Lately I've been obsessed with the Tudor and French Revolution eras and have been holing myself up in my room reading biographies of Anne Boleyn and Marie Antoinette.
I recommend this book if you want to know more about Queen Anne and this book about the Queen of France.
These two periods of time excite not only because of the fascinating history of the Kings and Queens of Europe, but also because of the way people dressed. The style (and I'm referring to what the royals and nobility wore) from the Tudor period (1485-1603 in England) was very different from the time of Marie Antoinette (late 1700s) in France; but both periods were obsessed with luxury including lavishly detailed gowns for the ladies and plenty of jewelry.
But it was the French court that was envied by everyone, including England. France has always been known for its style and it really began with Louis XIV and then Marie Antoinette; both knew that clothes were a symbol of power and wealth. And ultimately, it was their love for luxury that brought the French court literally to their knees with the French Revolution.
Last week I came across this article about a clothing exhibition at the palace of Versailles in France. The exhibition is called "Court pomp and royal ceremonies: court dress in Europe 1650-1800" which attempts to recreate the clothes from the 17th and 18th century in France.
The article mentions that "ironically, nothing remains of the garments worn by the French sovereigns."
This was not just due to the destruction wreaked by the Revolution, but because of the habit of the French royals of handing down their clothes as they went out of fashion to their ladies and gentlemen in waiting, who transformed them or sold them on, many eventually ending up in rag shops in Paris.
Some more snippets:
But special ceremonies aside, Louis XIV is credited with simplifying male dress by authorising courtiers to adopt the long jacket and fitted breeches which they wore to go hunting as everyday wear, the ancestor of the modern suit, says Pascale Gorguet-Ballesteros, deputy curator of the exhibition.
Nevertheless it still cost a fortune to cut a fine figure at Versailles.
No woman could appear at court until she had been formally presented, and a presentation outfit could cost up to 3,000 livres -- the currency of the time -- "for the total look", says Gorguet-Ballesteros. "A weaver with a wife and two children in Paris could live on 340 livres a year."
The account books kept by Marie Antoinette's favourite supplier Rose Bertin bear witness to the astronomical sums aristocrats owed -- and often never settled -- for their finery. A canny businesswoman, Bertin circulated dolls dressed in the latest Versailles fashions for clients to place orders, long before models and catwalk shows.
I then came across these shoes:
I can't decide whether the Louboutins are atrocious are awesome. What do you think?
It would take a special kind of woman to wear these; either she is super confident and wants to have fun with them or she's going to a halloween party. I don't know. Kind of kitsch?
They are a limited edition, inspired by Marie Antoinette. Here is an invite to preview the collection:
I think it's the gigantic head that turns me off. It's a bit morbid knowing that the Queen's head was cut off and now it's stuck on an overpriced shoe. But it makes me giggle too. Vive La Reine!
And just for kicks here's my favourite picture of Kristen Dunst as Marie Antoinette in the movie.
For more royal fashion readings check out:
Dressed to rule: Royal and Court Costume from Louis XIV to Elizabeth II
Queen Of Fashion: What Marie Antoinette Wore to the Revolution
Dangerous Liaisons: Fashion and Furniture in the Eighteenth Century
Seventeenth and Eighteenth-Century Fashion in Detail
The Tudor Tailor: Reconstructing 16th-Century Dress