The Reign of Louis XV. 1715 to 1774.

Content

French king, Louis XV, Louis le bien aimé. Rococo, 18th century clothing.

Louis XV (1710 – 1774) King of France and Navarre (Louis le bien aimé)

Fashion in the Reign of Louis XV. 1715 to 1774.

The Regency — War is declared against paniers — The Oratorian Duguet — Opinion of the “Journal de Verdun” — Various publications against paniers — Lines by Voltaire — Whale-fishery company — Paragraph from the “Journal de Barbier” — Mmes. Jaucourt, De Seine, Dlisle, Clairon, and Hus — Lines in praise of corsets — New bodices — Coloured prints are forbidden — “Perses” or “Persiennes” — Bagnolette – Adjuncts of dress: necklaces, ridicules, and poupottes—Contents of a patch-box — A sermon by Massillon – Les mouches de Massillon, or Massillon’s patches — Filles de Mode, Fashion-girls — Some passing fashions—Powder remains in fashion — “Monte-au-ciel” — Simply made gowns — The first cachemire.

Louis, Dauphin of France, Le Grand Dauphin, alonge wig, french king

Louis, Dauphin of France, called Le Grand Dauphin (1661 – 1711) was the son of King Louis XIV (1638-1715) and his wife Maria Theresa of Spain (1638-1683). Louis was the only legitimate born child of Louis XIV which reached adulthood. He died about four years before his father and therefore became not a French king. It was only his grandson Louis Duke of Anjou, grandson of Louis XIV who ascended as King Louis XV. the throne of France.

The Regency of the Duke of Orleans.

It is impossible to draw any line with regard to fashion between the Regency of the Duke of Orleans (Philippe II. de Bourbon, duc d’Orléans 1674 -1723) and the reign of Louis XV. Both the regent and the king appear to have acted on the same motto: “All for pleasure.” Both yielded the empire of fashion into the hands of women, without attempting to exercise the almost absolute sway of Louis XIV. over dress, even when not of an official character, and women ruled with a high hand, and for no small space of time. The poet Destouches puts the following lines into the mouth of one of the characters in “L’Homme Singulier”: – ” Je fais mon plus grand soin du soin de me parer, Rien ne me flatte plus qu’une mode nouvelle.” (“My chiefest concern is the care of my attire; Nothing pleases me more than a new fashion.”)

Philippe II. de Bourbon, duc d’Orléans. The Regency, Allonge wig, 18th century, nobility

Philippe II. de Bourbon, duc d’Orléans 1674 -1723

Both sexes proved him to have been in the right, by indulging all their personal fancies and predilections. During the Regency of the Duke of Orleans 1715 to 1723, dress was essentially light in material; gowns were made with basque bodies, pagoda sleeves, and trimmed with knots of ribbon, or “chicorées,” or even with artificial flowers. The hair is dressed either “à la culbute” or “à la doguine.”
Enormous paniers were worn in the reign of Louis XV.; they came into fashion in 1718, and were very cleverly constructed. Few ladies were found to object to them, although in walking they occupied a space, from left to right, of quite six feet, their circumference being at least eighteen.

War is declared against panniers. The Oratorian Duguet

War was, however, declared against paniers, just as in former times against vertugadins; the clergy especially attacked them violently.
An Oratorian named Duguet published a “Traité de I’lndécence des Paniers.” After many phrases wide of the mark, we come to the following, which seems to be the best argument of all against paniers: “This fashion is owned, even by those who are most devoted to it, to be very inconvenient. Paniers are most uncomfortable, both for the wearer and for every one else.” But ladies heard the Oratorian and heeded not, any more than they had heeded an edict which, during the madness induced by Law’s speculations, had forbidden them to wear jewels or diamonds, for fear they might be exchanged for shares or notes of the Mississippi Bank.

Paris Fashion,  Louis XV. Rococo costumes, 18th century clothing, allonge wig

Paris Fashion. Reign of Louis XV. According to Lancret 1740.

