Haute Couture And The Reign Of Marie Antoinette

Marie Antoinette was known for her extravagant lifestyle. When she first was presented to the country as queen, it caused an uproar amongst the population. 

Marie Antoinette was the very last queen of France up until the dates leading up to the French Revolution. Her husband Louis XVI became King after their marriage, she was only 15 years old when they married.

Haute Couture And The Reign Of Marie Antoinette

The couple lived in Versailles, where they hosted lavish parties and entertained foreign dignitaries. They also spent lavishly on garments, jewels, and lavish.

She may as well be considered the queen of haute couture due to her lavish lifestyle, so if you’re struggling to imagine what haute couture means for a moment, just think of the woman herself, Marie Antoinette!

Who Was Rose Bertin?

Rose Bertin was known as the ‘Minister Of Fashion’ due to her dressmaking skills and connection to Marie Antoinette. 

In 1774, Rose Bertin opened her shop at number 8 Rue Saint-Honore in Paris. In 1775, she received her first royal client, Queen Marie Antoinette, who commissioned several dresses from her.

This marked the beginning of a long collaboration between the French queen and the Parisian dressmaker.

This is also quite common with highly profiled individuals and royals, as they often had their own personal dressmakers.

These dressmakers were likely chosen because of their skills and because of the royal’s fondness for the way they particularly make their garments. 

The queen had a great influence on the development of fashion, especially during the reign of Louis XVI. Her taste for color and extravagance encouraged the creation of spectacular costumes and extravagant accessories.

This is why we find such names as Léonard, Daguerre, Gainsborough, Fragonard…and Rose Bertin, who worked directly under the queen and whose designs are still considered some of the most beautiful ever seen.

Why Was Marie Antoinette Viewed As Being Extravagant And frivolous?

In the wake of the French Revolution, Marie Antoinette became one of history’s most reviled figures. She was accused of being frivolous, vain, and extravagant — traits she did not possess.

In fact, her love of simple peasant garb earned her the nickname “the Milk Maid.”

During the reign of Louis XVI, the monarchy was struggling economically. As such, the royal family was forced to cut costs wherever possible, including the use of imported fabrics.

This decision angered many people, especially those who worked in the textile industry — the very same industry that produced the finest silks and laces in France.

Marie Antoinette was aware of this tension and sought to make amends. In 1778, she sent a letter to the Parisian merchant Pierre Crozat, asking him to send her some of his best silk stockings.

These were to be worn by her daughter, Maria Theresa, during a ball held in honor of King Louis XVIII. This gesture was intended to show that the king and queen wanted to promote French products.

Unfortunately for Marie Antoinette, this act proved unpopular. Many saw it as a sign of weakness, and the public began calling for her head.

Her Fashion Influence

Marie Antoinette wholeheartedly embraces the fun side of being a member of the French Royal family and the creative freedom that it allows.

She enjoys dressing up in beautiful clothes, decorating and designing rooms, and creating masterpieces that are inspiring to us today.

Her passion for fashion, interiors, and creativity has inspired many people around the world and left a significant legacy in the history of fashion and interior design.

Whilst the style of the era in France is known as Louis XVI style, and this takes inspiration from neoclassical architecture sweeping across Europe, much of the original creative inspiration came from Queen Maria Antonietta, rather than her husband King Louis XVI.

This is because Marie Antoinette was very influential in her style choices and preferences, whilst the King remained relatively conservative and traditional.

Many believe that she had a hand in the infamous French Revolution, which saw the fall of the monarchy and the start of the French Republic. 

What Were The Most Popular Styles Of Dress At The Time?

The most desired and well-known dress style of this era was the robe à la Française. This garment, worn over a chemise and petticoat, became fashionable during the reign of Louis XIV.

At court it was reserved for women of rank; however, the lower classes wore gowns decorated with lace and embroidery. The robe à l’Anglaise was worn under a long skirt. 

During the same period, the English developed a fashion called the “robe de Chambre,” which consisted of a short jacket and a matching skirt.

The Robe A La Francaise

In the 18th century France, women wore dresses called robes à la Francaise. They had long trains and were usually worn over pannier skirts. This style of dress was popular during the reign of Francis I.

The French word robe translates into English as “robe,” while the Italian word robetta means “train.”

This particular dress style consisted of a pleated back to the structure of the upper body, that hung down to the ground. The bodice would then be fitted to hold the gown as close as possible to the body.

Also, decorative petticoats were commonly revealed from the front using the open structure of the dress on purpose. 

Although, the panniers prevented women from being able to sit down correctly in this particular ensemble because of the revealing nature that they wanted to obtain. 

The sleeves alone were usually very tight to contrast the volume of the skirts, and they ended at the elbows, which were often covered and decorated with luxury ruffles and individual pieces of lace to further the theatrics of the dress.

In other words, this dress was made to feature volume and show wealth through fabrics and skirts, and various expensive laces.  

The Robe A L’Anglaise

This dress, compared to the previous one we looked at, has a contrasting fitted back, in the 1770s, the dresses themselves were strategically cut in a method that was recognized as Fourreau which essentially means that the back was cut in one along with the rest of the skirt.

This created a more seamless look from bodice to skirt. 

