France theatrical costumes paper

France theatrical costumes

French theatrical costumes originated from different artistic periods, especially the renaissance period. For instance, there were French neoclassical costumes that had laces and were very colorful such as the Columbina which was a maid’s costume. There was great significance that was generally played by both mask and costumes.  The kind of costume used in the French theaters pick ideas from their predecessors and improving their own costumes (Aria $ Perciy 84-85). The popular French playwright Moliere is amongst the artists who influenced French costuming to a greater extent because of the passionate support of using masks and symbolism. He would let his characters wear masks at the beginning then later remove the masks as a way of revealing their true identity.

Louis XIV contribution in art is incredible especially through the establishment of academia royale which was meant for dancing masters. Although he stopped dancing, his courtiers continued with his examples. Ii is worth noting that during Louis XIV’s times, all the dancers were initially men but some men wore masks to take part in women role in dancing. Ballet which is a form of dance that originated from the Italian Renaissance quickly spread to France where it was enhanced. Later on, theatrical ballet turned out to be a form of art and social dance that could be well incorporated with pageant décor and costumes. Costumes were meant to expose the dancers figure by pairing it down. There were also romantic ballets that were introduced to appear light, airy and free thus resulting into costumes with pastel, flowing skirts that could block the shins(Umbhau Web).

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The 18th-century dancers were characterized by wearing of masks, wigs or large headdresses as well as heeled shoes and as women wore panniers, hoopskirts draped at the side for fullness, men wore the tonnelet. The tonnlet were knee-length hoopskirts that were sometimes shortened to expose dancer’s sparkling jumps and beats. Because there were no block shoes, the dancers tightened their light slippers with darning. These are ballet costume pictures (“Head to Toe Fashion Art” Web).


Although both men and women’s costumes were intricate, women’s costumes were more elaborate. Pastel or white-colored wigs were common to both genders in addition to hats and headpieces that were worn over the wigs. It was also common to see costumes with laces. The French costumes were meant to replicate someone’s character but still, they were very detailed in terms of multiple and complex layers and fabrics. To women, waists and busts were form fitting even though the costumes represented character class. Higher class characters wore rich and intricate clothing that could reveal their status in society. Moreover, the actors used pale powders on their faces as masks to create a massive appearance on the actor’s face. The bold-colored powder was used to stress on facial features and help in exposing the actors in the light of the theatre(Umbhau Web).
Generally, France role in the world of art is incredible. The theatrical costumes are very unique in their own kind and represent various meanings. Just as there has been an evolution in art, so are the theatrical costumes. Many prominent artists such as the famous play writer Molliere have made a significant contribution in the theatrical work(Umbhau Web). Elegance and intricacy have been maintained throughout the history of the theatrical costumes thus acting as an identity of the French theatrical costumes.


Aria and Percy, A. Costume: Fanciful, Historical, and Theatrical. London: Macmillan and co, 1906. Print.

Head to Toe Fashion Art. French Fine Art Fashion Prints Collection: Ballet & Theatre – Vintage Costumes (2013): Web. 12 Oct. 2013. <>

Umbhau, Ilima. History of French Theatre.Prezi 17 April 2013.Web. 12 Oct. 2013. <>





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