The word Rococo is seen as a combination of the French rocaille, or shell, and the Italian barocco, or Baroque style. The Rococo style superseded the Baroque style beginning in France in the late 1720s, especially for interiors, paintings and the decorative arts. Rich Baroque designs were giving way to lighter elements with more curves and natural patterns. The delicacy and playfulness of Rococo designs is often seen as a reaction to the excesses of Louis XIV's regime. The 1730s represented the height of Rococo development in France. The style had spread beyond architecture and furniture to painting and sculpture. Rococo still maintained the Baroque taste for complex forms and intricate patterns. By this point, it had begun to integrate a variety of diverse characteristics, including a taste for Oriental designs and asymmetric compositions.

Elisabeth Charlotte, Duchesse d'Orleans - 1719 The Declaration of Love - 1731 Elisabeth Christine - 1739 Portrait of Mary Edwards - 1742
Luise Ulrike of Prussia, Queen of Sweden - 1744 Louis XIV - 1710-1715 The House of Cards - 1736-37 Painting by William Hogarth - 1742
Madame de Pompadour - 1755 Portrait of Marquise de Pompadour - 1759 Portrait of John Hancock - 1765 The Music Party - 1774

Fashion in the period 1700-1750 in European and European-influenced countries is characterized by a widening, full-skirted silhouette for both men and women following the tall, narrow look of the 1680s and 90s. Wigs remained essential for men of substance, and were often white; natural hair was powdered to achieve the fashionable look.


Distinction was made in this period between full dress worn at Court and for formal occasions, and undress or everyday, daytime clothes. As the decades progressed, fewer and fewer occasions called for full dress which had all but disappeared by the end of the century.