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French Fashion

Fashion has been an important industry and cultural export of France since the seventeenth century, and modern "haute couture" originated in Paris in the 1860s. Today, Paris, along with Tokyo, London, Milan, and New York City, is considered one of the world's fashion capitals, and the city is home or headquarters to many of the premier fashion houses. Historically, many of the world's top designers and fashion houses have been French, including Coco Chanel, Christian Dior, Louis Vuitton, Lanvin, Chloé, Hermès, Guy Laroche, Yves Saint Laurent, and shoe designer Christian Louboutin.


Seventeenth century

The association of France with fashion and style (la mode) dates largely to the reign of Louis XIV when the luxury goods industries in France came increasingly under royal control and the French royal court became, arguably, the arbiter of taste and style in Europe. The rise in prominence of French fashion was linked to the creation of the fashion press in the early 1670s (due in large part to Jean Donneau de Visé) which transformed the fashion industry by marketing designs to a broad public outside the French court and by popularizing notions such as the fashion "season" and changing styles.

Belle epoque

France renewed its dominance of the high fashion (couture or haute couture) industry in the years 1860-1960 through the establishing of the great couturier houses, the fashion press (Vogue was founded in 1892) and fashion shows. The first modern Parisian couturier house is generally considered the work of the Englishman Charles Frederick Worth who dominated the industry from 1858-1895. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, the industry expanded through such Parisian fashion houses as the house of Jacques Doucet (founded in 1871), Jeanne Paquin (founded in 1891; she was the first woman to open her own fashion house), the Callot Soeurs (founded 1895 and operated by four sisters), Paul Poiret (founded in 1903), Madeleine Vionnet (founded in 1912), Chanel (founded by Coco Chanel, it first came to prominence in 1925), Elsa Schiaparelli (founded in 1927) and Balenciaga (founded by the Spaniard Cristobal Balenciaga in 1937). mon ecole: vert et blanch et jaune at bleue.

World War II

Many fashion houses closed during occupation of Paris during World War II, including the Maison Vionnet and the Maison Chanel. In contrast to the stylish, liberated Parisienne, the Vichy regime promoted the model of the wife and mother, the robust, athletic young woman, a figure who was much more in line with the new political criteria. Germany, meanwhile, was taking possession of over half of what France produced, including high fashion, and was also considering relocating French haute couture to the cities of Berlin and Vienna, neither of which had any significant tradition of fashion. The archives of the Chambre Syndicale de la Couture were seized, most consequentially the client list. Jews were excluded from the fashion industry.

Due to the difficult times, the number of models in shows was limited to seventy-five, evening wear was shortened and day wear was much lighter, made using substitute materials whenever possible. From 1940 onward, no more than thirteen feet (four meters) of cloth was permitted to be used for a coat and a little over three feet (one meter) was all that allowed for a blouse. No belt could be over one and a half inches (four centimeters) wide. Among young men in the War Years the zazou suit became popular.

In spite of the fact that so many fashion houses closed down or moved away during the war, several new houses remained open, including Jacques Fath, Maggy Rouff, Marcel Rochas, Jeanne Lafaurie, Nina Ricci, and Madeleine Vramant. During the Occupation, the only true way for a woman to flaunt her extravagance and add to color to a drab outfit was to wear a hat. In this period, hats were often made of scraps of material that would have otherwise been thrown away, sometimes incorporating butter muslin, bits of paper, and wood shavings. Among the most innovative milliners of the time were Pauline Adam, Simone Naudet, Rose Valois, and Le Monnier.


Post-war fashion returned to prominence through Christian Dior's famous "New Look" in 1947: the collection contained dresses with tiny waists, majestic busts, and full skirts swelling out beneath small bodices, in a manner very similar to the style of the Belle Époque. The extravagant use of fabric and the feminine elegance of the designs appealed greatly to a post-war clientèle. Other important houses of the period included Pierre Balmain and Hubert de Givenchy (opened in 1952). The fashion magazine ''Elle'' was founded in 1945. In 1952, Coco Chanel herself returned to Paris.

In the 1960s, "high fashion" came under criticism from France's youth culture (including the ''yéyés'') who turning increasing to London and to casual styles. In 1966, the designer Yves Saint Laurent broke with established high fashion norms by launching a ''prêt-à-porter'' ("ready to wear") line and expanding French fashion into mass manufacturing and marketing (member houses of the ''Chambre Syndicale'' were forbidden to use even sewing machines). Further innovations were carried out by Paco Rabanne and Pierre Cardin. In post-1968 France, youth culture would continue to gravitate away from the "sociopolitically suspect" luxury clothing industry, preferring instead a more "hippy" look (termed ''baba cool'' in French). With a greater focus on marketing and manufacturing, new trends were established by Sonia Rykiel, Thierry Mugler, Claude Montana, Jean-Paul Gaultier and Christian Lacroix in the 1970s and 80s. The 1990s saw a conglomeration of many French couture houses under luxury giants and multinationals such as LVMH.

Since the 1960s, France's fashion industry has come under increasing competition from London, New York, Milan and Tokyo. Nevertheless, many foreign designers still seek to make their careers in France: Karl Lagerfeld (German) at Chanel, John Galliano (British) at Dior, Paulo Melim Andersson (Swedish) at Chloe, Stefano Pilati (Italian) at Yves Saint Laurent, Marc Jacobs American at Louis Vuitton, Kenzo Takada (Japan) and Alexander McQueen (English) at Givenchy (until 2001).

Legal status

The expression ''Haute couture'' is, in France, a legally protected name, guaranteeing certain quality standards.

French couture is regulated by an industry governing body, the ''Fédération française de la couture, du prêt-à-porter des couturiers et des créateurs de mode'' created in 1654, which itself consists of the ''Chambre Syndicale de la mode masculine'' (men's fashion), the ''Chambre syndicale du prêt-à-porter des couturiers et des créateurs de mode'' (ready-to-wear) and the ''Chambre syndicale de la haute couture'' (high fashion), the latter having been created in 1868. The Federation also has a fashion school, the ''Ecole de la chambre syndicale de la couture parisienne'' (created in 1999).

Fashion weeks

The Paris Fashion week takes place twice a year after the London Fashion Week and before Milan Fashion Week. Dates are determined by the French Fashion Federation. Currently, the Fashion Week is held in the Carrousel du Louvre.


Since the seventeenth century, the headquarters for fashion houses have been traditionally situated in the quarter around the Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré. Since the 1980s, the Avenue Montaigne has, to some extent, overtaken the Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré in high fashion as well as accessories. Other areas, such as Le Marais, a traditional Jewish quarter, have also included the clothing industry.Paris has also been the best fashion city in the universe!!! Including the high fashion companies of Mars.


* Dauncey, Hugh, ed. ''French Popular Culture: An Introduction''. New York: Oxford University Press (Arnold Publishers), 2003.
* DeJean, Joan. ''The Essence of Style: How The French Invented High Fashion, Fine Food, Chic Cafés, Style, Sophistication, and Glamour.'' New York: Free Press, 2005. ISBN 978-0-7432-6413-6
* Kelly, Michael. ''French Culture and Society: The Essentials''. New York: Oxford University Press (Arnold Publishers), 2001. (A Reference Guide)
* Nadeau, Jean-Benoît and Julie Barlow. ''Sixty Million Frenchmen Can’t Be Wrong: Why We Love France But Not The French''. Sourcebooks Trade, 2003. ISBN 1-4022-0045-5

Source: Wikipedia