Empire Period

No one wanted to seem to be a part of the French nobility following the French Revolution; therefore, clothing became more of an individual statement of one’s actual self than a simple indicator of social standing. Undress or casual fashions finally triumphed over brocades, lace, periwigs, and powder in 1795–1820 in European and European-influenced nations. In England, the Regency period spanned the years when King George III was declared incompetent to rule and his son, the Prince of Wales, served as Prince Regent before becoming King George IV. However, the most comprehensive meaning of the time, which defines trends in fashion, architecture, culture, and politics, begins with the French Revolution of 1789 and concludes with Queen Victoria’s ascension.

La Soirée by Vittorio Reggianini

In Germany, republican city-states abandoned their traditional, modest, and utilitarian clothes favouring short-sleeved chemise dresses and Spencer jackets, which were popular in France and England. American design trends imitated French attire to deal with the sheerness of the chemise, but in a toned-down style, with shawls and tunics. In Spain, however, members of the aristocracy and the lower classes banded together to protest enlightened French principles and fashion by dressed as “majas” and “majos” to hide their Spanish pride.

In Spain, some society ladies rebelled against French fashion by dressing as majas, like Doña Isabel de Porcel, 1805. Portrait by Francisco de Goya

The “Ancien Régime” style and customs had previously hindered the notion of “the self.” Instead, one’s identity is changeable, based on the things one wore. By the 1780s, however, a new “natural” style had emerged, allowing one’s inner nature to transcend their clothing. The emphasis on ease and comfort in clothing, including in this new “natural” design, became considerably lighter and more possible to be changed and washed regularly, not to mention a new emphasis on sanitation. Even upper-class ladies started wearing cropped dresses instead of gowns with long trains or hoops, which is too difficult for them to leave the house.

Fashion’s Impact on the Industrial Revolution

Individual retailers sell clothes in the late 18th century, who were frequently the artisans who created the products. Except for warehouses, where items are not the same in the store, consumers typically resided in a specific area as the stores. The stores grew in popularity through word-of-mouth recommendations from their customers. People desired efficiency and variety during the Industrial Revolution; under the Industrial Revolution, increased transportation and the advent of machines in manufacturing allowed fashion to evolve even quicker.

Josef Madersperger began working on his first sewing machine in 1807, and in 1814, he presented his first operational machine. The invention of the sewing machine sped up the creation of garments. These durable and low-cost textiles proved popular among the general public. The introduction of machinery aided the development of these procedures. Previously, accessories such as embroidery and lace were produced on a small scale by skilled craftsmen and sold in their shops; however, in 1804, John Duncan invented the embroidering machine. People began producing these essential accessories in factories and dispatching the products to shops across the country.

Women’s Fashion

‘Undress,’ a relaxed and informal style inspired by neoclassical preferences, was the trend of the day. It was the kind of gown a woman wore from morning until midday or later, depending on her social activities. Short-waisted dresses with soft, flowing skirts were frequently fashioned of white, nearly translucent muslin, which could be readily cleaned and draped freely like the clothing on Greek and Roman sculptures. ‘Half Dress’ conjures up images of how one could dress for a day out or meet visitors. A lady would wear a full dress to a formal function, day or night. Consequently, throughout 1795–1820, it was generally feasible for middle- and upper-class women to dress decently and attractively while wearing not overly restrictive or heavy garments.

The Regency era began to shift dramatically. The empire silhouette, which had a fitted bodice and a high waist, became fashionable. The elegance of the body accentuates in this “new natural style,” clothing became lighter and easier to maintain than it had been previously. Undergarments, gowns, and outerwear were common layers of clothing worn by women. The traditional undergarment of the day, the chemise, kept the thin, gauzy gowns from being completely transparent. The spencer and the pelisse were popular outerwear styles.

Hairstyles were influenced by classical influences, with masses of curls worn over the forehead and ears and the longer back hair gathered up into loose buns or Psyche knots influenced by Greek and Roman forms. Front hair was parted in the middle and worn in tight ringlets over the ears by the late 1810s. Traditional married ladies continued to wear linen mob hats with broader brims on the sides to hide their ears. For morning (at home undress) attire, fashionable women used similar headgear.

Men’s Fashion

Outside of organized court dress, this century witnessed the definitive abandonment of lace, embroidery, and other decorations from serious men’s clothes; it would not reemerge until the 1880s as an affectation of Aesthetic dress and its descendant, the “Young Edwardian” appearance of the 1960s. Classical figures consider as an illustration of the ideal natural form and a manifestation of Neoclassical beliefs. Because of the impact of the “dandy” and the romantic movement, men’s style in London grew increasingly polished.

