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Dressing à la Turque

Ottoman Influence on French Fashion, 1670–1800

Costume Society of America, Fashion History, Forthcoming

Exploring the significant influences of Turkish dress on French fashion

While French fashion has historically set the bar across the Western world, the cultural influences that inspired it are often obscured. Dressing à la Turque examines the theatrical depictions of Ottoman costumes, or Turkish dress, and demonstrates the French fascination for this foreign culture and its clothing. The impact, however, went far beyond costumes worn for art and theater, as Ottoman-inspired fashions became the most prominent and popular themes in French women’s fashion throughout the 18th century.

The newly invented fashion press used Ottoman-inspired styles to reconcile fashion consumption with Enlightenment dress reforms. At the same time, Turkish-inspired fashions were increasingly associated with long-criticized ideas about luxury, stereotypes about the connection between a woman’s interest in fashion and “lascivious” behavior, and French perceptions of the Ottoman Empire. This backlash is epitomized by the public criticism of Queen Marie-Antoinette, who popularized Turkish-inspired fashion, embraced a lifestyle of excess, and is still remembered for her singular sense of style.

Kendra Van Cleave includes numerous detailed images and dress patterns, enhancing her rich discussion of French styles during this important era.

Kendra Van Cleave is a fashion historian and librarian at the J. Paul Leonard Library at San Francisco State University. Her research has been published in journals such as Dress and French Historical Studies, and she has served on the board of directors of the Costume Society of America, Western Region.