Marie Antoinette & Haute Couture.
My love for 18th-century fashion started when I was a little girl who fell in love with a painting of Marie Antoinette in one of my mom’s books. I was mesmerised by the way the Dauphine of France looked; her pale skin, amazing hair and, of course, the dress, which could only be described as having escaped from a fairy tale. From that day on, I called Marie Antoinette the Queen of Haute Couture! She was the diamond of the first water.
Over the years my fascination with Marie Antoinette and 18th-century fashion has grown so much that my little private library is now overflowing with books on all things Versailles, its fashions and interiors.
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Books I highly recommend to anyone who loves learning about Marie Antoinette
Rose Bertin-the “Minister of Fashion”
Marie Antoinette & Haute Couture.
When it comes to 18th-century fashion, particularly haute couture and her fabulousness Marie Antoinette, the Queen not only of France but also of haute couture, there is one name which pops to mind almost immediately connected with both (all mentioned above), namely Rose Bertin, called by many the “Minister of Fashion”.
- Rose Bertin was a dressmaker and milliner to Queen Marie Antoinette.
- She was known for making very ostentatious gowns, which were not only colourful but also rich in decorations and made the ladies stand out and “impose with their presence.”
- Her creations became so popular all over Europe that they definitely helped with establishing France as the centre of fashion and couture.
Popular dress styles.
The most popular dress styles of that era were: the robe a la Francaise and the robe a l’Anglaise.
The Robe a la Francaise
- The first one consisted of back pleats hanging loosely from the neckline all the way to the floor and “a very fitted bodice held the front of the gown closely to the figure”. It was very common to have the skirt open in front to show decorative petticoats, which were worn underneath. Panniers varied in size and quite often prevented the person wearing them from sitting down.
- The sleeves were very tight, reached only the elbows and were decorated with ruffles and separate lace or fine linen under-ruffles.
The Robe a l’Anglaise.
- The robe a l’Anglaise, on the other hand, had a very fitted back and until the 1770s these dresses were cut in a style that was known under the name en Fourreau, which meant cutting the back of the bodice in one with the skirt. In the late eighteenth century, the bodices were cut separately from the skirt. A variation on the robe a l’Anglaise was the robe a la Polonaise which was a draped skirt worn over a petticoat.
Court Pomp and Royal Ceremony.
In 2009, Court Pomp and Royal Ceremony exhibition took place at Versailles. Sadly, for a reason that was Beyond My Control, I wasn’t able to attend that incredible showcase of the few surviving 18th-century gowns. Thankfully, due to the technology available in the twenty-first century, we are all able to at least enjoy the beautiful photographs taken during the event. One of the most spectacular dresses that I wish I’d seen in real life, rather than on the screen of my computer, is the wedding gown that was worn by princess Edwige Elisabeth Charlotte Holstein-Gottorp (1759-1818) of Sweden.
Another beautiful example of a court dress worn by Sophie Madeleine (1746-1813) for her coronation. It was made in Paris of silver cloth with a whalebone corset and lacing in the back. The skirt was nearly two meters in width!
Kirsten Dunst as Marie Antoinette.
This post would be incomplete if I had not mentioned the modern interpretation of Marie Antoinette and her couture gowns in the film “Marie Antoinette” starring Kirsten Dunst as the Queen of France. It’s beyond my control.
Hope you enjoyed my very light post about Marie Antoinette & Haute Couture. If you have any additional book recommendations, please share them in the comment!
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