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May The Lady - Monthly Project

Updated: Oct 1, 2021

Oops, I did it again. I ignored my deadlines until the last minute (oh baby baby…) Okay, but seriously, my bad. Hopefully no one was holding their breath waiting to see what I do next.

I kind of struggled to pick a theme this month. I ended up settling on 18th century fashion. Honestly, no real reason other than I find this time to be the most impractical period of fashion, but it’s also just fascinating. For example, did you know one of the reasons Louis XIV pushed for fashion reform was to keep his courtiers broke so that they would not have the power to overthrow him. WHAT?! That’s insane! We’ll go over that more in a moment. But France was basically a weird place at this time and I want to talk about it a bit.

The Lady “There is nothing new except what has been forgotten.” - Marie Antoinette

Before we can talk about the barrocian fashion, we need to talk about Louis XIV, because he is basically to blame for all the extreme looks that started during his reign.

One of the things you need to understand about Louis XIV is that he was super paranoid and scared of his royal court. He was convinced they would turn on him, kill him, betray him, etc. Basically he didn’t trust them at all, but he also knew he needed them. If you want a good example of his paranoia, the Palace of Versaille was created so that he and all his courtiers could live together where he could keep an eye on them.

So what does this have to do with clothing? Well, King Louis worked with finance minister Jean-Baptiste Colbert to radicalise the textile industry within France. This also encouraged the production of new, luxury fabrics. He then proceeded to outlaw the importation of fabric from outside France, pushing the nobility to only buy from French businesses. He then introduced the idea of semi-annual fashion, with new textiles and clothes to be made twice a year, (in summer and winter,) an attitude that would later influence today’s seasonal fashion.

Louis XIV was raised to believe he was a gift from god, and this kind of went to his head. He began to express this sentiment through his clothing. He called himself The Sun King and would create outlandish and lavish fashion designs to convey his power, status and wealth. This included ornamentation, wearing silks and velvets adorned with ruffles, lace, bows, pearls and embroidery.

Within the Palace of Versaille, Louis set a strict standard for his courtiers. He encouraged competition for attention and rewarded them with his praise, especially to those that were the best dressed. Again, you’re probably asking “WHY?” Well, Louis knew that if he kept his court broke, they would not have the power to overthrow him. He deliberately encouraged them to keep up with his ever changing fashion choices, knowing full well they would go into debt if they tried, (and of course everyone in court did try.). The highest reward one could be given was the opportunity to wear the same light blue silk jacket, or justaucorps a brevet, as the king, and if they were lucky, the chance to help the king dress (which apparently Louis made quite the show of.) Also, if you were curious, Louis’ most prized piece of clothing, that only his closest allies could hand him when dressing him, were his heels. Because of Louis the XIV, France grew into the fashion capital it is today. Fashion magazines and brand name fashion designers both got their origin during his reign. He was also responsible for starting the Parisian seamstresses’ guild, the first independent all-female guild created in over 200 years. Guild members could make and sell women's and children's clothing, which was a big step for women being able to run their own businesses.

To keep things simple I will only be talking about the women's ball gown (like the one in my photo,) rather than all the fashion styles of the 18th century. There are just too many, and this is not a fashion blog. The robe à la française or sack-back gown had a tight bodice with a low-cut square neckline. It usually had large ribbon bows down the front, wide panniers, and was lavishly trimmed with all manner of lace, ribbon, and flowers. Later in the century, the front was fitted to the body by means of a tightly-laced underbodice, while the back fell in loose box pleats called "Watteau pleats." Sleeves were bell- or trumpet-shaped, and caught up at the elbow to show the lace-trimmed sleeves of the shift (chemise) beneath. Sleeves became narrower as the period progressed into the 1770s. Necklines on dresses became more open as time went on. A thick band of lace was often sewed onto the neckline with ribbons, flowers, or jewels adorning the lace. Jewelry such as strings of pearls, ribbons, or lace frills were tied high on the neck. Finally, the addition of the frilled neckband appeared around 1730. Wigs were a major part of the look, but it was also acceptable to powder your hair to appear white. Makeup for a typical ball room look was white powdered face, pale pink lip and cheek, as well as rounded and darker brows. The goal was to appear childlike and innocent.

The Lady took roughly 2 hours to create, which is insane to me, because this is one of my longest videos. There was a lot of small detail work done because of the lace and hair, which meant using a slower speed in the video than usual so you can actually see what is going on. Also, a side note about the video: I freaking love the music choice I made; it makes me chuckle a lot because of the movements of the mouse matching the speed of the music. I used lightroom to set the tone of the image and sharpen my face, then photoshop for composition and retouching. It has 35 layers and 6 Groups, and is 756.377 MB. Stock images were provided by and

I wish I could say I learned a lot with this piece. Sadly all I learned was more ways to use last month’s RGB smart object masking technique. It apparently does not work the same way with blonde hair, especially when the hair colour is similar to the background colour when converted to black and white. Trying to clean the hair to match the lighting of the image was also interesting. I used levels and hues layers with clipping masks to adjust sections of the hair. Everything else was fairly simple, but I still enjoyed working on this piece all the same.

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