By the end of the century, this design was changed so that the bodice was cut separately away from the remainder of the skirt itself, changing with the times of what was desired. 

The back of the skirt featured gathered fabric for emphasis on the style. 

Another variation of this dress was renamed the Robe A La polonaise, this dress consisted of wearing a full draped skirt directly over their petticoat. 

At the beginning of the 1800s, the robe a l’anglaise became popular again. Instead of being made out of silk, it was made out of cotton. During the second half of the nineteenth century, it became fashionable to wear a jacket over a gown.

Haute Couture And The Reign Of Marie Antoinette

Royal Ceremony And Court Pomp

In the year 2009, the Court Pomp & Royal Ceremony specific exhibition took part at Versailles.

This amazing show featured some of the most exquisite dresses ever created, including those worn by Marie Antoinette, Queen Victoria, Princess Diana, and many others. 

The stunning images captured at the event show us how gorgeous these dresses really are. Among the most impressive examples are the following ones:

  1. Wedding Gown Used by the Princess, Edwige Elisabet Charlotte Holstein-Gothorp (1759- 1818). This magnificent creation was made in the city of Paris and out of the finest silver-colored cloth and a whalebone corset and lace directly at the back.
  2. Coronation Dress for Sophie Madeleine, specifically used for Her magnificent Coronation (1746-1813). She wore it again for her second marriage to Charles Frederick, Grand Duke of Mecklenburg-Strelitz.
  3. Silver Cloth Wedding Dress Worn by Princess Louise Caroline Frederica of Hesse-Kassel (1751- 1794).
  4. White Silk Lace Gown Worn by Princess Amalie Auguste Leopoldine of Baden (1763-1830).
  5. Gold Embroidered Velvet Gown Worn by Mary Anne Fitzroy (1768-1844), Countess of Huntingdon.
  6. Another image from the gallery features a remarkable dress worn by Marie Antoinette (1755-1793), Queen Consort of France, for her grand coronation. 

The ensemble was designed and made in the city of Paris out of silk velvet with embroidery and pearls.

Sophie Madeleine’s dress is probably the most magnificent of the lot, due to the skirt of the dress being almost 2 meters wide.

It’s hard to imagine being able to sit down to walk around comfortably in such a dress, but in terms of theatrics, perhaps it is worth the inconvenience! 

What Does Haute Couture Actually Mean?

The French word “haute couture” translates directly into English as “high sewing.” In fact, it’s one of the few words in the language that doesn’t change meaning depending on how you say it.

If you’re talking about a garment, it simply means “fine sewing,” while if you’re referring to the process of creating something, it becomes “high art.”

What Does It Mean In Fashion?

So what does it mean in the context of fashion? Haute couture basically describes the highest level of luxury clothing. 

While there are many different types of luxury goods out there—from handbags to diamonds to cars—the concept of haute couture is specifically tied to clothes. And because it’s such a specific term, it’s rarely used outside of France.

The word “haute couture” originally meant high style or fashionable elegance. During the 19th century, it referred to a type of clothing that was handmade by skilled craftsmen and women in small workshops, often in a particular region or town.

During the late 1800s, haute couture became associated with the French upper class, particularly those living in Paris. 

As part of the Industrial Revolution, the city saw many changes in lifestyle, including the rise of luxury goods manufacturing and the emergence of department stores.

In the early 20th century, haute couture was revived as a form of designer fashion, where clothes were produced under the direction of a single designer.

Today, haute couture is defined as a type of fashion production that involves highly complex techniques and materials.

A Haute couturier must possess exceptional skills in tailoring, embroidery, lace making, millinery, and other areas of the garment industry.

What Influence Does Marie Antoinette Have Today In The Fashion World?

The Queen of France had quite an impact on fashion history. Her reign bridged the gap between the Regency era and the Industrial Revolution, ushering in a period where women were empowered to take charge of their lives and careers.

In fact, many modern-day trends trace their roots to her reign. From the popularity of corsetry to the rise of haute couture, here are some examples of how she set the stage for what we wear today.

Christian Dior, Vivienne Westwood, Christian Lacroix, and Thierry Mugler are all couturiers who have given a nod to the maven of French fashion in their whimsical designs, paying homage to the late Queen.

In fact, the designer’s use of full skirts and fitted bodices, soft pales, and intricate floral embroidery are all reminiscent of the late monarch’s signature style.

Vivienne Westwood, too, has created a frothy confection that embodies the French queen’s taste in bows, ruffles, and lace.

Her “Mannequin” collection, inspired by the 17th-century courtesans who posed for artists such as Peter Paul Rubens, features voluminous gowns adorned with elaborate embroideries and hand-painted appliques. 

And her “Supernature” collection, inspired by nature itself, includes dresses made entirely of animal skins.

Final Thoughts

Marie Antoinette was one of the most influential figures in European history. Not only did she help bring about the French Revolution, but she also helped shape the way people dressed throughout Europe.

Her influence can be seen in everything from the clothes we wear today to the styles of architecture and art that still exist today. 

We hope that this article has given you a thorough insight into the world of Marie Antoinette and Haute Couture, and just what her influence means in the fashion industry today.

Willa Price
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