FashionMuse: f – furbelow

What a furbelow lacks in fur it makes up for in flounce; defined as

  1. a pleated or gathered piece of material, a trimming or adornment; especially  :  a frill on women’s clothing
  2. something that suggests is showy or superfluous

From that catwalk to the high street; there’s frills for all;  dresses, shirts, shoes jumpers and silk pants;

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What’s to furbelow?:

Frills have adorned our clothes for centuries.  From great, big and blousey to delicate and darling; it’s the ease with which frills can be adapted in size and simplicity that have given them such enduring appeal;

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Elizabeth I 1590

Farthingales  – the framework of hoops, whalebone and cane that shaped the underskirt for Elizabethan dresses. These may have waxed and waned in size according to fashion but in Royal Court terms they were a necessary political statement.  They communicated imperial authority and superiority.  Practicality had absolutely nothing to do with it; as the women’s dress shapes got larger, so they became more highly adorned and decorated with frills and furbelows.  All, of course, fit for a Queen.

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Marie Antoinette 1780

Falbala – the French word meaning a flounce, decoration or trimming on a woman’s petticoat or dress. It came into English use as furbelow, in the early eighteenth century, probably influenced by the fashion trends from the Court of Louis XIV.  And then, of course, epitomized by flounce lover Marie Antoinette.

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Mrs A Taft with Maria Herron and Fanny Taft            Source Library of Congress

Frivolous: We like to think of The Victorians as dour and sensible but frilliness most certainly defined the dress of the 19th century.  From undergarments to shawls every garment was decorative or adorned. Highly-social and socially-defined, the women knew their clothing told the world everything about their standing and status. Perhaps nowhere more on display than at the Victorian ball.

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Flappers: Women may have broken free of crinolines and bustles by the early 20th century but they still wanted frills and flounces.  The Flapper dress was slim and unconstructed, usually knee-length dress, with a low waist. To distinguish them a range of embellishments were added; tiered bottoms, beads, feathers and, of course, frills.

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Paca Pena with dancer

Flamenco: The traditional flamenco dress was worn by Spanish gypsies (Romani) in the 19th and 20th centuries. The distinctive dress, now integral to Spanish cultural heritage, was designed to enhance the woman’s figure and highlight the hip movement. Cinched tight around the waist, the frills added balance and movement and flirtation.

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The Ladies of Avonlea, Anne of Green Gable

Fiction:  In the 1908 novel “Anne of Green Gables” by L.M. Montgomery wrote of “…sensible, serviceable dresses, without any frills or furbelows about them, and they’re all you’ll get this summer”. Heralding, perhaps, a toning down of dress (and extravagance) in favour of practicality and versatility and subtlety – the style we mostly prefer today.

Fairytale Princesses:

But this hasn’t stopped some modern girls enjoying a really frilly moment.

From Lady Diana Spencer in 1981

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to Lily Rose Depp in 2017

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And Simone Rocha S/S 2017


Don’t be afraid, find your furbelow, and be frilly fabulous…


Featured image: Comme des Garçons, Rei Kawakubo 2016-2017 Fall Autumn Winter

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