Fashion as an Expression of Power and Control

Even though it is often overlooked, fashion has played an integral role in the history of many nations. Throughout this course, we have discussed how fashion goes beyond being just a form of adornment but also a form of representation, giving the viewer insight into who the wearer is and the culture to which they belong. In most of the circumstances we have looked at, fashion often worked as a representation of one’s social class, the clothes one

Louis XIV by Hyacinthe Rigaud (1701)

wore determined by where they fit within society. Those who ruled controlled fashion as

Isaac Oliver, The Rainbow Portrait, 1600

a way to protect the stability of the nation and express their country’s political power both on the domestic and international stage. Through various primary and secondary sources, I show in my project how both Elizabeth I of England and Louis XIV of France used fashion as an Expression of Power and Control. The importance of fashion as a tool of political power is expressed through the examination of how both Elizabeth I and Louis XIV used adornment as one facet in their stabilization of two politically volatile nations. Though the clothing worn differed across the two periods of rule, its use as a vehicle of power and control remained constant.