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A Revolutionary Moment


Revolutionnaires, Paris 1793-94., Digital ID 812248, New York Public LibraryFrom this point on, we see more clearly how social history figures into fashion trends. The eighteenth century, which included the influential years of the Enlightenment, brought clothing changes of various natures. It was the French Revolution, however, that turned men in trousers against men in breeches and exposed the yawning gap between classes. The Revolution’s leaders even promoted a specific form of dress, that of the sans-culotte, for the newly liberated citizen. Trousers were considered workingman’s attire, and firmly associated with the lower orders.

Français Sous Le Directoire, Mode Dite Des Incroyables., Digital ID 812224, New York Public LibraryAfter the first years of the Revolution, the calls for group identity in dress ceased. The mood changed to encourage men to wear what they wanted. The Incroyables, nicknamed the “Invisibles” for the outlandishly high-necked collars that masked their faces, were brought together by mutual political and social outlooks. They vied among themselves as to who could sport the most exaggeratedly cut garments: abbreviated vests, coats with swallowtails, and voluminous trousers. Other social forces helped reinforce the concept of trousers as the pants of choice for men by the early nineteenth century. Most of Europe had been at war for years, and trousers and boots were easier to wear and provided more effective covering. Dressing for warfare had always been a major stimulus in the development of men’s fashion, and it was no mistake that so many military men stood out as fashion leaders.


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That's interesting that

That's interesting that clothing styles changed so abruptly. It makes sense, it was a revolution after all, but it's still hard to imagine making such a radical change, I always thought it was something that happened gradually with lots of overlap between different styles. I can't really imagine what that would be like today if men decided to start wearing a radically different type of suite to work. Thanks sparking my interest.

You're welcome, Josh. One of

You're welcome, Josh. One of the most interesting things in all of costume and fashion history is the fact that men went from having various garment types to an almost wholly uniform way of dressing! In fact, you'll discover if you keep reading my posts that I'm going to go into the very period where men's clothes have this change. What's also fascinating is that social historians still haven't really figured out what made this big alteration in the way men dressed.

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