In 1852, Napoleon III, nephew of Napoleon I, became emperor of France and the second empire began. Napoleon and his wife, Eugene, introduced an era of great elegance. Paris, the French capital, is planning reconstruction, and they dress the rich in finery to visit its new opera house and parks. Now, France fashions lead the world.

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By the late 1830s, dress skirts were full and curved outwards from the waist. They wore a cloth underneath the dress, usually from wool or cotton. They sometimes wore horsehair skirts, the first crinolines, in the late 1840s for extra width. Later, a French designer invented a framework of steel hoops called a cage crinoline. Underskirts, these crinolines, produce the fashionable shape without a lot of hot, heavy underwear.

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Crinolines slowly grew in size, and by the mid-1800s, the sum measured up to 33 feet. From the mid-1860s, they replaced the full crinoline with the flat-fronted half-crinoline, then the horsehair bustle, over which it draped many folds of fabric. The bustle disappeared in the late 1870s but grew popular again in the 1880s.



During the late nineteenth century, the clothing of men remained relatively unchanged. The morning coat has become a popular piece of daywear. A shorter, softer jacket is also available. (in 1870) they often wore jackets with matching pants and waistcoats to form suits. Fabric colors gradually become darker.

THE BIRTH OF Haute couture

Dressmakers visited well-off women at home until the 1850s to make clothes for them. Then, in 1857, Charles Frederick Worth opened a fashion house in Paris. His designs are beautiful, well-cut, and he employs talented designers. A model models these creations in his salons. Soon, he attracted many customers from all over the world. Some of those customers included Eugene himself. Haute couture, the designer-led high fashion business, entered the fashion market this way.

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In the second empire, technicians in the French city of Lyon made many fine skills with Napoleon III’s encouragement. Some of these skills included high-quality silk. Velvets, for example. They weaved the fabrics on the latest jacquard looms, which produced a wide variety of patterns. The empress Eugène herself preferred plain silks, which soon became quite fashionable.



1804: Napoleon crowns himself emperor of France.
1813: Napoleon’s troops defeated at Leipzig.
1814: Napoleon abdicates and banishes himself to the island of Elba.

By: Ilma Imran

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