Opinion of the “Journal de Verdun.” Various publications against panniers.

The “Journal de Verdun,” October, 1724, writes in the same spirit as Père Duguet: “In former times mothers used to take exceeding pains that their daughters should have slender and supple waists; but at the present day the vertugadins of Spain and Italy have been introduced into France under the name of paniers; this is a fashion conducive to false modesty.” But the ladies in this instance, also, heard and heeded not, and the “Journal de Verdun” after a time discontinued its attacks.
Many cases of conscience were argued out between Jesuits and Jansenists on the subject of paniers. One member of the Society of Jesus wrote a little work called “L’Entretien d’une Femme de Qualité avec son Directeur sur les Paniers.” It was published in 1737, and is a very scarce and curious little book.
An anonymous pamphlet had been published in 1727, entitled, “Satire sur les Cerceaux, Paniers, Criardes, et Manteaux Volants des Femmes, et sur leurs autres ajustements.” The author expatiates on his hatred of cages, and of showy dress.
A pamphlet published in Paris in 1735, and entitled, “Indignité et Extravagance des Paniers pour des Femmes Sensées et Chretiennes,” contains the following lines:— ” But I wish to know, ladies, by what evil genius you are possessed, and what can be your opinion of us, that you endeavour, when in such deplorable case, to pass yourselves off to us and to the eyes of the Christian world as spiritual and devout persons, while you are laden with an immense and superb panier that takes up the room of at least six persons, and is the miserable cause of the inconvenience you experience in passing along, having to hold your panier in both hands, and displaying wooden hoops under an arrogant and splendid skirt… .
“Is it not the said panier also that makes your carriages groan, and that bulges through them like the sails of a ship, while you are holding your noble wooden hoop in both hands, and displaying it beneath a costume that is a scandal to the Church, and a laughing-stock to the whole world, and that insults the magnificence of our altars by its audacious splendour?”

Jean-François de La Harpe. French poet. Louis XIV costumes,Rococo, allonge wig

Jean-François de La Harpe (1739 – 1803) was a French poet and critic.

Voltaire. French Philosopher, Historian, Writer.18th century, allonge wig

Voltaire (François-Marie Arouet 1694 – 1778). Philosopher, Historian, Writer.

Lines by Voltaire.

Ridicule, argument, and religion were all in vain; neither the women of Paris, nor those of the provinces, changed their mode of dress in the slightest degree. They even laughed at Voltaire and his lines:—
“Apres diner, l’indolente Glycère
Sort pour sortir, sans avoir rien à faire.
On a conduit son insipidité
Au fond d’un char ou, montant de côté.
Son corps presse gémit sous les barrières
D’un lourd panier ijui flotte aux deux portières.”

(“After dinner, the indolent Glycera, Goes out, just for the sake of going out, having nothing to do. Her insipidity is deposited in a chariot. Wherein her tightened body groans under the trammels Of a heavy panier which protrudes from the two windows.”)

Whale-fishery company.

History has probably forgotten a considerable number of the appellations bestowed on paniers; but some have been retained, such as “paniers a guéridon,” or “extinguisher” shape; and “à coudes,” or “elbow paniers,” on which the elbows might be supported.
The fashion prevailed so generally, that our trade with Holland was materially augmented. In June, 1722, the States-General of the Netherlands authorized a loan of 600,000 florins in support of a “company established in East Friesland for the whale fishery, the trade in which increased daily by reason of the demand for whalebone used in the construction of hoops for women.”
We see here that the result of the polemical discussions described above was twofold. Paniers became a question of interest to Europe, and a source of profit to Holland.

Court dress, Louis XV. 18th century clothing, Rococo

Court dress at Versailles under the reign of Louis XV. Le Musée cosmopolite.

