Women's fashion trends have changed throughout history just as much as society's values have. The definition of shocking has changed just as frequently, and certain styles of clothing have gone out of style only to come back even stronger hundreds of years later.
These examples of historical women's clothing showed some serious skin, broke tradition, made women more comfortable, and turned the idea of what fashion could be on its head. For as long as humans have been wearing clothes as something more than just protection against the elements, women have used their clothes to express themselves and what they wanted, even if there were periods where covering up was the order of the day.
We might believe that we're the most sexually open generation, but these revealing clothes and styles from the past speak loudly as to the freedom women had in the past and the risks they took to break free from convention.
"Deshabille" Gowns Sound Innocent Enough, But Were Scandalous In The Right SituationPhoto: Gogmsite
Even if your outfit covered all of the right parts, there was still a chance that it could ruffle some feathers. Deshabille gowns were a great example from the 17th century - they were loose, open dresses with a belt, somewhat like a robe dress. They were brought into fashion by Madame de Montespan, the official mistress of Louis XIV, who used their flowing style to cover her pregnancies. There was also the fact that they were extremely easy to take off for easy... access. Since they were usually only wore by pregnant women, a young unmarried girl wearing one would cause some scandalous speculation.
It Was Perfectly Normal To Expose Your BreastsPhoto: Peter Lely / Wikipedia
At different times in history the concept of "free the nipple" wasn't something anyone had to worry about; in fact, it was sometimes encouraged. During the English Restoration, the court of Charles II wanted to rebel against the suppression of the Puritans and the Commonwealth under Cromwell. With that in mind, clothing became as scandalous as possible, and that included bodices that, though tightened with a corset, were designed so that a breast might pop out at any given moment. Famed court painter Peter Lely regularly portrayed his subjects with their breasts partially - if not completely - exposed.
Marie Antoinette Pushed The Boundaries By Having Her Portrait Done In A Light, Airy Dress
Although it caused a huge scandal when Marie Antoinette wore hers in a portrait, the gaulle was actually a popular garment worn by French and English women alike. The dress is made up of layers of thin muslin, which are draped loosely around the body and held together with a sash as a belt. It's a light and flowing outfit that was perfect for meandering around the countryside; sadly, when Marie Antoinette wore it it caused a public outcry because hers looked like undergarments and certainly not befitting a queen. There was also consternation among the French as the muslin was produced in England, and it was seen as unpatriotic to wear garments produced in another country.
French Women In The 1800s Essentially Ran Around In Their Undergarments
The First French Empire lasted from 1804 until 1815, and was a time when women enjoyed a fair bit of freedom with their clothing. Although some men were critical of the style, women wore dresses that were rather sheer and transparent. They were also cut to be fairly revealing, and were worn without corsets. It was definitely a more liberating and comfortable way to dress, but sadly it was short-lived.