Monday, November 28, 2011


It's fun having an in house fashionista, I get to quiz her on fashion history. Today's question, "When was the first fashion magazine published?" Answer towards the end.

We think of made to measure clothing as the ultimate luxury but before the fashion industry was invented, made to measure was all there was, it was old hat and not terribly exciting even for the cream of society. What fun in wearing something unique to you.

Fun is wearing what can be imitated. How does a woman know if her gown is stylish if she can't see it on someone else? How do you establish that you set on a trend early if no one else can copy you. Likewise what do you do when you see clones of yourself wherever you turn? The most fashionable women in Paris 1670 had an answer.

In 1670 Duchesse de Berry invited her most stylish friends, the best seamstresses and tailors and most celebrated hairdressers to her home, there she presented a plan. That evening those present invented Couture. The women agreed to put away their one off gowns in favor of the tailors creating fashion for all. The fashion plates of the day ordered the new designers gowns be brought to them as soon as they were ready. Once the ladies of Versailles and the designers began working together to make fashion public the key ideas we take for granted quickly fell into place. The "look" the way an entire ensemble worked together, the fashion season, questions of what's in, what's out began to emerge. Accessories became important. For the first time women spent more than men on clothing. Within several years concepts that have lasted 350 years were put into place.

Within a very few years the couture houses began going retail and down market. To spread the new gospel of fashion for the masses, the fashion press was invented. In 1672 Le Mercure galant (Gallant Mercury) was the first newspaper to report on fashion.

I'm stuck in a most wonderful book, The Essence of Style by Joan DeJean. I'd read it before, lent it out and like a bad cold it returns, placed back on the shelf and taken down anew. I love this book for explaining simply why and how items we perceive as luxuries came into being. Champagne, diamonds, red soled shoes, couture, comfortable furniture are all French inventions. Amazingly all born around the same time, the late 1600's.


Mrs. Blandings said...

It's a wonderful read, indeed; I was lucky enough to borrow it from a friend.

JeanMarie said...

Another similar fascinating read is Deluxe by Dana Thomas, 2007

Toad said...

Deluxe is available at the library, thank you for the recommendation.