In the 17th century, King Louis XIV was crowned king & he ruled the thrown at the young age of five in France when his father had died. This ruler was notable throughout European history and in this period of time, civilization was marked by a discontent composure and an uneasy way of life within the social classes. His style of ruling was defined as an absolute monarch where he was in full charge of government and his power had no regulation by a constitution or the law, meaning the actions he make is based on his own order and ruled by himself as being the top authority; orders and commands revolves around him.. As being the highest leader of France, there were workshops that consists of artists and architects such as a painter named Hyacinthe Rigaud, who became an important painter to the king. According to author Jones in the textbook says (2014), “Hyacinthe Rigaud’s famous state portrait of King Louis XIV in full regalia presents the king at the height of his powers, framed in an ostentatiously theatrical setting… Crown, sceptre, great sword of state, and heavy fleur-de-lys ermine robes evoke the putative timeless nature of the French monarchy, then at the zenith of its power.” (p. 16-17). The beautiful painting (as seen on the cover page) painted by Hyacinthe Rigaud contains three important elements that depicts the importance of the king’s appearance & dress during his reign which includes the ermine robe, red high-heeled soles, & his fake wig for hairstyle. These luxurious items that he wore not only displays beauty but it indicates wealth and the status, strictly depending on what they wore. That’s why sumptuary laws were created to recognize the representation and etiquette of the king and his people through prestigious wear.
The garment that King Louis XIV wore for his coronation was a long robe that was made out of fur and it came from an ermine, a kind of weasel, and this was worn only by someone who was high-ranking and related to royal blood. Producing this garment is time-consuming as it consists of sewing together an abundance amount of ermine furs that will result in an amazing white cloak with multiple patterns of black spots all over, in which that came from the tips of the tail of an ermine. The hand of the garment was smooth and luxurious and beautiful to the beholder’s eyes. The painter painted King Louis with a sword next to him while he holds the scepter and crown on the table. Regarding those important accessories, it symbolizes the French monarchy and reminds civilians that he was the highest authority of France without a doubt. At the coronation, the king wears the royal ermine robe and this was not only a reflection of his status and richness but it clearly states boldly who was in charge and for people to recognize the rankings. At that time he also wore his high red signature soles. It was stated by Fraser (2007) that, “The myth of the small King elevating himself on high heels is based on a misconception about fashion at the time” (p.35). This suggests that King Louis XIV did not wear his heels because he was short and to appear taller. He wore it to signify his importance in the position as being the king; a manifestation of royalty. The color red was a notable color that displays the king’s status of France and only the ones related to royalty were granted the privilege of wearing high heeled shoes with red in it. Wearing shoes strictly for that is comparable to being friends with the cool kids in high school and only the popular ones were allowed to join the group. It is so important to divide up the rankings of the king and his people through dress because civilians should not be higher than royalty and this implies who can recognize who when it comes to this. The shoes that King Louis XIV wore was eye-catching and it signals wealth because of the production of securing the color red, as it was difficult to obtain that color back in their time. To get a hold of obtaining red, tactics were used such as crushing the body of an insect called the cochineal, and extract its pigment from its deceased body. Only the wealthy people were able to afford garments or accessories in the color red with this kind of approach hence the reason why the cost of red dyes is very expensive.
King Louis XIV delivers a fashionable and charismatic aura of a gentleman that speaks out to people as first glace. His important piece was the wig that he wore that was in and out of fashion to this day. In the painting on the cover page shows the king and his thick, voluminous curls at shoulder-length. Although wearing wigs was present before, this became an anchor of a man’s dressing in the king’s reign in which by any chance corresponds to the beginning of the stage where men would go bald and needed something to cover the bald head of theirs! Wigs have started to become more prominent at the end of the 17th century. This form of style reached out to other areas of the country and it expressed the importance of the king since wore wigs, like the trickle-down theory where fashion comes from the top and moves down to the lower class. The production of wigs were made out of human hair or horsehair which is nice and coarse. During the ruling of King Louis XVI, this period of time was known for the insanely large hairstyles that was produced for men and woman. That was a kind headdress that they would wear called the pouf or fontage. Jewelries would be added and decorated on the hair for women while men can tie a bow or a knot at the end of their braided hair called the lock-lock, or they can just leave it nice and curled. It was not only for having a good appearance but for health and vitality.
The importance and usefulness of studying primary historical costume source is important to reveal the definition of a noun. It is like a time machine that traces back to the past and to learn more about the historic components. Having access to a primary source offers an authentic documentation of what was then compared to now. When reading a book or having a professor explain about a historical figure or artifact in class does not relate the experience that would be received when visiting a museum in person. This gives the viewer a sense of reality, like a walkthrough for tour guide because they are able to see that historical figure up close and in details. Nonetheless, this is a gateway to establish a real connection between the work of the artist’s art versus observing it in books or in a classroom setting. The point of experiencing a museums in person is being able to grasp the physical and close details of an ancient artifact and embrace it. The mesmerizing rarity of a historic object would date back a couple hundred years or thousand years is what makes it extravagant. Obtaining a genuine response when viewing and studying from a primary source can be a great educational tool and an inspiration for students. Instead of listening and reading about a distant figure or object that may or may not have to anything with that student, the historical interpretation of what is explained can be moved onto the next level of education and feeling. It is significant to have some sort of emotions when someone reads the plaque of an artist’s work and brainstorm thoughts about it. It makes viewers feel some type of way by experiencing empathy which can be applied to everything in order to understand the meaning behind it therefore displaying empathy is an important skill for an individual to cultivate in daily life in good or bad situations.
Although this Baroque period of King Louis XIV was not as amazing as the amount of decoration that was used during the Renaissance because it was just nice displays of one’s wealth. The king would recognized the value in the fashion world as well as the economic turmoil caused. The textile industry is rather impressive and the superiority of producing garments that much of one’s time and money that would be invested in. Fashion began spreading out to other countries in Europe that made France appear mighty, in which people expressed their role and wealth through dress by appearing wonderful like how society is today. The king built the city of Versailles for a reason and it is not just a location for civilians to reside in. It represents the accomplishments of the king and his absolute monarch that speaks out power and recognition. The decorations and its details are of grandiose manner and fancy to the eye as to why fashion is significant. Residents of this city would attend balls to dance and have fun; entertainment was a requirement and fashionable garments would be worn from both men and women, dinners, and parties. This indicates a sign of power that one was able to afford what they were wearing. Meanwhile the lower class would experience a far less fancy lifestyle compared to the king and higher classes. The city of Versailles was a great fascination and that was the backbone of fashion that connected historically to the present. From people dressing up in lavish clothes and recognizing the king’s garments and what he wore, this help reshaped the country’s economic standing because of the importance of fashion in France. Thanks to King Louis XIV, he had made a huge impact on the French culture that inspires designers and the fashion industry to this day.
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Claydon, T. (2016). Louis XIV Outside In: Images of the Sun King Beyond France. Oxford University Press
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Fraser, A. (2007). Love and Louis XIV. Anchor Canada.
Jones, C. (2014). The Smile Revolution in Eighteenth Century Paris. (1st ed).Oxford, U.K. British Library Cataloging.
Mansel, P. (2005). Dressed to Rule: Royal and Court Costume from Louis XIV to Elizabeth II. Yale University Press.
Tierney, T. (2002). French Baroque and Rococo Fashions. Mineola, NY. Dover Publications Inc.