Excerpt taken from Queen of Fashion: What Marie Antoinette Wore to the Revolution by Caroline Weber
“ Designed for his 2000 Christian Dior “Masquerade and Bondage” collection, John Galliano’s “Marie Antoinette” dress tells an unexpected story. True to the architecture of eighteenth-century court costume, the gown features tantalizing décolletage, a rigidly corseted waist, a ladder or échelle of flirty bows on the bodice, and a froth of flounced skirts inflated by petticoats and hoops. Its splendid excess evokes France’s most colorful queen … even before one notices the embroidered portraits of the lady herself that adorn each of its hoop-skirted hip panels. (Plate 1.)
But the two portraits deserve a closer look, for it is they that tell the story. On the gown’s left hip panel the designer has placed an image of Marie Antoinette in her notorious faux shepherdess’s garb—a frilly little apron tied over a pastel frock, a decorative staff wound with streaming pink ribbons, and a mile-high hairdo obviously ill suited to the tending of livestock. In keeping with the Queen’s frivolous reputation, the embroidered ensemble is more suggestive of Little Bo Peep than of lofty monarchical grandeur. On the right hip panel, Galliano offers a depiction of the same woman, also devoid of royal attributes, but this time in a mode more gruesome than whimsical. Here, she wears a markedly plain, utilitarian dress, with a simple white kerchief knotted around her throat and a drooping red “liberty bonnet”—the emblem of her revolutionary persecutors—clamped onto her brutally shorn head. This image portrays the consort trudging toward the guillotine, to lay her neck beneath its waiting blade.”
(Does anyone know who the first picture belongs too? I pulled it off of Pinterest last week and the only link back was google images).
I think the next set of objects are the most interesting things I’ve posted since Napoleon’s bees which I encourage you to view: Click Here
Carved by Napoleonic prisoners of war, unknown origins: “An extension to this tradition was the production of ships models by captured French sailors of the Napoleonic wars. The prisoners, many kept on aging hulks moored in harbours such as Portsmouth, would use pieces of bone and horn from the meat supplied to the galleys to produce finely detailed ships models using their knowledge of the designs and rigs of fighting ships of the period. With the open assistance of the guards and their officers, the models were then traded, with the prisoner receiving a small amount with which he could purchase additional materials, food and tobacco. At the end of the Napoleonic War many of the French sailors entered the well-established trade producing bone and ivory souvenirs centred in French ports such as Dieppe.”
Almost three years ago I went to Paris on a pilgrimage to visit Marie Antoinette. We didn’t have internet access so I pulled out the phone book and sat there calling people trying to figure out how to get to Saint Denis. To my utter disgust upon calling the library at the Louvre an arrogant voice finally answered “Oh, you mean the Austrian, oui?” I must have sat there for a seconds because her voice came out again telling me “I do not know. Why do you call me asking these questions?” My last act of desperation was to call a local Catholic church where a lady kindly explained how to reach my destination.
I woke up that morning in a quiet mood. I sat at the vanity staring at my fingers and I remember curiously rubbing at a small stain that had appeared on my hand. Looking into the mirror I noticed that I was crying. How odd it was to not even be aware that I was crying? I had promised myself not to cry and yet my body sat here betraying me.
My pilgrimage to Saint-Denis was a long journey to an archaic church where the Kings and Queens of the past were laid to rest and seemingly forgotten. By the time we reached the crypt tears were angrily trailing down my cheeks. I was angered that this woman that I loved so much would have been abandoned in this cold and dark place. I kept saying “This isn’t right, this isn’t fair!”
My mom really is one of the wisest people I know. She took my hand and said “Lyze, this is the greatest honor a Queen could ever receive, to be buried in this church with those that came before her. This is the final resting place of the Kings and Queen of France, they are all here. Why should she not be? This way she is included in the history of this country forever.” I can’t imagine now that she wouldn’t be here.
It seems silly looking back but I fretted over what to give her. After all what can you offer a queen that she does not already have? In the end I left her my love, my tears, and roses.
White is the colour of her innocence and purity. In order to leave my roses with Marie I had to climb over a wall. When I went back over there was a lady from the church waiting for me. She asked if I was the ghost leaving roses on the Dauphines grave. I was a child then, my only thought was that she would scold me and I defended myself.
I can remember this conversation as if it had just taken place ” I came all the way from Singapore to find Marie and when I got here no one knows who she is and I love her so much. How could you forget her? No one even cares about her anymore but I do and I am paying my respects to her in the only way I know how and I am not sorry for honoring her.” It was if all my anger had bled out and I felt drained.
Bless that woman because she told me “I know. I think she will like them” and it was like finally someone other than my Mom understood what I was doing and I just remember crying.
I realized then that this place was not cold and gloomy. It was quiet and peaceful. She lays in state next to her husband and near her son. She was murdered by people who hated everything she stood for. They were cruel to her and caused such unbearable pain and they foolishly believed that her death would erase her name.
But here she lies, forever Queen of France and even in death you cannot take that from her.
To kick off tomorrow post we’ll start with something a little earlier than what I had planned.
If you went to LACMA’s Fashion Fashion exhibition (which if that is the case don’t tell me because I will cry) or you have
the bible LACMA’s Fashioning Fashion sitting in front of you (which I do) turn to page 154 (that is not a request!) and devour the text.
If you don’t have the book no worries because I’m going to share what is on that page with you anyway!