Paragraph from the “Journal de Barbier”

The “Journal de Barbier” observes: “It will scarcely be believed that the Cardinal de Noailes has been much exercised with regard to the paniers worn by women under their skirts in order to make them stand out. They are so large, that when the wearer sits down, the whalebones being pushed fly up in an extraordinary manner, and armchairs have had to be constructed expressly for them. The largest boxes at the theatre will now hold only three women. The fashion has been carried to an extreme, and is consequently quite extravagant; so much so, that when the princesses take their seats beside the queen, their skirts rise up, and quite conceal those of her majesty. This appeared like an impertinence, but it was difficult to find a remedy. At last, by dint of reflection, the cardinal invented an expedient— there should always be one armchair left empty on each side of the queen, who would thus be spared any inconvenience.”

Madame Pompadour. François Boucher. 18th century clothing

Madame Pompadour in 1756. Painted by François Boucher (1703–1770). Jeanne Antoinette Poisson, Marquise de Pompadour 1721 – 1764, mistress of the French King Louis XV.

Mmes. Jaucourt, De Seine, Dlisle, Clairon, and Hus.

Mdlle. Jaucourt played the part of Galatea in “Pygmalion” in 1775, and wore a polonaise with paniers, satin slippers, and a colossal “pouf” ornamented with green leaves, and surmounted by three ostrich feathers. MM. de Beauvau, De Guémenée, De Pompadour, and others, had supplied her wardrobe. A great number of the court ladies sent her beautiful dresses, made by themselves, and worn at the Dauphin’s marriage, that she might appear in them on the stage. Louis XV. presented her with a theatrical costume.

Hippolyte Clairon. Leading French tragedian. 18th century.

Hippolyte Clairon (1723 – 1803). Clair (e) Josèphe Léris self ennobled Claire Josèphe Hippolyte Léris de La Tude, also briefly with the stage name Hippolyte Clairon (1723-1803) was the leading French tragedian of the 18th century.

In November, 1721, he had given Mme. de Seine, an actress of the Comédie Française, a coat worth 8000 francs. Nine hundred ounces of silver were woven into the material.
At about the same time the Comte de Charolais* presented Mdlle. Delisle with a costume of pure silver, worth 2000 crowns, in which she danced a “pas” in the ballet of Pirithoüs.
Mdlles. Clairon and Hus, of the Comédie Française, gave up wearing on the stage “the awkward machine called a pannier,” and a little book was published shortly afterwards, called “Les Paniers supprimés au Théatre.” Some ladies of high rank followed the example of the two celebrated actresses.
Mdlles. Clairon and Hus had exercised more influence than preachers, pamphleteers, or journalists!

* Charles de Bourbon-Condé (1700 – 1760) was a French prince and libertine, who was mainly known for his debauchery. As count of Charolais, he was also a peer of France. Charolais belonged to the royal family of the Bourbons. His father was Louis III. de Bourbon, Prince de Condé, his mother Louise Françoise de Bourbon, an illegitimate daughter of the French king Louis XIV. From an early age he showed a short-tempered and violent character. The Marquis de Sade mentioned very often the Count of Charolais “Philosophy in the Boudoir”, who “have committed murders of lust”. He loved to see, the blood flowing in his orgies and set up the supplied thereto courtesans cruelly to.

Crinoline costume. 18th century clothing, Rococo. Louis XV

Crinoline costume during the reign of Louis XV. Rococo era.

Lines in praise of corsets.

Actuated by a hatred of paniers, a poetaster wrote in praise of corsets, and women discarded one folly for another.
“Est-iì rien plus beau qu’un corset,
Qui naturellement figure,
Et qui montre comme on est fait
Dans le moule de la nature?”
( “Is there anything more beautiful than a corset. Which naturally defines the figure, And shows how one is made In the mould of nature?”)

New bodices.

French Bodices. Louis XV. Rococo costumes. 18th century corsage

Bodices Louis XV

Thereupon women wore the bodice of their gowns tightly drawn in at the waist, and with busks that bruised the chest of the wearer.
Then again, as in 1694, sleeves were made flat, and trimmed with frills. A new material was used for gowns, little bouquets printed or brocaded on a ground of silk, marceline, or satin. The arms were protected from the cold by a miniature muff and warm furs.
“Robes volantes,” or loose gowns without a belt, came into general use about 1730. For the most part they were made of white or rose-coloured silk, especially for young girls, who also often wore gauze or embroidered muslin frocks over a coloured silk slip.

