So the Royal Wedding is happening today. We all need a fairytale every now and then! Yes the dresses are beautiful and they are both by McQueen just as I hoped for. It will be fun to watch what this will do for the already famous and successful fashion house. Interest in brands like Issa and Reiss has been raised simply because Kate likes to wear them and I am curious whether she really will keep shopping on the high street as it is being predicted.
The obsession with Catherine will now really be going strong and the magazines will be full of photos following what she is wearing.
Meanwhile I was thinking of another female royalty who ruled the fashion world back in the day – Marie Antoinette.
Marie Antoinette was an Archduchess of Austria and the Queen of France and of Navarre. She was the fifteenth and penultimate child of Empress Maria Theresa of Austria and Emperor Francis I.
In April of 1770, on the day of her marriage to Louis-Auguste, Dauphin of France, she subsequently became Dauphine of France. Initially charmed by her personality and beauty, the French people generally came to dislike her, accusing “the Austrian” of being profligate and promiscuous, and of harbouring sympathies for France’s enemies, particularly Austria, since Marie Antoinette was, after all, Austrian.
At the height of the French Revolution, Louis XVI was deposed and the monarchy abolished on August 10, 1792; the royal family was subsequently imprisoned at the Temple Prison. Nine months after her husband’s execution, Marie Antoinette was herself tried, convicted of treason, and executed by guillotine on 16 October 1793.
One of the most interesting aspects of Marie Antoinette’s life can undoubtedly be her influence on fashion.
“From the moment the Fourteen-year-old Austrian-born Archduchess Maria Antonia arrived in France to marry the heir to the Bourbon throne, matters of clothing and appearance proved central to her existence. For the future and, later, reigning queen, a rigid protocol governed much of what she wore, how she wore it, when she wore it, and even who put it on her person…”
From the start, Marie Antoinette had an extensive wardrobe. Before her arrival in France, numerous poupée de mode were shown to the Princess. These little dolls were sumptuously dressed to show the little Archduchess what the finished garment would look like. She could then choose the ones she liked and they would be made life size for her. These stunning creations consisted of “ball gowns, afternoon dresses, robes and petticoats in a score of delicate shades, the silks embroidered with floral designs or silk ribbon appliqués, the borders trimmed with serpentine garlands of silver and gold lace…fields of artificial flowers, feathers, tassels and silk ribbon bows, rosettes and ruffles…”
Once there, Antoinette quickly learned that the dressing of her person was on of the most important rituals at Versailles. This ritual was known as la toilette. Here, Marie Antoinette was awaken in the morning, surrounded by the women of the court. She was stripped down and on went her chemise, corset, and panniers. Marie Antoinette originally caused quite a stir at Versailles by refusing to wear the restrictive whale bone corset. It took considerable pressure from her mother to convince the young girl to wear it.
1774 was marked by a grand gift from Louis XVI to his young Queen: Le Petit Trianon. Marie Antoinette now had a new stage to perform on, out of sight of the rigorous etiquette of court life at Versailles. Here, she took Rousseau’s advice to “cast off the shackles of conventional luxury” to heart and created a pastoral escape where she was free to do as she liked. Her clothing quickly began to reflect this. She lost the heavily embroidered brocade dresses and tall, powdered hair for simple cotton and muslin dresses accented with colourful sashes. Despite the fact that the cotton or muslin garments cost considerably less than silk ones, the people ofFrancewere angry at the Queen’s choices of fabric. Not only was it unthinkable for a Queen to dress like a peasant, but the materials for her new dresses were being imported. The people complained that the Queen was dealing a harsh blow to the French silk makers, and thus hurting the people of France.
Antoinette also took fashion ideas from men, as well as influenced their dress. For example, the popularity of the “redingotes”-style gown grew immensely during this time period. It reflected a man’s riding coat, with tight, long sleeves, a close fitting bodice adorned with large buttons, and a simple skirt, open to reveal another simple (usually white) skit beneath. Men, who already wore similar garments, were inspired by the Queen’s new, relaxed look.
Little is left today of the powerful weapon of dress Marie Antoinette yielded. This is largely in part to the Revolution. During the storming of Versailles, the Queen’s rooms were sacked and its contents plundered. Likewise, when the Tuilleries was stormed, the women of Paris plundered through Marie Antoinette’s numerous gowns and accessories, taken what they wanted. What was left was later sold in auction.
Today, only a few known items remain. Several books containing samples of materials Marie Antoinette would have used to decide what to wear each day remain, as well as a corset left behind at Versailles and a chemise worn by Marie Antoinette while in prison.
And if you have not seen the film by Sophia Coppola you are in for a treat! SO-MUCH-FUN!