The Revolutionary Vest dates from 1789-94 but the experts think it might be a tad older because under the current top layer (which is needlepoint stitch on canvas) is “luxurious striped green silk”. But it’s the symbolism of the vest that makes this such an important item.
I’m not going to type everything the book says because that would take forever but I am going to put up pieces from John Galliano’s preface where he spoke about this waistcoat: I was particularly taken with a gentleman’s vest; it is simply charmant (charming), to quote the coquettish collar… It gives many clues about the turbulent time, weaving style with politics, rebellion, and the tricolore. Here fashion speaks its owner’s mind through intricate needlework and beauty rather than through the violence of the day. As well as the collar, other clues can be found on the pockets.
One is the phrase. “L’HABIT NE FAIT PAS LE MOINE” (“The habit does not make the monk”), a caution to never judge a book by its cover or, indeed, take things, such as fashion, and its wearer, on face value alone.
The other pocket reads, ‘HONI SOIT QUI MAL Y PENSE,” a motto I recognized from the English Order of the Garter, which originally comes from the Old French saying, “Shame upon him who thinks evil of it.” Powerful messages to carry on your person! It is genius. I love the hidden messages and use of heroic symbolism and dandy analogy to, quite literally, wear your loyalties on your chest…
So, why don’t you look even closer at the vest? There are still many clues to unravel. Through its design and embroidery it tells how the wealthy once dressed like caterpillars by day, ostentatious butterflies by night, but then had to remember their loyalty to the state, to the blue, white, and red. This wearer is, as the collar hints, a bit of a charmer and seems to play it safe and profess both loyalties.
Take the tiny lapels: they are embroidered, one with a shorn caterpillar, the other with a butterfly with its wings cut. Does this mean the wearer’s wings have been cut? Ort is he glad that the rich, with their decadent ways, have been stopped? Well, this he can debate whichever way the company prefers…
… The vest is both a political and a fashion statement that captures the mood at the beginning of a new era. It also shows how style reacted, like a fickle mirror, and instantly rejected the gaudy finery so beloved before…
Sit back, relax and prepare yourself for the Regency.
Some of my posts today will have a bit of long text but it’s well worth the read and besides when have I ever lead you astray with long text?
Les Incroyables: Precious object with four small telescopes pendant, mounted on a brass chatelaine, of various shapes and an eyeglass case with mother of pearl shell.This type of pendant Lunettes Breloques was in vogue in the early nineteenth century and was brought to the vest with some fassamani: it was the prevailing fashion for Incroyables (fops and dandies) who wanted to get noticed on the streets of Paris.
“Set of 5 small telescopes mounted on a pendant brass chatelaine. The pendants are of different shape. This type of telescope pendant Lunettes Breloques was in vogue in the early nineteenth century, was brought to the vest along with a few pairs of glasses (fassamani). It was the prevailing fashion for les incroyables that roamed the streets of Paris with a single purpose: to get noticed.”
Early 18th century:Telescope spiral told skeleton, silver gilt, engraved on the eyepiece and the objective. The body is composed of ten rings hinged together, allowing the lengthening and shortening of the telescope and hence the focus.
One of my favorites: Telescope with tie belt with gold and pearl. The objective and eyepiece are made by a crown of pearls, but the rod is mother of pearl and gold flows into a body, pierced with carry-pearl.
So sneaky! The telescope is inserted into a rock crystal bottle shaped like a snail. The telescope has two stretch and is manufactured in brass. Although this pendant is part of the concealment of objects in the scopes of use that occurred at the beginning of the nineteenth century in France. This type of object encountered a lot of luck, as it was customary to bring the fragrance into the pockets that were used routinely. (Until the late nineteenth century were employees of ammonium salts to revive the unconscious and this kind of bottle, in some cases, was also used to contain these salts.) On the outer surface of the bottle, there are diamond-shaped three-dimensional work.)
Marie-Antoinette’s appartment in the castle of Fontainebleau.
Be still my heart.
“The bed was ordered by and designed for the Queen, but delivered after the French Revolution, and used at first by Empress Josephine.”
“The Queen’s Gambling room, part of her state rooms, furnished as it was in 1788 .”
“Some details of one of the chest of drawers, by Benneman”
“The Queen’s Gaming room was also used as an Audience room for Empress Marie-Louise.”
“The Queen’s Boudoir, part of her private rooms ; please note how right the color and design of the furnitures match the ones of the panelling”
“Fontainebleau was a favorite retreat for Napoleon. The furniture had been either destroyed or sold during the Revolution. Napoleon had the palace restored and refurbished. The furniture for the 600 rooms was either taken out of storage or ordered from cabinet-makers such as Jacob-Desmalter. In 1808, the king’s bedroom was altered into the throne room designed by Percier and Fontaine. The “Grand salon” and the Empress’s bedroom were also decorated in the Empire style. Napoleon’s suite was entirely remodelled and is the most spectacular Empire room. Pope Pius VII was held prisoner at Fontainebleau between 1812 and 1814. Napoleon spent his last days in the château before abdicating on April 6, 1814. Granted sovereignty over the island of Elba and a pension from the French government, Napoleon Bonaparte left Fontainebleau after his famous farewell speach on April 20th, 1814.”
Chambre de Napoleon, Palais de Fontainebleau
” … and even her white satin slippers had a golden bee embroidered on each toe, surmounted by a cluster of gilt bobbin lace.”“