Rococo corsets, bodice fashion.18th century, Louis XV costume era.

Corsets in 1767. Louis XV.

Coloured prints are forbidden. “Perses” or “Persiennes.”

A few years later, Christophe Philippe Oberkampf introduced “indiennes,” or coloured prints, into France. On their first appearance, such jealousy was excited in the various guilds, that not only were those who manufactured them sent to the galleys, but women who ventured to wear these prints were liable to a fine on a mere accusation. The examiners at the custom stations were directed to remove by force the gown of any delinquent, or even to tear it in pieces while on her back. It is difficult in our day to understand such severe treatment.
Before Oberkampf’s time, coloured cambrics from India, called “Perses” or “Persiennes,” because they came by way of Persia, were much worn. A beautiful persienne was of more value than a silk gown. The most brilliant woman, perhaps, of the period entreated the French ambassador in Russia to procure her a set of furs and some “perse.” Yet a while, and the purchase of a gown would have become an affair of state; or the king might have declared war in order to obtain a costume desired by the queen.

Rococo costumes. Louis XV. fashion era. Farthingale.

Costume From Louis XV time. (1750)

Adjuncts of dress: necklaces, ridicules, and poupottes. Contents of a patch-box.

The hair was dressed “en dorlotte” (or pamper-fashion), “en papillon” (or butterfly-like), “en vergette” (or whisk-fashion), and “en deséspoir” (despair), “équivoque” (suspicious-wise), and “en tête de mouton” (sheep’s head). A kind of curtainless hood was worn, called a “bagnolette.”
In summer, women wore the mantilla, a variety of the scarf, and in winter, furred pelisses, buttoned from top to bottom. They wore embroidered stockings and white shoes with high heels, as previously. The ambition of all was to have the smallest possible shoes; and women contrived, as it were, to manufacture feet for their shoes, in imitation of Camargo, the dancer, whose shoemaker amassed a large fortune. Parasols, or sunshades, were not made to close; umbrellas, on the contrary, were made to fold and shut.
Among the accessories of dress were necklaces, bags or reticules, persistently called “ridicules,” “poupottes,” or horsehair pockets which the “bourgeoises” wore fastened to their gowns, eyeglasses mounted in gold and enamel, gold needle-cases, tablets set in chased gold, and crosses of gold filagree. To these we must add powder scattered on the hair, which was drawn up in a tuft, and kept in its place by a silk chin-band, patches of black silk sticking plaister, and the white and red paint, which many women laid on so thickly that their faces were quite incrusted with it. A woman of rank would have lost all consideration had she appeared at the promenades without her patches and her rouge.
Both paint and patches were used in the very last toilet of princesses—that of the tomb. Every woman of fashion possessed a patch-box, whose lid was lined with looking-glass. A very pretty one in pink motherof-pearl, inlaid with silver and designs of figures, was to be seen at the Exhibition in 1878 (Exposition universelle de 1878).
The “impassioned” patch was fixed at the corner of the eye; the “gallant” in the middle of the cheek; the “recluse” (or receiver of stolen goods) on a spot or pimple; the “effrontée,” or bold-faced, on the nose; and the “coquette” on the lips. A round patch was called “the assassin.”

Rococo costume, 18th century clothing,

Rococo costume during the reign of Louis XV.

A sermon by Massillon. Les mouches de Massillon, or Massillon’s patches.

The widespread fashion of patches afforded further opportunities for criticism. Massillon preached a sermon in which he anathematized patches. The effect produced by his discourse was rather unexpected; patches were worn in greater numbers than ever, and were known as “mouches de Massillon.” Fashion was incapable of reverence, and triumphed over every kind of opposition.

