the front, unlike sacque, and the pleased were in the back too stitched to be fitted to the body. In 1780s the bodice started to be sewn out separately and the pleats were gone. It also became formal as robe a la francaise went out of fashion because of the political tensions encouraged a less elaborate form of dress.
Round gown was otherwise the same as robe a l'anglaise except it was not robe at all and the skirt was too fully closed. It was very casual dress earlier in the century and in 1780s became very popular and eventually turning into the Regency dress. Term round gown is sometimes used interchangeably with robe a l'anglaise.
Robe a la polonaise
Robe a la polonaise, or polonaise, was used in 1770s and 1780s. The example is from 1777. It developed in France from robe a l'anglaise as that was popularized in France. The name comes from Polish as apparently some part of it was inspired by Polish national dress, but that could be just what the French said at the time to make it more "exotic". It has the sewn down pleats of robe a l'anglaise, but it was sometimes open in front and only pinned at the top. There were though a examples with closed bodice in the front. What made it polonaise though was the skirt part was draped up at the back, making it sack. This practice was started by middle class women, who wanted to prevent the skirt from getting dirtied as walking outside and it became fashionable. As the use of outside walking suggests, it was formal enough to use outside but quite informal and not for any fancy occasions.
Robe a la turque
We are starting to reach some of the most confusing dresses of the time, which mostly happened around 1780s. Robe a la turque was supposedly inspired by Turkish fashion. It was fashionable in 1770s to 1790s and developed from polonaise. The example is from late 1780s. What is usually considered robe a la turque is the robe with bodice open at the front except joined at the very to, and the skirt of the robe not being draped up like in polonaise. As polonaise would often have the same type of bodice. But it gets weird since the example I'm using here is sometimes labeled robe a l'anglaise and there is other weirdness around what was called polonaise and levite (which we'll get to) etc. Here's a blog post that talks about well how confusing this time period is.
Robe Levite or robe a la Levite or only Levite was popular around the same time as polonaise and turque. The example is from early 1780s. It was again an new type of more casual dress. The back is sewn fitted like in other robe a l'anglaise variants, but it's open and more robe-like. In some examples I've seen the front of the bodice is pinned together though. The maybe most defining characteristics is the sash on the waist.
I think I remembered everything, or I hope I did because I reached the image limit. There's of course more types of dress, like the court gown, chemise a la reine and the bed gown, which were not mantua variants. And I have to reiterate, these term are often very vague and used interchangeably. Fashion was changing so rabidly at the time there were many contemporary terms used in chaotic ways, and it has become even more muddled as later terms have been applied to earlier modes of dress. These are my interpretations of the terms and I'm not going to claim they are the right ones, but other people have used the terms similarly so I'm not just pulling it out of my ass either.
Charles-Antoine Coypel, Double Portrait Presumed to Represent François de Jullienne (1722–1754) and His Wife (Marie Élisabeth de Séré de Rieux, 1724–1795), 1743, pastel, black chalk, watercolor, and traces of black chalk underdrawing on four joined sheets of handmade blue laid paper, mounted on canvas and adhered to a keyed stretcher, 100 x 80 cm, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York