While French designer clothing is known to take a woman’s breath away, few clothing arbiters know the rich history located in every delicate seam.
If you desire to add a little “oh la la” to your current wardrobe, read on for some French clothing vocabulary and European frock history. Learn how to not only dress well internationally, but speak women’s French designer fashion fluently.
French clothing is not only legendary in its artistry, but is also inherently chic.
With a rich design history filled with notable fashion giants like Guy Laroche, Coco Chanel, Yves Saint Laurent, Lanvin and Balmain, French clothing has been loved and admired by fashion collectors and connoisseurs since the fashionable reign of Louis XIV.
Although many French clothing designers and couturiers fall prey to the strains of economic hardship (like my beloved Christian Lacroix) many French clothing companies still live on after the deaths of their legendary creators.
Designer French Clothing History
French king Louis XIV is the originator of upscale French luxury goods and French apparel.
According to the Fashion Encyclopedia, in the late 1600s to the early 1700s, King Louis created a powerful clothing industry producing ribbons, silk and other luxury textiles.
By ceasing the import of goods and fabrics into France, while simultaneously increasing the export of luxury French clothing to all of Europe, the world’s consumption of French clothes increased in European countries.
Notable Moments in French Clothing Design and Marketing
In the early 1670’s Jean Donneau de Vise created the first French fashion press to market French clothing outside of France
- 1910, Coco Chanel opened her first shop on Rue Cambon.
- Christian Dior created the “New Look” in 1947.
- Fashion magazine Elle was founded in1945
- Hubert Givenchy opened his salon in 1952.
- Yves Saint Laurent created a line of ready to wear or “prêt-à-porter” in 1966.
- In the 1970s and 1980’s Thierry Mugler, Christian Lacroix and Jean-Paul Gautier developed new French fashion trends for the luxury and designer clothing industry.
Designer French Clothing Vocabulary
Thanks to About.com’s French Language Library, here are a few French clothing vocabulary words for women. Enjoy!
- un manteau – coat
- un blouson – jacket
- un anorak – ski jacket
- un tee-shirt – T-shirt
- un pantalon - pants
- un maillot (de bain) - bathing suit
- des chaussettes – (f) socks
- des chaussures – (f) shoes
- des tennis (m) – sneakers
- un pyjama pajamas
21st Century French clothing History
In the 21st century, French clothing is featured in designer fashion shows and magazines around the world.
However, in the 1600s the French fashion press advertised the styles of clothing worn by members of the royal court of France to increase the export of French clothing to the global fashion audience.
Along with Milan, London and Tokyo, Paris is considered a premier city for fashion design and innovation.
Many famous French design houses: Lanvin, Chanel, Balmain, Christian Dior, Louis Vuitton, Mainbocher, Yves Saint Laurent, Guy Laroche, crafted iconic apparel sold in upscale department stores and vintage boutiques worldwide.
Types of French Clothing
There are three major types of French clothing sold worldwide: French lingerie, prêt-à-porter (“ready to wear”), and Haute couture.
In fact, haute couture is a legally protected French term that refers to hand-sewn designer apparel made by French couturiers.
With exquisite designs that range from the 10,000 dollars to 200,000 dollars or more, only less than 200 women around the world wear couture.
French clothing fashion tip: Only garments made by clothiers designated by the Fédération française de la couture are allowed to call their fashion designs couture.
Unlike their American fashion-obsessed counterparts, French women have a very different approach to building a wardrobe.
French women rarely buy their clothing on sale and consider their jewelry, clothing and handbags to be investment items to pass onto the next generation.
Rather than fill their closets with half-priced wardrobe items that are cheaply made, the French purchase a few pieces of well-made clothing that tends to be more expensive, but will last for decades instead of one season only.
With this quick lesson on French fashion your can reveal your own fashionable joie de vivre and can let your own inner French girl discover her own passion for fine designer women’s clothes…and the good life.