For stylish streetwear, breeches developed longer—tightly fitting leather riding breeches stretched almost to the boot tops—replacing pantaloons or pants. Coats featured tall standing collars and were cut away in front with long skirts or tails behind. Lapels were not as comprehensive as they had been in previous years, and they frequently had a period-specific M-shaped notch. The clothes-obsessed dandy originally appeared in London and Paris in the 1790s. “Dandy” distinguishes a fop in the slang of the period by these clothes, which were more sophisticated and sober. The Dandy took pleasure in its “natural perfection,” and tailoring allowed the natural physique to exaggerate underneath stylish apparel.

Younger men of fashion began to wear their hair in short curls, frequently with lengthy sideburns, during this period. Pitt’s hair powder tax in 1795 essentially put a stop to the wig and powder craze, and new styles like the Brutus and Bedford Crop became popular. Older males still apply wigs and powder for formal occasions, military commanders, and traditional professions like attorneys, judges, physicians, and servants. Powdered hair was still essential for formal court attire. Tricorne and bicorne hats were still popular, but the most fashionable hat was tall and conical; nonetheless, the top cap will soon supplant it as the only hat for formal events for the following century.

A New Era of Empire Fashion

The 2016 Spring Couture of Giambattista Valli is inspired by Paris’ famous gardens. Exaggerated volumes were utilized again, this time focusing on bishop sleeves, Watteau backs, and a few empire-waist dresses. (An exhibition of paintings by Napoleon’s sisters, Elisa, Pauline, and Caroline, was particularly inspiring.) And then there’s the procession of tulle plissé grand finale dresses, the boldest and most pleasing in a throbbing hue of the red poppy, which has become a show’s signature.

This year’s Fall 2021 of Dolce and Gabbana men’s collection is inspired by cyber dressing and pop futurism. The designers extended their master tailoring talents in an extended line spontaneously ruched at the hem, replacing the dandy neatness of tapered pants cut at the ankle and paired with a beautiful loafer. Blazers gave the impression of being more spacious. Some of them even become workwear.

Ethereal, poetic, and aristocratic: three words to describe Jonathan Anderson’s inspiration for the Loewe Spring 2020 Ready-to-Wear. Lace-making and delicate stitching techniques were brought to life in layers of perfect transparency, which a modern audience may connect solely with antique artifacts and museum portraits. Chantilly, guipure, and marguerite lace; drawn threadwork; sprigged voile forms; and recollections conjuring christenings, weddings, chemises, nightdresses, and the cleaned and starched household linens of the past

Citations Photo

Thomas, P. (2009, February 24). Regency Fashion History 1800-1825 | Beautiful Pictures Empire Line Dresses. In Fashion Era. Retrieved from https://fashion-era.com/fashion-history/regency/regency-fashion

Lee, S. (2017, August 1). 1790-1799. In Fashion History Timeline. Retrieved from https://fashionhistory.fitnyc.edu/1790-1799/

Fashions under the First Empire,. Reign of Napoleon I. 1804-1814. (2015, February 27). In world4.eu. Retrieved from https://world4.eu/fashion-history-napoleon/

Wikipedia Editors. (n.d.). 1795–1820 in Western fashion. In Wikipedia the Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1795%E2%80%931820_in_Western_fashion#Influence_of_Industrial_Revolution_on_fashion

Phelps, N. (2016, January 25). Giambattista Valli Spring 2016 Couture. In Vogue Runway. Retrieved from https://www.vogue.com/fashion-shows/spring-2016-couture/giambattista-valli

Madsen, A. (2021, February 21). Dolce and Gabbana Fall 2021 Menswear. In Vogue Runway. Retrieved from https://www.vogue.com/fashion-shows/fall-2021-menswear/dolce-gabbana

Mower, S. (2019, September 27). Loewe Spring 2020 Ready-to-Wear. In Vogue Runway. Retrieved from https://www.vogue.com/fashion-shows/spring-2020-ready-to-wear/loewe

Photo Reference

Madame Raymond de Verninac by Jacques-Louis David, with clothes and chair in Directoire style. “Year 7”, that is 1798–99.

Madame Charles Maurice de Talleyrand Périgord (1761–1835) https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/438546



About Josef Madersperger’s photos https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Josef_Madersperger#/media/File:Josef_Madersperger,_Karlsplatz.jpg

Directoire dandy in 1797, by Girodet; Portrait of Jean-Baptiste BelleyDeputy for Saint-Domingue.

Pierre Seriziat in riding dress, 1795. His snug leather breeches have a tie and buttons at the knee and a fall front. The white waistcoat is double-breasted, a popular style at this time. His tall hat is slightly conical.

Giambattista Valli Spring 2016 Couture, Dolce & Gabbana Fall 2021 Menswear, and Loewe Spring 2020 photos are referenced from Vogue Runway visit http://www.voguerunway.com for more fashion insights.

Published by loisgomez

I am a Marketing and Merchandising for Fashion student of Visual College of Arts & Design located in Calgary. I love Fashion, I mostly do fashion sketches and illustrations and hopefully, someday, I could have my fashion brand. Most of my posts will be about history of fashion; how it started, where it all began and so much more.

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