Marie Antoinette & Haute Couture

Dominique de Merteuil By Dominique de Merteuil4 min read

Last updated on December 26th, 2023 at 08:06 pm

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.

Marie Antoinette fashion

Marie Antoinette by Elisabeth Vigee Le Brun in a dress by Rose Bertin.

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.


I was born in the wrong century and every time the opportunity presents itself for me to wear a beautiful film/theatre wig representing my favourite period of time, I never refuse.

What better place to wear such a wig than in Paris or Versailles?

The picture of me taken by Gregory Michael King was to advertise the BBC show “How To Be 18th Century.”

Dominique de Merteuil 18th century

Recently, my dream came through and I was able to study an 18th-century dress up close! The pictures were taken in the Textile Archive of the National Museum in Warsaw.

18th century dress
Vintage fashion blogger, Dominique de Merteuil in vintage heaven.

DISCLOSURE: As of 2019, I’m part of an affiliate program, and I get a small commission for purchases made through Shop This Post links below this post. That’s how I keep my website alive, for which I’m very grateful to you. All opinions expressed here are mine! 


 

The Best Books About Marie Antoinette

FREE BOOK!

DangerousLiaisons fashion
Dangerous Liaisons: Fashion and Furniture in the Eighteenth Century by Harold Koda. You can read and download this book for free thanks to The MET Museum!

Rose Bertin-the “Minister of Fashion”

Marie Antoinette & Haute Couture.

18th century fashion

Portrait of Rose Bertin. 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 helped establish France as the centre of fashion and couture.
Rose Bertin

Marie Antoinette by Elisabeth Vigee Le Brun in a dress designed by Rose Bertin. (1787)

Marie Antoinette by Jean-Baptiste Gautier Dagoty. (1775) Marie Antoinette & Haute Couture.

Marie Antoinette
Marie-Antoinette Couture dress

Marie Antoinette By Elisabeth Vigee Le Brun. (1783)

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.
18th-century fashion

1778 fashion plate of French court dress with wide panniers.

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.
18th Century Fashion Plate 50

18th century fashion

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.

Marie Antoinette:

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!

Marie Antoinette fashion

If Your Budget Permits, Treat Yourself to a Fabulous 18th-Century Inspired Couture Gown


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.

Marie Antoinette:
Marie Antoinette:

Kirsten Dunst as Marie Antoinette.

Marie Antoinette fashion
Photo Credit: Leigh Johnson
The Marie Antoinette Cardigan Wheels & Dollbaby

Marie Antoinette cardigan by Wheels & Dollbaby.

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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2 Comments
  • Jeannette Lyon
    October 27, 2018

    Wonderful article and blog! I am very pleased.

    Votre sincerement, Jeannette!