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Rococo Revisited

Spring is in the air, and as the bloom and bustle of reemergent life inspires grand gestures and fanciful displays, it seems appropriate to expand on the Rococo style of design, a style rooted in light elements and superfluous details. And, at a time during which we are unable to visit beautiful sites like Versailles, Rococo lets us dream of such experiences and inspires us to create spaces that will spark the same joy.



We explored current Rococo fashion and design in the Form Follows Fashion article for Winter 2021, discovering the ways in which the modern fashion trends lend themselves to the flamboyance of Rococo interiors. But before 2021, this form-follows-fashion concept created the height of French flamboyance that we call Rococo.



Louis XIV is often cited and considered to be the beginning of the baroque transition into Rococo; however, like many others, this epoch of style is more accurately the history of women. Marie Antoinette specialized in ensuring her clothing, her parties, her palace were all as big and as bold as possible, while Madame de Pompadour influenced French fashion that was feminine, playful, and light. Icons such as these changed the fashion of an entire continent using the robe volante, or the “flying dress”, and the robe à la Française, dresses that billowed with expensive silks and fabrics over hoops or paniers for support. These dresses took up space and attracted attention, emphasizing the status of the women.



This fashion easily translated into the design and architecture of the time, demonstrating the power and wealth of the king of France. Naturally, this provoked the rest of the world to display their own success, but even all of Europe was no match for the Ottoman Empire. The Dolmabahçe Palace in Istanbul took what the French had done a century earlier and did more. Blending Rococo with traditional Ottoman architecture, this is arguably the ultimate Rococo monument with the world’s largest bohemian crystal chandelier and a staircase with crystal banisters.



Beyond celebrating wealth, Rococo traditionally transformed the style of the time with a subconscious desire to escape. Lighter elements of architecture and design, such as curves, natural patterns, and asymmetric compositions, were accompanied by Oriental designs with which the world had become fascinated, escapism at the root. Whether from light bouncing off ornate chandeliers or from the enveloping brightness of embellished draperies, an excess of color and detail created an other-worldly experience that seemed to transcend the everyday.



Just as with the design synthesis of the Dolmabahçe Palace, hundreds of years later we continue to personalize the Rococo flamboyance, modernizing with technology, simplifying or further complicating. 



Each personalization is an embodiment of the escapism Rococo offers—something we may need now more than ever, when our world is infused with fear and isolation.



In fact, one may argue that all design is escapism, and in all escapism is design. In designing interiors, fashion, art, we create what we want, what we don’t have. The beauty of human nature is this desire to escape, to possess something we do not currently possess, resulting in creativity that has carried generations through centuries. Which is why, in the midst of a global, year-long pandemic, we will not only survive, but we will thrive, improving the human experience despite restrictions and creating beauty where we find none.



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