EmpireEmpire

Fashion in the period 1795-1820 in European and European-influenced countries saw the final triumph of undress or informal styles over the brocades, lace, periwigs, and powder of the earlier eighteenth century. In the aftermath of the French Revolution, no one in France wanted to appear to be an aristocrat, while in Britain, Beau Brummell introduced trousers, perfect tailoring, and unadorned, immaculate linen as the ideals of men's fashion. Women's fashions followed classical ideals, and tightly laced corsets were temporarily abandoned in favor of a high-waisted, natural figure.

Portrait of Madame Seriziat - 1795 Portrait of the Frankland Sisters - 1795 Portrait of Madame de Verninac - 1799 Painting of a family game of checkers - 1803
George "Beau" Brummell - 1805 Portrait of a lady - 1810 Walking Dress - 1817 Portrait of Mary Lodge - 1818
Morning Dress - 1819 Self-portrait of Rolinda Sharples with her mother Ellen Sharples - 1820 Portrait of Pierre Seriziat - 1795 Couple at the Window - 1815

In this period, fashionable women's clothing styles were based on the Empire silhouette - dresses were closely-fitted to the torso just under the breasts, falling loosely below. These 1795-1820 fashions were quite different from the styles prevalent during most of the 18th century and the rest of the 19th century, when women's clothes were generally tight against the torso from the natural waist upwards, and heavily full-skirted below. The high waistline of 1795-1820 styles took attention away from the natural waist, so that there was then no point to the tight "wasp-waist" corseting often considered fashionable during other periods. Inspired by neoclassical tastes, the short-waisted gowns sported soft, flowing skirts and were often made of white, almost transparent muslin, which was easily washed and draped loosely like the garments on Greek and Roman statues. Thus during the 1795-1820 period, it was often possible for middle- and upper-class women to wear clothes that were not very confining or cumbersome, and still be considered decently and fashionably dressed.

 

This period saw the final abandonment of lace, embroidery, and other embellishment from serious men's clothing. Instead, cut and tailoring became much more important as an indicator of quality. Older men, military officers, and those in conservative professions such as lawyers and physicians retained their wigs and powder into this period, but younger men of fashion wore their hair in short curls, often with long sideburns. The most fashionable hat was tall and slightly conical - this would evolve into the top hat and reign as the only hat for formal occasions for the next century.