France underwent dramatic changes in the 18th century that changed the way women dressed, the status of women grew, not in context to politics but to provide an intelligent and sophisticated visual appearance that lead to a regular change in the style and development of dress for women progressing through the century. This essay will explain how the fashion for women grew along with the development of dress in France in the 18th century by analyzing its characteristics and studying the sources available like paintings, portraits and drawings, surviving garments, fashion plates, fashion dolls, magazines, books and written documents such as accounts, repots, letters and sumptuary laws will be studied. .
Critical Review of Sources.
There are a number of sources one can use to study 18th century dress in France. .
One of the most commonly found and widely used sources to study fashion is, Paintings including Drawings and Portraiture that provide a wide variety of information about the patron, artists and dress. They give an account of the color, dyes, prints, silhouette, accessories, hairs styles, class distinction, and general atmosphere around that time. As stated in Ribeiro (1983), these works of art were considered one of the primary sources for art historians to study dress as it show exactly how to wear a dress.
There are also a few limitations to these sources like the fabric of the garment was difficult to determine, as the texture could not be felt, most of these paintings are damaged thus it is difficult to analyze them without the support of written documents, the types of gown in this period were drawn and painted by many different artists at different phase of the century, thus were very varied in style and was difficult to generalize the on going fashion, as mentioned in Boucher (1996). Many artists painted their sitters in a dress of their choice as ladies in the early 18th century preferred to be painted in comfortable clothing (Rothstein, 1999).