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The French have a saying about recycling the past: “Plus ça change, plus ça reste la même chose.” The more things change, the more they stay the same. This adage applies to the world of fashion more than to anything else. Lady Gaga, the international-sensation-pop-star-diva, is particularly well known for her far-out styles. These range from a bubble dress (which was literally made of bubbles!) borrowed from the fashion runway to the new Rococo styles that other singers, including Madonna and Christina Aguillera, popularized during the 1980’s and 90’s.
Eighteenth-century Rococo styles, in particular, are coming back in today’s music scene. Contemporary singers establish themselves in large part by setting a trend and having a signature style. Although Rococo fashions were once seen as outlandish and outdated, now they’re viewed once again as innovative, interesting and fun.
The Rococo period, also known as “late Baroque,” marked an era of aristocratic opulence and elegance, where the French kings’ official mistresses—particularly Madame de Pompadour, Louis XV’s paramour–set the tone for European fashion, interior design and art. The word “Rococo” itself denotes a decorative taste. It comes from the combination of the French words rocaille (meaning “stone”) and coquille (meaning “shell”) that were common Rococo motifs.
As is obvious in the paintings of the popular court artists François Boucher (1703-1770) and Jean-Honoré Fragonard (1732-1806), Rococo celebrates opulence, grace, playfulness and sensual pleasure, by way of contrast to the seriousness of the earlier Baroque period.
For women in particular, Rococo fashions were feminine and flirtatious. A woman’s silhouette was created with the help of tightly fitted corsets and a panier, or round undergarment, that gave the long skirts more volume. The corsets were worn very low, practically exposing the breasts. We have seen this trend not just in Madonna’s and Lady Gaga’s sexy outfits, but also in the new hit movie, Burlesque, starring Cher and Christina Aguillera.
During the Rococo period, aristocratic women also powdered their hair, the way we might color and add gel to ours. Eventually, to set themselves apart, they began wearing tall wigs which became so large (and housed all sorts of insects) that writers began ridiculing them in farces. Lady Gaga’s ostentatious wigs may also appear ridiculous to some. But keep in mind that there’s no contemporary pop star that draws more attention to her style than Lady Gaga, the new Rococo Pop Princess.
Claudia Moscovici, postromanticism.com