|Marie Antoinette at 13 in a portrait by Martin van Meytens, 1767.|
I’m a third into Queen of Fashion: What Marie Antoinette Wore to the Revolution by Caroline Weber and I have to say it’s a fascinating book, scholarly, but well-written and so very enjoyable. Here are some of the things I’ve learned so far about the last Queen of France that I didn’t already know:
1. Marie Antoinette had her teeth straightened before she was sent to France to marry Louis Auguste, the heir to the French throne, and become Dauphine. It was part of the general makeover she received in her native Austria to ensure she would look like what was expected of a French princess at court. 18th-century braces? Sounds painful!
|A portrait of Louis Auguste, the future Louis XVI, by Louis-Michel van Loo, 1769.|
2. On Marie Antoinette’s wedding day, May 16, 1770, Louis XV, the grandfather of Marie Antoinette’s new husband, presented her with the jewels that traditionally went to the Dauphine of France:
“Covered in richly embroidered crimson velvet, the coffer was nearly as tall and three times as wide as its new owner, whose hands shook with excitement as she unlocked it with a tiny golden key. Inside, glittering on the robin’s-egg-blue silk lining, she found a magnificent array of necklaces and earrings, fans and snuffboxes, bracelets and buttons—all glittering with diamonds and other precious gemstones, and valued collectively at almost 2 million livres.”
Wow! Can you imagine? I think this should have been a scene in Sofia Coppola’s film Marie Antoinette. Or was it and I’ve just forgotten?
|A corset by Jean Paul Gaultier. I think Marie Antoinette would’ve preferred this over the grand corps!|
3. Marie Antoinette rejected the corset she was expected to wear daily, the grand corps, within months of her arrival in France, finding it too severe and restrictive. This was cause for scandal at court, since the grand corps was a mark of distinction reserved for only the most important princesses in France. However, read this description by the Marquise de La Tour du Pin who was a dame du palais once Marie Antoinette was made queen:
“It was a specially made corset, without shoulder straps, laced up the back, but tight enough so that the lacings, four fingers wide on the bottom, allowed for a glimpse of a chemise of such fine batiste that it would be readily apparent to everyone if one’s skin underneath was not sufficiently white…The front of the corset was laced, as it were, with rows of diamonds.”
I know Jean Paul Gaultier would probably love the grand corps, but I can understand why Marie Antoinette did not! Only strongly-worded letters from her mother, Austrian Empress Maria Theresa, finally got her back into the despised garment, and then, only for a time, before her own leanings towards simplicity took over (to disastrous results).
The further I delve into this book the more I am convinced that if you want to know about the history of the world, you should learn about the history of fashion. Social mores and values and political leanings and associations are all right there, contained in something as seemingly trivial as the length of a hem, the colors of a cockade, or even the material used in a dress or waistcoat. The history of fashion is also the history of the world!
If you are reading Queen of Fashion, or have read it, let me know what you think of it.
As for French Friday, a series my friend Heather over at Vintage French Chic inherited from the lovely Rebekah of Cupcake Caramel, who decided to end her blog this week, do think about joining Heather in a weekly link-up about all things French.You can contact her at frenchchicvivant(at)aol(dot)com. As Heather says, the more, the Frenchier!
Do stop by Vintage French Chic to read what Heather is musing about this week for French Friday!