absurd adj.
If something or someone is absurd, they are ridiculous.
→That group of people making animal noises sounds completely absurd.

anemia n.
Anemia is a blood condition that causes a person to be pale and tired.
→When she first developed anemia, she became tired often.

aristocracy n.
The aristocracy is the highest class of people in certain societies.
→Most members of the aristocracy were very well-fed.

aristocrat n.
An aristocrat is a person who is of the highest class in certain societies.
→The aristocrat did not need a job because his family was wealthy.

attire n.
Attire is nice or special clothing.
→Everyone wore their best attire to the president’s daughter’s wedding.

craze n.
A craze is a brief and popular activity or object.
→Wearing bright red socks was a craze when I was in high school.

enlarge  v.
To enlarge something means to make it bigger.
→The classrooms were enlarged over the summer to make room for more students.

excess n.
An excess is an amount of something that is more than needed or wanted.
→Because it never got cold that winter, many stores had an excess of coats.

feminine adj.
If something is feminine, then it has qualities that are commonly related to women.
→Many of the older people thought his long hair made him look too feminine.

hallmark n.
A hallmark is a unique characteristic of something.
→Different types o f pasta and tomato sauces are hallmarks of Italian food.

pad n.
A pad is a thick piece of soft material used to protect or clean things.
→Football players wear shoulder pads to keep them safe.

predominant adj.
If something is predominant, then it is the most important, common or strongest.
→Before cars were invented, horses were the predominant method of travel.

reputable adj.
If someone or something is reputable, then they have a good reputation.
→ The service from the less than reputable company made her angry.

Rouge n.
Rouge is a red powder or cream used as makeup on the cheeks or lips.
→Even when she didn’t wear rouge, her cheeks appeared red.

signify v.
To signify means to be a symbol of something.
→A red octagon is used to signify to stop.

strap n.
A strap is a thin long piece of fabric used to fasten, carry, or hold something.
→She put the strap of her purse over her shoulder and walked out of the door.

tangle n.
A tangle is something or many things twisted together.
→The laces of his shoes were in such a tangle that he could not untie them.

vanity  n.
Vanity is excessive pride or love of one’s own appearance or things one has done.
→ Her vanity won’t allow her to pass a mirror without looking at herself.

vie v.
To vie for something means to compete against others for it.
→The three boys vied for the prize in the chemistry contest.

vulgar  adj.
If something or someone is vulgar, then they are rude or lacking in style.
→Her vulgar behavior got her into trouble with her parents.


 

Dressed to Excess

If you traveled back in time to the 1700s in Europe, you would laugh when you saw how the aristocracy dressed. Soon you’d realize, though, that the aristocrats of Europe were very serious about their appearance.

The predominant style in women’s attire was enormous dresses. They were often three times larger than the wearer. Ladies even used pads to enlarge the appearance of their hips and shoulders. On the other extreme, the aristocratic women made their waists appear extremely thin. It took several maids stretching fabric and pulling straps in order to get a lady’s waist to the proper thinness. These ladies could barely breathe and often fainted.

Pale skin was also a craze, yet this too was done in excess. One could not simply be pale. Instead, she needed to look as if she had anemia. In order to look paler, ladies actually cut themselves daily, so they would bleed.

The hairstyles, however, were the hallmark of women’s fashion. These stood a meter high on the ladies’ heads. The columns of hair were a ridiculous tangle of wigs, jewels, flowers, and even stuffed birds.

Men’s fashion was similarly absurd. Today it would probably seem very feminine. Reputable men wore wigs of long curly hair. Their shoes had large soles or high heels so that they could walk high above the filth on the streets. Furthermore, just like the ladies, the men wore lipstick and put rouge on their cheeks.

Their clothes were brightly colored, often purple and pink. They were made from the finest of fabrics and decorated with jewels and lace. The men vied with one another to see who wore the more expensive clothes, for the clothing signified his wealth and status.

Both men and women spent huge amounts of money and time on how they looked. Though such vanity would seem vulgar today, three hundred years from now, the fashions of our time might also seem completely ridiculous.