Birth of the female fashion trade in Europe

Unusual origins evolved for the fashion houses of today!

Up until the late seventeenth century garments for ladies were made by men. These designers were not considered mentionable, and therefore many of their designs were anonymous.  In old French journals and fashion books, it is hard to find the names of the actual designers on the bottom of the artists early drawings, and only the signature of the Artist,  Printer, and the publication was shown.  In  the 1800’s the trades gave more details, shops in Paris where merchandise for fashions could be purchased, textiles, lace, and ladies fashions of every kind  and more. Early Women dressmakers did of course exist and their fine work was even preferred by the customers, but theirs was still a forbidden and dangerous trade.  Hard to imagine now!  Time and time again the jealous tailors would burst into their workshops, invoke the statutes, destroy the half finished goods and impound their materials and stock.

Break-through at last, in the year 1675 the women plucked up courage to take the decisive step.  They sent a petition to the King, who was Louis XIV asking that they should be allowed to make petticoats, peignoirs, skirts and other accessories, with the rider that – it accorded with propriety, chastity and modesty of women and girls that they should be dressed by persons of their own sex!                                 Leaning over the shoulder of the King, his secret second wife, the pious and prudish Mme. de Maintenon, read the petiton.

Mme. de Maintenon

Mme. de Maintenon

There was no more hesitation, the women dressmakers appeal to morality was decisive. From then onwards they were allowed to found their own corporation.  Following this they invented a new profession, that of the Milliner, of the Marchand de Modes.  Once they were firmly established the beginning of the women expanding into the French fashion houses began.

It transpires that the birth of the female fashion trade was prompted by the wife of a king, and HAT Makers, not forgetting the talent and strength of determined French Dressmakers.


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