Wednesday, June 29, 2011

La Mode, C'est Moi - Louis XIV: King of Fashion

Louis XIV the enigmatic Sun King deserves an entire blog dedicated solely to him, but in this case here, I will pay homage to man who revolutionized fashion throughout the late 17th and early 18th century. Louis is really such a colossal figure, both then and now, in France and abroad in terms of art, architecture, food...anything and everything you can think of  in terms of European culture in the said period, Louis probably had some sort of influence on, if not absolute power of it.

A handsome man in his youth and big time ladies man even in his upper years, I always pictured Louis, probably with some degree of accuracy, to be a very vain man, to say the least. As the Roi Soleil an absolute monarch virtually next to God in his eyes, Louis launched a virtual revolution in men's fashion. Whatever the Sun King did, his courtiers emulated, and thus would spread the style of Louis XIV, trends that would spread throughout the continent and endure, at least in variations, for over a century.

From head to toe, literally, Louis changed the fashion scene for men. As a child Louis was said to had the most beautiful and luscious set of golden curly hair. As time passed, his waistline widened and hair started to thin out, Louis latched on to youth by consistently wearing immense full curled wigs. Wigs became a must have for men all over. I can hardly picture a French courtier of the period without a head of long, thick, and sometimes perhaps excessive, faux curls.

A young Louis XIV
Another shift in mens wear came in the form of breeches and coats. Generally, under Louis coats were worn rather short (or shorter at least), and made of the finest silks, satins and velvets, and intricately embroidered. Hoses were white or often coloured to match the rest of the ensemble. Shapely legs were the "it" factor of the day, as it seems in most portraits Louis is showing his own off quite splendidly.

Alas, here is finally my absolute favourite part of Louis' fashion take over: HEELS! While boots were the go to foot wear for men previously, Louis ushered in an era of frivolity for men as it seems. Under Louis, high heels became a tell tale sign for status and wealth for women and men alike. Heels, often five or six inches tall, with ribbons, rosettes and buckles were all the rage. As I stated in the preceding paragraph, Louis LOVED to show off a little, or a lot, of leg!

Shoe detail of Hyacinthe Rigaud's portrait of Louis XIV outside The Bata Shoe Museum, Toronto

Of course, Louis being the absolute monarch that he was had to lay down the law when it came to high heel wearing around his court. Heels worn by others could never be taller than Louis - no questions asked. 

Another very interesting tid bit is that Louis passed a law stipulating that only those given permission (usually those granted access to his coveted court) were allowed to wear red coloured heels, which he frequently wore. Red heels and soles on shoes still to this very day remain a symbol of status, privilege and all around fabulous-ness! (i.e. Louboutins)

So, next time you're out looking for a new pair of red bottom sling backs or stilettoes care of Mr. Louboutin, thank Louis for the inspiration!