History : Sep-Oct 2016
10 SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2016 DAILY LIFE The ritual signified her transformation from Austrian to French. After becoming queen in 1774, Marie- Antoinette embraced her new nation’s passion for fashion. Her enthusiasm for clothing fit into the wider culture that reigned at Versailles. In the 18th century, it was every highborn lady’s ambition to impress at court with her clothing, no small undertaking. The pressure of conspicuous consumption at Versailles, and the complex rules of fashion eti- quette, dictated that women ought not wear the same outfit more than once—not, at least, with- out some carefully chosen, and costly, modification. a turn to a lighter, more frivolous style, transitioning from baroque to rococo. The latter period was characterized by pastel colors, more revealing frocks, and lots of frills, ruffles, bows, and lace. This look spread from France and was copied by the elite in other European capitals. Costume Changes Marie-Antoinette was an Austrian princess before she married Louis XVI in 1770. Clothing had always been a pow- erful signifier of nationality. When the young princess traveled from Austria to France to be married, her entourage stopped at the border between the two countries. There, Marie-Antoinette was stripped of all her Austrian clothes and dressed with clothing made in France. V ersailles was the center not only of French politi- cal power but also of French fashion. Since the reign of Louis XIV, French aristo- crats looked to royalty to know what not to wear. The French court had been gov- erned by strict rules that determined the proper type of frocks, fabrics, and acces- sories to be donned for the season, time of day, and occasion. Louis XIV’s reign in the early 1700s was dominated by the baroque style of art, music, architecture, and haute couture. Ornate decorations, rich, dark fabrics, and elaborate, heavy de- signs dominated courtier couture under the Sun King. After Louis XIV’s death in 1715, cloth- ing styles began to evolve. Fashion took Rococo Revolution: Marie-Antoinette’s Courtier Couture FANNING FERVOR 18TH-CENTURY FANS were rococo works of art. Artists painted elegant scenes on fans made of silk, paper, ivory, tortoiseshell, and hardwood sticks. Jewelers encrusted them with precious stones or embroidered them with gold and silver thread. ROCOCO FRENCH FAN, 1730, CZARTORYSKI MUSEUM, KRAKOW BRIDGEMAN/ACI On the eve of the French Revolution, ladies at Versailles scrambled to keep up with the fashion standards set by the queen. Royal clothes formed an elaborate social code, inspired social unrest, and established France as a fashion capital.