Seems the French have been influential in the fashion world for some time. Here in Shakespeare’s play Hamlet, written around 1601, Polonius, adviser to the king, is dispensing a little fatherly advice to his son Laertes, who is going back to France, where he had been doing something or other (apparently not studying; likely just learning the ways of the world) before come home to Denmark for a coronation party.
“Dress as well as you can afford to,” Polonius tells his boy, “but don’t overdo it, because people will judge your character by your clothes.” And then he says that if Laertes needs help deciding what to wear, he should “follow the French. They’re really good at this fashion stuff.” Or words to that effect.
[Wonky aside: I always thought Shakespeare said “Clothes make the man,” but as you can see, his words are a variation of that maxim—which has been around since Greek and Roman times.]
“Costly thy habit as thy purse can buy,
But not express’d in fancy; rich, not gaudy;
For the apparel oft proclaims the man,
And they in France of the best rank and station
Are of a most select and generous chief in that.”
—William Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act 1, Scene 3