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The Power of Fashion Wielded by a King

At War with a King

You cannot have your power and wear it at the same time. Sometimes the biggest threat to the power of the monarchy are the people who are subject to them. The individuals that have the highest chance of threatening the power of a King are the members of the royal court who were Nobles. These members had wealth, Land, and small militaries. But for a King, their greatest weapon was their ambitions for more power. Ambitions like these would drag French monarchies through wars that would challenge the institutions that honored the King’s power. The constant threat of wars is a great challenge to a king’s power.

Painting  of King Louis XIV dressed in blue , gold , and white.
Painting of King Louis XIV

Controlling the Power of Wealth.

If not through violence wars are ended when the there was a lack in financial investment. Wealth was a great resource for starting wars with a king. And many of the noble members of the royal French courts had access to wealth. To keep himself in power a king would have to observe the power of the nobles and manage their access to wealth. King Louis XIV of the French monarchy knew that if he could control the wealth of the Nobles, he could control their power. King Louis XIV could not just take their wealth, actions like these would immediately start a war.

Getting Close to the King

The King would have to think of other ways to leverage his power to gain access to their wealth. The easiest way to stab a King in his back was to be close to him. Getting close to the king was also the easiest way to get the support from him. But whether it was for stabbing or support being close to the King was important to the noble members of the royal court. But you could not just hang out with a King. Like many of us today, the nobles liked going out. Nobles especially liked going out when they could be in proximity with the king. Nobles could spend time with the king at one of his formal events.

The Dress Code

King Louis XIV leverage the excitement of his participation in formal events to access the power and wealth of the nobles. King Louis XIV required a dress code for attendance to any event he planned. Through a dress code the king would encourage nobles to buy their way into power. Other monarchs would require a single code for all events to make dressing appropriately accessible and inexpensive. (Barringer 21). But King Louis XIV decided the dress code would not only be difficult to follow but also costly. Different event would require different forms of a dress. This would help create a constant need for new clothing. King Louis XIV enforced a dress c­­ode that required expensive material, a lot of fabric and expensive skilled labor.

The Symbol of Power

Nobles would use their wealth to be seen as well dressed in the presence of the king. King Louis XIV dress codes were not only a temporary end to challenging of the king’s power by the nobles. But his dress codes were also the beginnings of the luxury we call haute couture. For King Louis XIV the quality of luxury is the exercise of his power to limit the access to wealth. Because if you are wearing your power you don’t have it. By alluring the nobles with clothes that symbolize power he kept them away from real power.

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