Last Updated 27 Jul 2020

Fashion in the 17th Century

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Fashion in the early 17th century followed up on the trends from previous centuries. However, later on styles began to change fairly and the overall trend through the midcentury targeted softness and comfort to allow for easier movement. People still valued rich materials, but they set aside the rigid formality of earlier years. These changes in fashion reflected the rising influence of France, with its free sense of style.

French King Louis XIV helped make France the leading fashion influence of the century as he built it into an economic power by refusing to import luxury goods and by encouraging French industries to become Europe's biggest producers of these. Soon France was the leading exporter of silk, ribbons, lace and wigs. Louis surrounded himself with a huge court, who competed to wear the most tasteful and elegant clothes at lavish balls hosted by the King.

Louis himself was renowned for his style, which tended towards extravagant laces and velvets. His predecessor Louis XIII contributed to the introduction of wigs among men, which became fashionable for the first time since the Egyptians. Though preferred styles were simpler, French fashion was still quite ornamental. Religion played an important role in the English conflict and in Europe as a whole. Those who favored the new ornamental and lavish clothing styles came to be known as Cavaliers, who fought in support of King Charles I.

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Their style soon was associated with a political position that favored the Catholic religion and a strong king. Another group was known as the Roundheads, who fought in support of the Parliament and favored Protestant religions. They avoided ornamentation and excess associated with Cavaliers and instead turned to sober colors and less decorated fabrics. The most extreme Roundheads were the Puritans, who favored black clothes, simple fasteners, and clean lines.

Fashion in the 17th Century essay

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