Religion and social class determined fashion in 17th-century France. The differences between Catholics and Protestants appeared in their dress, and so did the differences between the lower classes and the nobility. In the later years of the 17th century, the ascension of King Louis XIV, called "The Sun King," made France the cultural centre of upper-class Europe and the primary source of fashion trends.
In the early 17th century, the upper classes wore detailed lace and embroidery, and their tastes grew more extravagant as the century progressed. Loose-fitting clothing and higher waistlines also became gradually more fashionable. In 1628 and 1638, King Louis XIII and Cardinal Richelieu passed laws restricted all but the upper classes from wearing gold, lace, rich fabrics and other embellishments.
According to Tara McGinnis, Ph.D., the lower classes of 17th-century France faced hardships and their clothing was consequently ragged. The Agricultural Revolution displaced farm workers, and King Louis XIV encouraged the persecution and eviction of Protestants. These upheavals made fashion a minor consideration for the lower classes.
French Protestants chose simple clothing in accordance with their conservative beliefs; their style in the 17th century resembles Amish and Mennonite style. Because they believed that God determined social class, higher-class Protestant women wore a modest amount of lace to reveal their station.
French men in the 17th century wore their hair long and curly. However, Protestants considered men with long, curly hair effeminate and kept their hair shoulder-length. When Louis XIV began to bald in the 1670s, wigs became fashionable for the upper classes and would remain so until the Revolution at the end of the following century.
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