Comtesse Mdlle. Félicité de Genlis. Rococo fashion. 18th century costumes

Comtesse Mdlle. Félicité de Genlis 1746 – 1830.

It was generally held that patches conferred an appearance of youth. Mme. de Genlis said on one occasion to an author, whom she honoured by allowing him to see her place two or three patches on her cheek and chin,— “Well! what do you think of that? Would you not take me for a girl of twenty?”
Powder, i.e. starch powdered and scented, was in common use under Louis XV.; and in the reign of Henri IV., as Estoile observed in 1593, nuns had even been seen walking in Paris, with their hair curled and powdered, but this, it must be admitted, was an exception. No lady appeared at the promenades, the theatre, or the court of Versailles, without what was called an “œil,” or slight sprinkling of powder.

Filles de Mode, Fashion-girls.

The “filles de mode,” as fashionable milliners were called in the eighteenth century, had no light duties to perform. It was a serious task to dress a lady of quality from head to foot. They had to carry out the ideas that originated with the queens of society.
According to Mme. de Lespinasse, the prim Mme. du Deffant “was the best milliner of her day,” that is, her taste in composing an irreproachable costume was superior to all others, and the greatest coquettes copied the fashions seen in her drawing-room.

French Salonnière. Jeanne Julie de Lespinasse. Rococo fashion era.

Jeanne Julie de Lespinasse (1732-1776)

In “La Mode,” a comedy in three acts by Mme. de Staal (Anne Louise Germaine de Staël-Holstein 1766-1817, known as Madame de Staël), a marquis is made to say,— ” You need only hear an account of our day! In the morning, discussions with workpeople and tradespeople over the choice of our dress! And what trouble do we not take to secure the last novelty, to choose all that is in the best taste, and to avoid any prejudice concerning a particular fashion! … Next comes the excessive labour of making our toilet, with all the attention necessary to ensure being well dressed… .”

Portrait Madame de Staël. French female writer. Regency fashion.

Madame de Staël. (Anne Louise Germaine de Staël-Holstein 1766-1817) Portrait by Vladimir Borovikovsky

Powder remains in fashion. “Monte-au-ciel.” Simply made gowns.

The Comtesse de Mailly retired to rest every night with her hair dressed, and wearing all her diamonds. She used to call her tradespeople “her little cats.”
High head-dresses came into fashion again for a short time, during the reign of gigantic paniers, and were worn with powder. It took a whole day to complete one of those monuments of the capillary art, which were of such enormous size, that according to “Le Mercure de France” of 173O, ladies could not sit in their coaches, but were obliged to kneel.

“Their woolly white hair,” says Lady Mary Wortley Montague, who visited Paris at the time, “and fiery faces, make them look more like skinned sheep than human beings.”
Françoise de Graffigny, the author of “Lettres d’une Péruvienne (1747)” protested against the high head-dress. She wore her hair powdered, but close to her head and covered with a little cap. This “little cap” was adopted by many women of rank, and for several years was worn by all Frenchwomen. Women of the people still wear round caps with two plaited wings coming forward on the temples, and called “le bat en l’oeil.” “The bourgeoises have retained,” says “Le Livre de la Coiffure,” “the full-crowned cap, surrounded with ribbon twists or bows, with two lappets falling over the chignon, and frills of lace curving round the temples.”
Some ephemeral fashions were introduced into France by the Polish princess Maria Leczinska, the wife of Louis XV.

Marie Leczinska. Queen consort of France. 18th century. Rococo fashion

Maria Karolina Zofia Felicja Leszczyńska (1703 – 1768), or Marie Leczinska. Queen consort of France. Portrait by Jean-Marc Nattier.

“Hongrelines” were worn, and polonaises, or “hongroises,” trimmed with “brandebourgs;” and, in 1729, embroidered mantillas of velvet and satin lined with ermine or other fur, the two ends finished with handsome tassels, that were tied behind the waist.
The “palatine” was thus no longer a solitary German fashion on the banks of the Seine.
Powder remained in vogue for more than half a century. No doubt the softness it conferred on the features, and the brilliancy it lent to the eyes, made it pleasing to everybody. It was still worn in 1760, and again in 1780, and after the Revolution it reappeared under the Directory in 1795.

