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Room 10
The 18th Century
Das Rokoko, die "galante Zeit", wie die Zerfallsperiode feudaler Vorherrschaft oft genannt wird, war gekennzeichnet durch äußerste Verfeinerung der höfischen Etikette und Moden. Die Hofmode des Rokoko war die letzte europaweite Mode, in der sich ein Stand durch Äußerlichkeiten deutlich von anderen abgrenzte. In der Kleidersilhouette glichen sich die Höflinge des Rokoko den Damen an, die - wie das Beispiel der Madame Pompadour, der Mätresse König Ludwigs XV. von Frankreich, zeigte - zunehmend den Ton angaben.
vergrößerte Abbildungen öffnen in neuem Fenster

The Royal court's Clothing,
France, early 18th century.

Alignment of men's and lady's
clothing at the French royal court.

Depiction of Madame Pompadour
wearing a hooped skirt from
a painting by François
Boucher, 1759.

Stockings made of exclusive
lace, belonging to Madame
Pompadour, mid-18th century.


Hooped skirt fashion of the Rococo Age.

Silk stocking with an embroidered clock
and pearl stitching, app. 1720.

Machine-knit stockings, hand-embroidered,
app. 1720.


Modern, feminine legwear fashion began to emerge in 1718 and correlates to the appearance of the hooped skirt. White stockings, held in place either above or below the knee with garters, were the first stockings of the new and quickly developing legwear fashion. These stockings were similar to men's silk stockings in regard to production and decoration. The possession of silk stockings was a major luxury. They were made using tram, crepe and sometimes organzine silk threads and could cost up to 100 Reichstaler. For this reason, Prussian kings aided the establishment of foreign stocking mills (establishment of a knitting guild in Berlin in 1703) in Prussia to prevent considerable consumer capital from flowing out of Prussia. During this time, the art of "repassing" stockings began - adept laundresses mended runs in stockings using this method.

The garter began playing an important role, too, as seen in numerous, often double-entendre sayings and motives which were woven into the garters.


Silk stockings, hand-embroidered,
18th century.

Machine-knit stockings with an
applicable pattern. Second quarter
of the 18th century.

Garters, Spain, 18th century.
Woven into the garter:
(I'm not allowed to see you...).


The royal court of King Louis XIV. and King Louis XV. of France appeared very feminine - they were clean-shaven, perfumed, powdered and made up. Knee-breeches, or culottes, replaced the "Rheingrafenhose" and were somewhat baggy, with the silk stockings visible underneath. Since 1730, buckles were attached to the hems at the knee. Also since this time, stockings no longer covered the end of the pants-leg, but rather the pants-leg covered the end of the stocking. Culottes became increasingly tighter, until they covered the man's leg smoothly and without creases by the 1780's.


Clothing from the royal court of King
Louis XIV. of France (1643-1715).

King Louis XV. of France ( 1715-1774)
in a military uniform.

French fashion in Germany,
first third of 18th century.


The prospering bourgeoisie across Europe criticized the courtly fashion and, as opposed to the court and aristocracy, wore clothing which was demonstratively plain. English fashion had already liberated itself from the royal court after the bourgeois revolution in the 17th century. The clothing of the bourgeoisie class was the fashion ideal in the 18th century.


Commodore Augustus Keppel (1725-1786), according to a painting by Joshua Reynolds, 1752.

Tight knee-breeches were worn with unadorned tunics, or tailcoats, and "derby-ribs" (ribbed stockings made of wool or cotton), which emphasized the simplicity of the new outfit, were worn instead of fine silk stockings.


English "derby-ribs", ribbed cotton stockings, app. 1750.

English fashion reached the continent in the 1770's. The fashion of England was a sign of the bourgeois freedom movement during the "Storm and Stress" era (as called in literature) in Germany as well. Goethe's young protagonist "Werther", portrayed in English clothing, became the role model for the young generation during this era.


After the novel "The Sorrows of Young Werther" by Johann Wolfgang Goethe was published in 1774, the English-style clothing worn by young Werther (as described in the novel) became the symbol of the progressive bourgeois.


