La Belle Époque is a French term which generally means the “beautiful Era”. It was the period between the 19th century and it lasted well up to the First World War. It was named in retrospect to the peace and stability that was prevailing among the major super powers in the continent of Europe. The Belle Époque had a lot of significance in the world of fashion as it was a period where beautiful clothes and the luxurious lifestyle of a few had reached its peak. The outfits that were worn by the glamorous few in those periods were characteristic to the designs that existed in the heydays of Charles Worth who was considered as the pioneer of fashion.
By the end of the 19th century the world of fashion had reached greater heights and elegant women at this time fully embraced fashion. However this was only reserved for the well off in the society. The dresses that were in this time had a strikingly similar design of the upholstered hourglass design of the 18th century. The complexity of the dress required assistance in dressing and undressing. The era can however be considered as the first step in defining the true meaning of fashion in the years that were to come.
Many have argued that during the start of the Belle Époque it was the culmination of the elegance that was associated with the world fashion. In the early 19th century women were prohibited to show their ankles in public. This would elicit the wrath of the society and the woman who defied this rule would be considered immoral. Women would often be judged to the way they wore cloths. The fashion of the early 1900’s would often condemn those who wore trousers and considered it an audacity and offensive act for a woman to go against this rules.
Fashion at that time dictated that if the woman wanted to be respected all she had to do was follow the stipulated spirit of fashion laid down by the chosen few. This was characterized by the unwritten rule which dictated the way the cloths would be designed. This would involve designing the dress in such a way that the waist would be tiny, greatly emphasizing the hips with the dress portraying a protruding posture. This was regarded as the design of the perfect dress.
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In this era the corset was a must have piece of clothing for any respectable woman. They came in a variety of shapes with folds, curves and contour like shapes being the most prevalent ones. The corset was regarded as the ultimate show of elegance particularly with the way it reduced the waist with gorgeous lacings to give the woman an enhanced look. With the dawn of the Edwardian era the fashion at that time was rewritten afresh with the demise of the “hourglass” shaped dresses and with it came the new era of dresses designed to resemble the “S” shape.
The main aim of this latter design was to enhance the spine in a poetic way and also define the shape of the woman’s curved body. The typical elegant woman of those days would be dressed in a flamboyant way with tiny shoes squashing the feet with a hat completing the design. The lady’s at this period were characteristic as having a greatly defined posture which was as a result of the type of clothing’s they adorned.
The woman of this period had to make every effort to ensure that the figure of her body was perfect. This meant that at this period the number of undergarments that the women had to contend with to enhance their figures were amazingly numerous. These undergarments would include numerous petticoats which were laced to create the desired form. To achieve this, the woman had to wear an impressive number of about 5-7 petticoats. This is proof of how women of those days held fashion with the highest of esteem.
Those who could afford the rare pleasure of keeping up with the glamorous fashion of this period would mainly seek designed cloths from the tailors. These dresses had to be custom made so as to perfectly fit the customer and express the fashion spirit that existed in those days. In this era only the best fashion designers existed. The most notable designers were among Charles Worth, Jeanne Lanvin, Jacques Doucet, Callot Soeurs and Madeleine Cheruit.
The modern day catwalk which acts as a stage where fashion houses can showcase their products may have borrowed the idea from this era. During these times various designers found the glamorous French horse races as the perfect stage to showcase their prowess in designing cloths. It was every woman’s dream to attend one of these races to get a spectacle of the prevailing fashion.
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La Belle Époque can still be evident in the world of fashion in this modern period. However the dresses that characterized that period are nowadays worn on exclusive events such as weddings and the like. During this period the designs were portrayed in a sort of predetermined way and this factor can be used in this modern day and age.
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