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Marie-Antoinette Queen of fashion.

Marie-Antoinette by Vigier-Lebrun

Marie-Antoinette is the most controversial woman in French history. She had a complex personality. She was a multi-faceted woman; frivolous, a big spender and sentimental, but also a modern woman who wanted to preserve her intimacy and herfreedom.Marie-Antoinette is only thirteen years old when she arrives from Vienna to Versailles to marry Louis, who would be the future Louis XVI.

Three thousand courtesans were living in the Castle of Versailles, the most rigid and cruel court of EuropeMarie-Antoinette is twenty years old when she becomes Queen of France.She’s is quickly disappointed by a boring husband whose only passion is collecting locks. Louis XVI is  shy and clumsy. It takes him seven years to make children with Marie-Antoinette.Marie-Antoinette was a rebel from the start. When she first arrived at the court she refused to wear the corset, a torture instrument to cinch the waist thinner and make the breasts bigger.

 

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She rebelled against the strict rules of Versailles. She was not allowed to get dressed by herself.After waking the queen was dressed in front of the most important ladies of the court. She had to wait, naked and shivering, while the fifteen countesses who awaited her decide who will have the privilege to give the shirt to the queen. Marie-Antoinette suppressed this humiliating ritual which resulted in angry aristocrats.Since she wasn’t allowed to voice political opinions, she took refuge in the private sphere and decided to be the fashion’s icon of the court. Each morning she sees her dressmaker, Rose Bertin, to choose what she will wear to become the prettiest woman of France.

 

Rose Bertin

Rose Bertin

Before Chanel and Dior, there was Rose Bertin, a commoner and humble dressmaker. They choose lightweight silkons, brocade, satins, feathers, ribbons, gauze and pearls to create the most sumptuous dresses. Rose Bertin was called the “Fashion Minister” by the Queen. Together they invent Haute Couture. Marie-Antoinette reigned when it came to fashion at court. She made a huge sensation each time she appeared.

 

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To complete the magnificent dresses of the Queen, her hair dresser Leonard, creates her hair scaffold. Marie-Antoinette wears hairstyles one meter tall, made by a “pouf” (a cushion inflated with horse hair) tucked inside. Often there was a boat or an English garden fashioned on top of her head. All the fashion victims of Versailles wanted to look like her and sometimes lost everything to copy her style.Like the Queen, the aristocrats couldn’t pass through the doors because their dresses were too voluminous. And when they travelled their hairstyles were so big they had to pass their head through the window of their horse coaches.

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Marie-Antoinette is criticized for her expensive and extravagant taste and for  owning too many outfits. She does not mind her critics and shops in a compulsory way for herluxurious dresses, cost prohibitive jewels and shoes inlaid with precious stones.In 1780 many people died of starvation while Marie-Antoinette bought 170 dresses in one year. In 1783 there are 500,000 indigents in Paris, and in the same year Marie-Antoinette buys 200 pairs of shoes. The French hate her more and more calling her “Madame Déficit ».

 

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.The Enlightment’s philosophers from the 18th century did celebrate simplicity with the new fashion motto being “let’s go back to nature!”With her first child, Marie-Antoinette also grew more mature. She gave up dresses with big baskets for English rural dresses which were simpler and more comfortableShe’s walking in her rose garden with a simple light, white dress made of muslin, and a straw hat on her head. This style of dress becomes so popular that it will be called “the Queen’s Shirt”

Marie-Antoinette en robe de Gaulle ( Elisabteh VIgier-Lebrun)

Marie-Antoinette en robe de Gaulle ( Elisabeth Vigier-Lebrun)

We can see this dress in the famous painting made by Elisabeth Vigier-Lebrun in 1783, but this painting made a big scandal because it was indecent for a Queen to wear a maid’s dress. So in an urgent response, this painting is replaced by The Portrait at the Rose which depicts the queen wearing a more elaborate outfit “made in France”.

 

Marie-Antoinette by Vigier-Lebrun

Marie-Antoinette ,portrait à la rose, by  Elisabeth Vigier-Lebrun

During the revolutionary storm, even her enemies were forced to admit that Marie-Antoinette was extremely dignified, defending with courage her children and her husband. The 16th of October 1793 will be the last day of her life. She was 37 years old when she was guillotined.

She was the last queen of France.Marie-Antoinette had a huge influence on fashion all over Europe in the XVIII century.

Photo by Karl Lagerfeld

Photo by Karl Lagerfeld

Even  now, the most famous couturiers.John Galliano and Karl Lagerfeld, take inspiration from her baroque style. This fascinnating woman is still in our mind thanks to her unique allure.

John Galliano

John Galliano

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