An epitome of European grandeur and one of the most significant period in fashion history, the Rococo style of art emerged during the beginning of the 18th Century. Unlike the dull and dark appeal of the earlier Baroque times, rococo art was all about lightness, mellow colour schemes and sheer extravagance.

Talking of extravagance, it is ironic to say that it was established by Madam Pompadour who was the chief mistress of Louis XV. After her death the legacy was carried forth by one of the most controversial and extravagant royals of all time- Marie Antoinette.


Fig 1: An elaborate gown


Fig 2: Young Marie Antoinette at 13.

As fashion no longer was only for royalty but also open to the lower classes, fashion designers started creating a variety of outfits that could accommodate a variety of classes. There were a range of fabrics that were being used during the Rococo period such as taffeta, satin and damask. Light pastel colours were used which made the women look elegant. Women would wear panniers that were broad hoops which were worn under the skirt. This was to exaggerate the hips to highlight the feminine traits. The pannier shape gradually evolved over the years- from a funnel to a trapezium to a square and finally to an oval dome shape. A lot of detail floral motifs were being used. Women had to wear corsets that were so tight that they could hardly breathe. An underskirt or petticoat was worn under these gowns. They would often be visible from the front as the skirts would be open. A new kind of sleeve known as Pagoda sleeve was introduced in the middle of the 18th century. They were fitting from the shoulder till the elbow after which they would have flared lace along with ribbons. A new outfit known as the chemise a la reine which was worn by Marie Antoinette became a trend among women. Unlike the painful corset highlighting the ideal frightening waistlines, this was loose white garment which had a silk stash around the waist. The garment was accentuating a woman’s natural curves rather than the superficial silhouette. Women wore heels that looked much more delicate with a slimmer heels and intricate ornamentation. There was a fashion of wearing the hair in a higher fashion which progressively became so high that later on wigs were required. Long hair were stylistically curled and were decked with feathers and flowers.


Fig 3: Corset


Fig 4: Brocaded shoes


Fig 5: Panniers on either side of the waist.

Even men’s clothing was highly detailed at this point of time. Out of all the garments, waistcoat was the most ornamental with highly decorative hand work. They would also wear breeches tat were till the knee paired with white stockings worn underneath along with slight heels with a square buckles. Coats were more fitting and less loose. They were usually unbuttoned to flaunt the luxurious waistcoats. During the Rococo period men also wore Tricorne hats which were decorated with feathers. Like the women, the men also wore wigs. During the French Revolution people wore tricolor breeches-red, white and blue. They called themselves san culottes which lead to the downfall of the popular knee breeches

embellished waitcoat

Fig 6: A highly luxurious waistcoat was a status symbol.


Fig 7: Slap Sole Shoes

Fashion had a massive impact on the French Revolution. Clothing definitely brought an emotion to the people at the time. With contrasting displays of wealth between the royalty and the commoners, many began an uprising in France. Luxurious fabrics and anything of the sort lead to riots. Marie Antoinette was later executed in public for her extravagance.


1. History of European Fashion, 2012, History of Costume, on Nov 2, 2014

2. Fashion through History, 2006, Rococo fashion era,, Accessed on Nov 2, 2014

3. World 4 Eu, n.d, The Evolution of Modern Feminine Fashion 1786,, Accessed on Nov 2, 2014


1. Figure 1, Pinterest, n.d, embroidered reddish silk, green-golden silk, embroidered passementerie,, Accessed Nov 2, 2014

2. Figure 2, Hubpages, n.d, Marie Antoinette Hairstyle Over the years,, Accessed Nov 2, 2014

3. Figure 3, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Carlson’s Closet,, Accessed Nov 2, 2014

4. Figure 4, Vintage textiles, n.d,, Accessed Nov 2, 2014

5. Figure 5, Pinterest, n.d, Dorothy Cat,, Accessed Nov 2, 2014

6. Figure 6, History of European Fashion, 2012, History of Costume, on Nov 2, 2014

7. Figure 7, Two nerdy history girls, 2010, The noisy height of fashion, on Nov 2, 2014