1650-1800. The eras of Baroque and Rococo in fashion, art, music, and culture. Their main similarity: practically defined and definitely dominated by the French court centered at Versailles.
Both eras shared their obsession with bright colors, lavish elegance, lots of gold, and all things French. The French court, and more notably the Bourbon monarchs (Louis XIV to Louis XVI), practically dictated fashions of Western Europe during much of the 17th century and the entirety of the 18th. France was able to take center stage of popular culture because England was wracked by civil war and Italy’s days of Renaissance glory were over and the country’s influence was fading quickly. France became the center for lace-making and silk and brocade manufacturing and its many goods were in high demand in other European countries. Even European newspapers would publish the latest fashions from France. Little did anyone know that France would remain the fashion icon for hundreds of years to come.
These fashions did not only influence Western Europe. This age was the zenith of European colonialism, especially in the Americas. With the English, French, and Dutch in North America, Spain and Portugal in South America, and France and Spain in the Caribbean, European styles were running rampant throughout the Western Hemisphere. There were also many European colonies in Africa, Asia, and Australia. France could legitimately say that they controlled popular fashion all over the world, from that comparatively small, yet huge and lavish palace known as Versailles.
It’s amazing to think the French Revolution didn’t occur sooner. The ridiculous separation from the lavish wealth of the aristocrats and royalty and the devastating poverty of the lower and even some of the middle class was obvious to all involved. The wealthy perhaps didn’t realize the enormity of poverty around them, or simply chose to ignore it. Either way, the seeds of the Revolution were planted during the reign of the Sun King and simmered under the surface for over a century before boiling over in the bloody events that changed history forever. And the court at Versailles, as well as the excess the population there displayed with their clothes, became the symbol of the tyranny the rebels fought against.
And just in case the first painting of Versailles didn’t impress you enough, here is the groundplan of the palace and the surrounding gardens. That little rectagularish building towards the right? Yes, that is the palace with over 700 rooms in it. Lets you know just how expansive the grounds are surrounding it. If you want to see more images, this site has a lot of amazing, beautiful images of the palace.