10. King Louis XIV was such a fashionista that he lay the foundations for France’s world-famous haute couture industry
Some rulers had wealth but lacked style. Not so Louis XIV of France. The Sun King was fabulously rich and spent huge sums of money transforming his Palace of Versailles into the style capital of the world. He also made himself something of a style icon. In fact, some fashion historians believe it was Louis who kick-started France’s famous fashion industry, with his influence still felt to this day.
Louis XIV ruled for an incredible 72 years. During his time on the throne, he worked tirelessly to make his country the most influential on earth. That didn’t just mean in high culture such as art and literature. He also appreciated the power of style. In 1675, he created the Parisian Seamstresses’ Guild. This effectively gave high-end tailors and designers royal approval, laying the foundations for the haute couture of the 19th century.
As for himself, Louis had a collection of wigs, and in fact is credited with making them popular. He also had a huge collection of ornate overcoats, with a team of courtiers required to get him dressed and undressed every day. He also took pride in his footwear and designed red-soled shoes, to be worn only by nobles – quite literally, these were not just fashion symbols but social symbols too, created centuries before the designer stilettos of today.
Interestingly, some historians also believe that the Sun King’s passion for fashion was not just a matter of vanity and decadence. It might also have been a cunning political tool. Royal courtiers were always eager to gain favor with their king. They would spend huge sums of money, as well as large amounts of time and effort, trying to copy his dress, complete with the latest wigs and red-soled shoes. Since they were concentrating so much on looking good, they hardly had time to challenge the power on the throne, allowing Louis to sit pretty on the throne for more than seven decades – and so avoid the grisly fate that befell his descendants.