Paris Fashion History

Since the 17th century, when most of the world had not even heard of fashion, the French have been exporting their style. They were the first to turn fashion into a business rather than just a means of making dresses. Today, Paris is regarded as one of the world’s fashion capitals, alongside Milan, London, and New York. Today, that means more than just the fact that Parisians dress nicely; it also refers to a significant industry. Fashion has always lived at the nexus of consumerism and art, but never more so than in the world of today. Every season, fashion changes depending on how we view our desires, bodies, and eras, just as it does with ourselves. The focal point of it all is fashion from Paris.

Louis XIV’s Era

It all began in the 17th century, when Louis XIV’s court-surprise, surprise-started to associate France with style and fashion. The French luxury goods industry rose to royal status as a result of the Sun King’s mission to be at the epicentre of all that was beautiful in the world. The invention of the fashion press in the 1670s propelled French fashion into the spotlight and made ideas about various “seasons” of fashion and the ebb and flow of styles more accessible to a larger audience. The extravagant, curly-haired wigs that are so popular today were first popularised by Louis XIV himself. The king overcompensated for his balding, and the rest of the court did the same.

Whose wig is the longest? Became a ridiculous game of fashion one-upmanship at the French royal court. Whose skirt is the largest and has the smallest bows? “Big” was in vogue in Parisian fashion. According to the ideas of the time and also because hygiene had greatly improved by this point, the rebels were of course extremely eager to change all of this and went very quickly in the opposite direction—what had previously been a baroque, almost decadent abundance was now all simple. People also had to buy more material to have at least one piece of apparel to wear while they washed the other one. Then, in the 1800s, department stores started to open, which helped advance Parisian fashion.

Charles Frederick’s Era

The bourgeoisie replaced the courtiers as the dominant class in France, and because they were the ones who could actually move money around (instead of just talking about it), French fashion began to permeate society. The couture designer came into being quickly. However, a man from England by the name of Charles Frederick Worth is more or less accepted into the common vernacular as the man who completely dominated the industry. It is, of course, a controversial statement, as is typical of designers. He created the fashion show and the fashion label as a status symbol, making him the first person to be regarded as a designer rather than just a dressmaker.

19th and 20th Centuries

The French fashion industry flourished in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries (Vogue was founded in 1892) as Jacques Doucet and Madeline Vionnet established fashion houses. Women were finally “liberated” from corsets and bulky petticoats thanks to their whimsical designs and flowing bias-cut dresses, which were influenced by Art Nouveau and Orientalist fashion. A little-known designer by the name of Coco Chanel first rose to fame in 1925 and revolutionised Parisian fashion before doing the same for the rest of the world.

The Post-war Reign

Christian Dior’s “New Look,” which featured clenched waists, regal busts, and voluminous skirts, pleased the post-war clientele with its elegance and brought the world’s attention back to Paris in 1947. Soon after, Hubert de Givenchy and Pierre Balmain also launched their own fashion businesses, and Paris once again became the global capital. As French fashion (supposedly too exquisite and elaborate) lost the youth of Paris in the 1960s, they began to choose London’s casual look.

YSL’s Era

Yves Saint Laurent once more put Paris on notice in 1966 when he introduced his prêt-à-porter (“ready to wear”) collection, which made fashion affordable for everyone. In actuality, despite the fact that Paco Rabanne and Pierre Cardin pushed fashion forward by developing daring silhouettes, they were compelled to remain in YSL’s shadow. He unquestionably ruled the country throughout the last decades of the century. He invented the women’s tuxedo outfit and charmed everyone with his androgynous look and Left Bank beatnik flair. Since the 1960s, London, New York, Milan, and Tokyo have stepped up their efforts to challenge Paris’ dominance of the industry. However, foreign designers like Marc Jacobs at Louis Vuitton and Karl Lagerfeld at Chanel continue to reside in France. Every two years, during Paris Fashion Week, the elite of the fashion industry congregate in the city to see what the designers will be wearing for the upcoming season.

Fashion Week’s History

In 1973, the Fédération Française de la Couture was founded, and the ground-breaking Battle of Versailles Fashion Show served as the opening event of the first ever official Paris Fashion Week. As five of the most renowned French designers squared off against five unheard-of Americans in this fight, which was strictly of the sartorial sort, the long-standing rivalries between New York and Paris in the world of fashion were brought to life on stage.


Paris, a city of haute couture, bustling ateliers, and exorbitant taste, has frequently proclaimed itself to be the epicentre of fashion. Its reputation is based on a very specific perception of tradition and elegance. The history of fashion in Paris is closely entwined with myth and lore. The performances in Paris now are more theatrical than ever. A lot of brands now use custom-built sets as the standard, so PFW has seen backdrops that resemble train stations, supermarkets, airports, and merry-go-rounds. During the late Karl Lagerfeld’s time at Chanel, many of these high-stakes settings were created, with each season aiming to surpass the previous. Even if the city has changed since Poiret began organising dances more than a century ago, the distinctive Parisian drama will never be surpassed.

Updated on: 06-Dec-2022


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