The French Revolution and the Empire Style

Costume is said to reflect the Zeitgeist, or "spirit of the age," and fashions of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries are frequently cited to illustrate this point. Political developments in France were to a considerable extent inspired by the examples of the ancient Greek and Roman republics. As previously noted, classical influences were already evident in architecture, and the fine and decorative arts. By the last decade of the eighteenth century, they permeated women's dress as well.

Because the marble statues of antiquity had been bleached white over time, it was believed that the Greeks and Romans had worn white garments. The high-waisted styles of Hellenic Greek Doric chitons served as the model for slender, white muslin dresses with high waistlines. Fashionable women wore classically inspired sandals. Men cut their hair in "Titus style" (named after a Roman emperor). Women dressed their hair a la Greque. Although specific details changed year-by-year, the highwaisted dresses were the basis of a fashionable silhouette that was to persist for more than two decades.

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