Marie Antoinette's Wardrobe (Don't Just Settle for the Shoes)
Editor's Note: The unimpressive pair of shoes reputed to have belonged to the doomed Queen, Marie Antoinette, fetched an approximate $57,000 price quite recently. But then, considering their age ... However, it did whet our appetite for more of her elaborate taste in court costumes and so we went in search. As usual, Wikipedia did not disappoint. What follows, save for Editor Notes, is a portion of that page:
From the outset, despite how she was portrayed in contemporary libelles, the new queen had very little political influence with her husband. Louis, who had been influenced as a child by anti-Austrian sentiments in the court, blocked many of her candidates, including Choiseul, from taking important positions, aided and abetted by his two most important ministers, Chief Minister Maurepas and Foreign Minister Vergennes. All three were anti-Austrian, and were wary of the potential repercussions of allowing the queen – and, through her, the Austrian empire – to have any say in French policy.
Marie Antoinette's situation became more precarious when, on 6 August 1775, her sister-in-law, the comtesse d'Artois, gave birth to a son, the duc d'Angoulême (who later became the presumptive heir to the French throne when his father, the comte d'Artois, became King Charles X of France in 1824). There followed a release of a plethora of graphic satirical pamphlets, which mainly centered on the king's impotence and the queen's searching for sexual relief elsewhere, with men and women alike. Among her rumored lovers were her close friend, the princesse de Lamballe, and her handsome brother-in-law, the comte d'Artois, with whom the queen had a good rapport.
These personal attacks caused the queen to plunge further into the costly diversions of buying her dresses from Rose Bertin and gambling, simply to enjoy herself. On one famed occasion, she played for three days straight with players from Paris, straight up until her 21st birthday. She also began to attract various male admirers whom she accepted into her inner circles, including the baron de Besenval, the duc de Coigny, and Count Valentin Esterházy.
She was given free rein to renovate the Petit Trianon, a small château on the grounds of Versailles, which was given to her as a gift by Louis XVI on 15 August 1774; she concentrated mainly on horticulture, redesigning in the English mode the garden, which in the previous reign had been an arboretum of introduced species, and adding flowers. Although the Petit Trianon had been built for Louis XV's mistress, Madame de Pompadour, it became associated with Marie Antoinette's perceived extravagance. Rumors circulated that she plastered the walls with gold and diamonds.
...the innovativeness of Marie Antoinette's country retreat would attract her subjects’ fierce disapproval, even as it aimed to bolster her autonomy and enhance her prestige...
Editor's Note (again!): The painting of Marie (above) was done by an equally attractive woman, Elisabeth Vigée-Lebrun — perhaps not dressed as elaborately, but quite lavishly nonetheless.
But for the full Monty, let's say, we'd rent or borrow from the library director Sofia Coppola's (no wardrobe slouch herself) version of Marie Antoinette. Or put your own feet up and read the book, Marie Antoinette, by the celebrated author Lady Antonia Fraser, widow of the equally celebrated author Harold Pinter..
- Elisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun: Woman Artist in Revolutionary France Amassing a Fortune
- Mercy Street, a New Historical Drama Employed Experts on Southern Gentility, on Civil War Medicine, on Runaway Slaves and Society
- Home Fires, A New Masterpiece Theater Series Based on Britain's Women's Institute
- A Timely Show, Precision and Splendor: Clocks and Watches at The Frick Collection
- Kings, Queens, and Courtiers: Royalty on Paper
- Happy 150th Birthday Edith Wharton!
- DeYoung Style: Balenciaga and Spain
- Fashioning Fashion: European Dress in Detail, 1700-1915
- The Louvre's Breguet Exhibition and the Marie Antoinette
- Paul Delaroche: A Painter Whose Subjects Meet Untimely Ends