English Fashion and South American Women’s Fashion varied in the 18th century, however, both cultures dressing styles were influenced by economic variables such as trade and the rise of the middle class, European influences such as the Spanish Inquisition in South America and technological advances such as the invention of the Flying shuttle by John Kay in the early 18th century and the inventions of Edmund Cartwright’s power loom, and Eli Whitney’s Cotton Gin in the later 18th century.
English fashion drew a lot of inspiration from French fashion choices during the 18th century. Elite French and European women were the height of fashion for women in the West. At the beginning of the century, ornate designs and embellishments were very popular amongst the aristocrats in France. Popular materials used were satin, silk and cotton. Women wore gowns called “mantua” gowns, which were made of one piece of material that flowed over the shoulders. Bodices were not boned, and corsets were not worn. Later in the 18th century, hoops in skirts were introduced and popularized. Hoops were made out of whale bones, and made the skirts wide and heavier. Quarter sleeves, usually puff sleeves, were popular as well in the early 1700s.
Fashion in England in the mid-1700s changed as women’s skirts got wider from the introduction of “panniers”, which were another type of hoop, and the waistline slimmed down. Dresses were embellished with faux flowers, lace, ruffles and ribbons. Necklines were commonly square or oval, and puff sleeves were no longer popular. The fashion icon of the time was Madame Pompadour, mistress of Louis XV. By this time, the Flying Shuttle had been invented and the speed of weaving increased drastically, making textiles more accessible to people of the Merchant class, along with the increase in slave labor in the new world.
Cotton from the New World had become a commodity to the English, and they traded fine teas and textiles for cotton. In the later 1700s, panniers were traded for hip pads. Hip pads gave a more natural look. Hemlines rose above the ankle. Cartwright’s Power Loom (1785) and the Cotton Gin (1793) were invented. Hairstyles became large and ornate, sometimes featuring decorations such as faux birds, fruits, feathers, and jeweled combs. Fake hair pieces were often added to the ensemble creating a massive structure, usually topped with a tiny hat. The style icon of the time was the hated, yet influential, Marie Antoinette. Finally, at the end of the 18th century, lighter gowns made of Indian muslin were popularized, even though at first, they were criticized for being too revealing.
Fashion and Dress in South America was very different than in Elite Europe, before the Spanish arrived Inca women wore a traditional garment called an “aksu”, it was a rectangular body wrap that reached the ankles. The aksu was held up by pinning it around the arms by a pin called a “tupu”. Tupus were usually made out of wood, bone or copper. Women of higher status, however, used more expensive materials like silver or gold.
A wide belt called a “chumpia” was used to hold the aksu close to the body. Many women carried bags for coca leaves, and some wore cloth headbands. After the Spanish arrived, they had introduced the new technologies for weaving to make garments more quickly. Many Inca people wore combinations of Inca and Spanish clothing until the Indigenous revolts of the 1780s. After the revolts, the Spanish government of Peru illegalized traditional Inca clothing, such as the tunics, headbands and belts. Only the formalwear for Men, called a qumpi unku, was still allowed to be worn. The people of Inca were forced to assimilate with European standards of fashion, losing some of their own longtime held traditions.
English women and South American Indigenous women had varying experiences with fashion and dress in the 18th century, while English women got to experiment and revolutionize their own styles, Inca women were forced to give up their traditional dress for Spanish fashion and dress. Although they were both affected by the same economic factors and technological advances, one population benefitted greatly while the other suffered.