The French Revolution is most typically known for being a period of political and social instability in French and European history. However, it was also a time period in which an abrupt change in the realm of fashion occurred. Before the French Revolution, many lived lavish lifestyles with extravagant outfits signifying wealth. However, during the French Revolution, fashion became characterised by simplicity and practicality for all but a very wealthy, bold few.
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The Shift to Simpler Clothing
One of the main aims of the French Revolution was to get rid of the class difference between the people of France, and Europe in general. One of the ways in which this was attempted was in the realm of clothing. It became nearly impossible to afford extravagant clothing during this time of upheaval, and it became increasingly difficult to even find lavish articles of clothing. Only a small minority of very wealthy, upper class people were able to maintain an extravagant wardrobe.
The Influence of the Guillotine
The guillotine, a rebelling means of beheading those nobles and other citizens who lived a lavish lifestyle, influenced the shift in fashion during the French Revolution. The upper class nobles, whose lives were suddenly threatened due to the Revolution, began to understand that, if they did not equate themselves with the working class, they would be sought and killed. In order to save themselves, the wealthy nobles discarded their lavish clothing and instead donned the same clothing as those of the lower, poorer classes.
Given the drive for simplicity in the clothing of the French Revolution, much of the clothing was made from dark-coloured, plain, inexpensive fabrics, such as cotton. It was no longer common for people to wear silks, ribbons and velvets. Men's clothing included simple trousers and shirts, and women's dresses were no longer flowing in fabric and were designed for functionality.
Hair, Shoes and Accessories
Hairstyles, which before had included curls and extravagant up-dos, now were simple and plain. Hair was tied back and worn low in the front. Also, it was no longer powdered, which before had been a signifier of class. Large hats with wide brims were replaced by muslin bonnets and caps. Shoes were designed to be functional. Men wore leather boots with a square toe and no heel. Women wore slippers without a heel or simple sandals.
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