France, officially French Republic, country of north-western Europe. Historically and culturally among the most important nations in the Western world, France has also played a highly significant role in international affairs, with former colonies in every corner of the globe.
Bounded by the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea, the Alps and the Pyrenees, France has long provided a geographic, economic, and linguistic bridge joining northern and southern Europe. It is Europe’s most important agricultural producer and one of the world’s leading industrial powers. France is a member of the European Union and one of 23 countries in the region that uses the euro (abbreviated €) as its national currency. One euro is divided into 100 cents and there are seven notes in circulation, available in enominations of €5, €10, €20, €50, €100, €200 (rare) and €500 (rare).
French traditions and culture hold a special fascination for foreigners. Certain elements of the culture are world-famous, such as the deep regard the French have for excellent food and wine. Other parts are less well-known, and you’ll only discover it when you’ve made some horrible mistake at a dinner party. France is a country of 65 million people. The country is multi-ethnic and multicultural, but it’s illegal to keep statistics on different ethnicities. Ethnic groups include: Bretons, Basques, North Africans, Africans, Eastern Europeans, Southeast Asians, and more.
Whether you love movies, history, sports, theatre, music or dancing, the French has a festival or two just for you. Cannes Film Festival, Bastille Day, Fête de la Musique, Festival d’Avignon, Nice Carnival these are some of the famous festivals that happen in France. From Fashion Week to Christmas, there are so many beautiful festivals in France that you can become a part of.
THE CULTURE OF FRANCE:
The culture of France has been shaped by geography, by historical events, and by foreign and internal forces and groups. France, and in particular Paris, has played an important role as a centre of high culture since the 17th century and from the 19th century on, worldwide. From the late 19th century, France has also played an important role in cinema, fashion, cuisine, literature, technology, social science and mathematics.
In France, the vast majority of native citizens speak French. A few other languages are spoken in France by a tiny minority of the French population, including: Breton, Basque, Catalan, Flemish, and Arabic. It’s no secret that French cuisine and wine are held in high esteem throughout France and the world. Although the term “French cuisine” is generally used to embrace all foods from France, each region has its own specialties and styles, usually based on local ingredients.
Textiles and clothing are still an important sector of the French economy. France, one of the largest net exporter countries in the garment, was seen as the outlet of world fashion. For this reason, many world brands that we have heard a lot of names due to their qualities and authenticity have come from France. Balmain, Chanel, Christian Dior, Jean Paul Gaultier, Givenchy, Lacoste, Christian Lacroix, Lanvin, Christian Louboutin, Louis Vuitton, Chloe, Hermes, Balenciaga, Cacharel, Nina Ricci, Celine, Isabel Marant, Guy Laroche, Pierre
Cardin; They are the big brands we often hear about the signature of France
The “Sun king” was the absolute monarch of France, made his kingdom the leading European power and was the fashion idol of the Baroque age.
The association of France with fashion and style is widely credited as beginning during 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 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.
The prints were usually 14.25 X 9.5 and depicted a man or woman of quality wearing the latest fashions. They were usually shown head to toe, but with no individuality or defined facial features. Sometimes the figure would be depicted from behind in order to showcase a different side of the clothing. Although the individual in the prints was LOUIS XIV often crudely sketched, the garment itself was impeccably drawn and detailed. Accessories to the garment also received nuanced attention.
Louis XIV notably introduced one of the most noticeable feature of the men’s costume of the time: immense wigs of curled hair. The wearing of wigs lasted for over a century; they went through many changes, but they were never quite as exaggerated as during this period. Despite the rise of la mode during Louis XIV’s reign, many of the clothes he wore did not survive or were taken from the monarchy’s possession. Much like the Crown Jewels, a French king did not actually own any of his clothes.
INCROYABLES AND MERVEILLEUSES, 19TH CENTURY:
The Merveilleuses scandalized Paris with dresses and tunics modelled after the ancient Greeks and Romans, cut of light or even transparent linen and gauze. Sometimes so revealing they were termed “woven air”, many gowns displayed cleavage and were too tight to allow pockets. To carry even a handkerchief, the ladies had to use small bags known as reticules. They were fond of wigs, often choosing blonde because the Paris Commune had banned blonde wigs, but they also wore them in black, blue, and green. Enormous hats, short curls like those on Roman busts, and Greek-style sandals were the rage. The sandals tied above the ankle with crossed ribbons or strings of pearls. Exotic and expensive scents fabricated by perfume houses like Perfumes Lubin were worn both for style and as indicators of social station.
The Incroyables wore eccentric outfits: large earrings, green jackets, wide trousers, huge neckties, thick glasses, and hats topped by “dog ears”, their hair falling on their ears. Their musk-based fragrances earned them to the derogatory nickname muscadins among the lower classes, already applied to a wide group of anti-Jacobins. They wore bicorn hats and carried bludgeons, which they referred to as their “executive power.” Hair was often shoulder-length, sometimes pulled up in the back with a comb to imitate the hairstyles of the condemned.
World War II
Many fashion houses closed during the occupation of Paris in World War II, including the Maison Vionnet and the Chanel. Germany, meanwhile, was taking possession of over half of what France produced, including high fashion, and was considering relocating French haute couture to the cities of Berlin and Vienna, neither of which had any significant tradition of fashion. During this era, the number of employed models was limited to seventy-five and designers often substituted materials in order to comply with wartime shortages. 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) for a blouse. No belt could be over one and a half inches (four centimeters) wide. As a result of the frugal wartime standards, the practical zazou suit became popular among young French men.
POST WAR, FROM 60’S TO NOW:
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 clientele. 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 who were turning increasingly 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.
Fashion is so important to the French that, as The New York Times in 1995 quoted in an article on users of online dating services on Minitel, “Where else but in France would people describe themselves to potential partners in terms of their clothes?” 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.
Article Written byKucherlapati Divya Bharathi Masters in Fashion Management National Institute of Fashion Technology – Chennai
Intern at TVC