By wearing the "Werther" costume, which consisted of yellow leather knee-breeches and jackboots, young people demonstrated for their right to personal freedom, and their resistance to the conventions of the royal court.

For a long time, people wanted to free themselves from the power and arbitrariness of the economically and socially outdated feudal system and the claims of privileged birth. These freedom "tendencies" ultimately led to the storming of the Bastille on July 14, 1789 and the beginning of the French Revolution.

When Robespierre called on sailors and laborers from the region around Marseilles to join the revolution in Paris, these caused a sensation with their calf-length, shapeless pants - called "Matelotes". Matelotes were a part of the traditional wear of people living on the coast, but also of the working class, for a very long time. The long pants of the "Sans-culottes" (meaning "without knee-breeches"; the Marseilles sailors and laborers became known under this name) quickly became a symbol for revolutionary activism, and they replaced the culottes which were previously worn in all bourgeois-reactionary circles. With the appearance of long pants, men's stockings - which were visible for almost 1,000 years - disappeared.


Traditional "Werther " clothing in 1787.


Long pants worn by members of the Paris commune, 1793/1794. The long pants of the "Sans-culottes" gradually displaced the knee-breeches worn until then.


Towards the end of the Revolution, fashion disdainfully turned away from the "Sans-culottes" trend. The bourgeoisie reconciled with the aristocracy, and the "bourgeoisie of the counter revolution" became the new ruling class, and they knew they had to distance themselves from the lower class in respect to their clothing. The "Incroyable", offspring of the powerful and influential bourgeoisie, exaggerated English fashion until it was totally absurd.


Knee-breeches and visibly-worn
stockings were still worn in
conservative circles even after
the French Revolution.

Well-formed calves were
particularly desirable for those
who wanted to wear knee-breeches
in the 18th century.

Fashionable clothing in
Germany, 1798 and 1799.

French "Incroyables" in 1794.


The initially "revolutionary" long pants were incorporated in fashion, but the new legwear of the bourgeoisie soon distanced itself from its source. "Pantaloons" became known not as the legwear of revolutionaries, but as the practical and plain (and by this time even tailored ready-to-wear) pants of the bourgeoisie, which were a contrast to the fashion of the aristocracy.


German fashion of long pants (which was to mold men's fashion from this point on) after 1800.

Merely conservative circles continued to wear the conventional outfit of tightly fitting knee-breeches, such as the participants of the Vienna Congress in 1814/1815, under the leadership of the Prince of Metternich.


The time-honored fashion of knee-breeches at the Vienna Congress in 1814/1815. Etching by A. Godefrey, 1819.

Even Napoleon Bonaparte fell back on the time-honored legwear of the "Ancien Régime" in outfitting his imperial court - he himself wore knee-breeches with silk stockings or skintight legwear. The bourgeoisie, who were now liberated from dress codes, no longer felt the need to follow the fashion of the royal court and continued to wear long pants.


Napoleon Bonaparte, Emperor of the French People (1804-1815), wearing skintight pants, early 19th century.

Pantaloons similar to tights, made from wool or silk and sometimes adorned with precious embroidery, appeared during the end of the 18th century. This was to be the last time that men's legs were highlighted by this type of clothing - though only in royal courts. They did not become fashion trend-setting again.

English "tights" - knit pants
with attached stockings, from
between 1790 and 1820.

English men's tights
from app. 1795.

Men's silk tights,
Germany, 1795.

Children's silk tights with
an attached top, Germany,
app. 1800.


Around 1800, these tights, also called tricots, played a role in women's fashion for the first time. During this time, women wore skin-toned tricots, or tights, beneath their sheer Grecian chemise-style dresses - to keep warm and out of modesty. This is a prominent event in the history of clothing, as this was the first time that women took over a piece of clothing from the repertoire of men, if only for a short time. Striking was also that they took over the most "masculine" piece of clothing - the pants - if only in the form of tights and to be worn beneath sheer dresses.


"Incroyable" and "Merveilleuse"

Madame Récamier

Madame Récamier wearing a
see-through chemise-style dress.
Painting by François Gérard, 1802.


Beginning in the 19th century, legwear and stockings played a new role in women's clothing.


to room 11: Traditional Stockings