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Where Did Men's Lace Frills And Bows Go?

Updated on November 25, 2009
Louis before he lost his head. Observe the lace and bows.
Louis before he lost his head. Observe the lace and bows.

At one time, men wore lace frills and bows with the best of them. As late as the 18th century, in the days of Louis XVI, nobles wore frills and bows and high heels as a matter of course. In fact, at some times, it was difficult to say where the frills ended and the man began. France has always lead the world in fashion, or so it seems, and in those times, frills and bows were also popular in the English court as well as throughout most of Europe.

Had France not fallen into economic turmoil and famine, there is every chance that bows and frills would still be fashionable for men, but as anyone who has heard of the French Revolution would know, France was struck by severe famines which were blamed on the excesses and gluttony of the monarchy. A silly king addicted to shows of opulence, Louis XVI bankrupted the country,  and at a bad time too.

Over in America, the Americans had overthrown the British and claimed their independence. The French commoners were bouyed by this evidence that it was possible to overcome the tyranny of the monarchy and took up arms against the king and his aristocrats. The rest is history, and this mood of rebellion and change sparked a major political and fashion change in the Western world.

During and after the French revolution, it was dangerous to appear in anyway aristocratic. Thousands of aristocrats were sent to die on the guillotine and the littlest piece of lace anywhere was more than enough evidence to convict a person of being a royalist.

Bows, frills and heels for men, and indeed, for women, all fell out of fashion for quite some time. When they did re-emerge, they were considered effeminate and suited only for women. The major political upheaval and indeed, fundamental change in the Western idea of government encouraged men to behave in more rugged and aggressive ways. Whilst at one time, being a fop at the court of the king was more than acceptable, it was now out of the question. Every man was free, every man was equal and every man needed to embody a notion of masculinity which could not be achieved prancing around in lace and heels.

Because women were not so much as accorded the right to vote, and because a certain softness is generally prized in women, lace and bows were allowed back into female fashions, though one might do well to note that they are nonetheless still usually reserved for intimate garments and lingerie.

It's tempting to think that political subjects are dry and boring, but as the sad landscape of modern men's fashion illustrates, political events do not just act on the heads of kings and queens, but on the littlest nuances of every day life hundreds of years after they have taken place.


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      9 years ago

      i think if i lived back then i would have a cool drees and fashion they dint know what to wear untill know a days

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      9 years ago from Central Coast NSW Australia

      It's true to say Mens fashion has been on a downward spiral for decades. The differences between mens and womens in certain styles is just bizzare these days.

      Women are getting vibrant colours. Menswear is all dark colours. almost like background colour.

      Womens shorts are getting smaller mens are getting longer and baggier.

      It's funny how you mentioned how frilly things were considered more feminine and men were discouraged from indulging. If a guy wears anything out of the tragic noem, he's ofter refered to as being Gay. But the gay guys tend to wear Suits and other mens style of impecable quality. So where does that leave the rest of us yearning for a change in our wardrobe?


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