Marie Leczinska. Rococo costume. Queen of France.

Marie-Caroline-Sophie-Félicité Leszczyńska (1703 – 1768). Queen of France.

There is no occasion, therefore, to speak of powder more particularly. In 1760, a lady wore powder, but her hair was drawn back “a la Chinoise,” and on the summit was a small knot of coloured silk. She wore stays, despite all that might be said against them by the doctors and the critics; and a fichu or kerchief straight across the shoulders, and called a “monte au ciel.” She had a “casaquin” or a “caraco.” She wore as her only garment a “peignoir,” a loose robe not confined at the waist, and fastened down the front with bows of ribbon. Round the throat was a ruche ot the same material as the dress; the sleeves extended to the wrist, where they became considerably wider, and could either be hooked up like those of French advocates at the present day, or were finished off with turned-back cuffs.

The first cachemire.

The first Indian shawl, or “cachemire,” seen in our country was imported towards the end of the reign of Louis XV. It was long the talk of both court and town^ but no attempt was made to manufacture similar shawls in France.

At the period we have now reached, the simplicity of women’s attire contrasts with previous styles; and is in harmony with the serious tone of society under Louis XVI. A transformation in dress is at hand. We are about to see extraordinary and brilliant fashions adopted by ladies of rank, and by those of the “haute bourgeoisie,” but not followed by the middle classes, on account of their great cost. The guests at Versailles and Trianon could afford to dress “a la mode,” because their wealth was immense and their extravagance boundless.
The reign of lace ended with the eighteenth century, for Louis XVI. cared little for embroidery and finery.
The drive to Longchamps in Holy Week afforded to the rich an opportunity of displaying the splendour both of their equipages and their dress, and it has continued to exist to the present day.

By Augustin Challamel.

Read more: L’Histoire du Costume Féminin Français. Paul Louis Victor de Giafferri.

Related to:

Baroque, Rococo,




  1. Reigns of Henri IV. and Louis XIII. 1589 to 1643.
  2. Reign of Louis XIV. 1643 to 1715
  3. Reign of Louis XV. 1715 to 1774.
  4. Reign of Louis XVI. 1774 to 1780. The influence of Marie Antoinette on fashion.
  5. Reign of Louis XVI. 1780 to 1789.
  6. The Coronation Banquet of Louis XV at Reims.
  7. Fashion and costume in the eighteenth century.
  8. The Farthingale. Fashion during the reign of Louis XV.
  9. Madame de Pompadour. Her political power and general influence.
  10. The Entry of Louis XIV and Maria Theresa into Arras 1667.
  11. English style in the Reign of Louis XIV
  12. The Corset and the Crinolin fashion history
  13. Italian Lace History. Reference List of Italian Laces.
  14. Collection of antique fabric design.
  15. Fabric terms dictionary from A to Z
  16. Historic hairstyles from Ancient times to the Empire.
  17. On the history of costumes. Fashion gallery from Ancient until 19th century
  18. Ladies hat styles from 1776-1790 by Rose Bertin.
  19. The Salons of Paris before the French Revolution 1786-1789.
  20. The Evolution of Modern Feminine Fashion 1786.
  21. Caraco a´la francaise in 1786.
  22. Fashion in Paris and London, 1780 to 1788.
  23. The French Republic. Fashion under the French Revolution 1789 to 1804.
  24. The Execution of Marie-Antoinette. The French Revolution.
  25. The Execution of Louis XVI. French Revolution.
  26. The creation of the Directory.
  27. Les Incroyables et Merveilleuses. French directoire fashion era.
  28. The Gallery of Fashion. England Georgian, Regency fashion.
  29. Reign of Napoleon I. 1804 to 1814.
  30. Fashion History France. On the history of costumes.