Paris: City of Light

The Importance of Fashion


Parisian Salons
 ~Salons of   Enlightenment
 ~Madame de   Stäel         
~Salons of the   Restoration
 ~The Salons of   Victor Hugo

Influence of Printed Materials
 ~Pre-Revolutionary   Timeline
 ~Post-Revolutionary   Timeline


Defining the Parisians
 ~Parisians Viewed   by Foreigners
 ~Parisians   Viewed by   Themselves
 ~Paris Fashion




"It is difficult to separate the two words: la mode and la Parisienne"

It is safe to say that during the 18th and 19th centuries the whole world was in agreement that Parisians had style. Parisians and fashion have always been closely intertwined. The manufacturing industry for fashion centered in Paris, as this was where it began and continued to grow. Hence, Parisians developed a close relationship with fashion and gained an undisputed reputation for style. La mode was weaved into the Parisian identity and became an integral part of everyday life.

It is said that Parisian women either lived for la mode or by la mode.

Figure 3.3 Cover of french magazine found in Picture Book of French Fashion from the 19th century by Florence Lenisten (Editor) and Joanne Olian (Translator).

La Mode Illustrée is an example of the various publications that existed for the fashionably conscious Parisian women. It shows the latest fashions that an upper class woman would want to be informed about in order to remain chic. The cover perfectly exemplifies the fashionable attire of the 1830's and 40's. The women are wearing dresses made of long, rich fabrics and have elaborate detail on the bottom part of their skirts. The pads underneath the dress create a large derrière for the women; another symbol of upper class style. The pointed hats, long gloves, and delicate umbrellas complete their fashionable look. These day dresses are ideal for strolling through the gardens or down a boulevard.

James Grant called the Parisians "exceedingly fastidious" in their appearance and reported that "it was rare to see dirty or poorly dressed persons in Paris" (Kramer, 33).

The subject of fashion has always held a certain unique power with the Parisian and has been an unmistakable part of their identity. For them, it represented human realities of default and aspiration which provide a necessity for change. It was a means of both reality and symbolism. Hence, fashion was more than just people's attire for the day. The aesthetics of costume was always important because of the social and political stigma that came attached with it.


For detailed explanations of the role of fashion during the French Revolution click here

For further information on the importance of fashion to the French Bourgeoisie click here