For every fashion era there is an “it girl” who reigns supreme. There is none more infamous than Marie Antoinette. Her spirit has been resurrected by Sofia Coppola’s new film Marie Antoinette which documents the Queen’s rise and tragic fall. Within the movie as within Antoinette’s life, the importance of her elaborate costume went beyond the fabric, color and look.
Born into privilege in 1755 to parents Marie TheresaQueen of Hungary and Archduchess to Austria and Holy Roman Emperor Francis I, she was one of 16 children. Marie was a beautiful child and was favored and spoiled by her governess. She would rather play than study. And with a governess, in charge of her education, yielding to every whim she could barely read by the age of 14. Her mother recognized Antoinette’s short comings and refashioned her daughter from an unsophisticated country girl to appear more metropolitan before leaving her home in Austria.
Upon her arrival to Versailles she was again stripped and revamped to fit the appearance of a future queen. As she looked at her new self I am sure a fever ran through her soul that comes when you discover your true passion. Marie Antoinette’s penchant for fashion would take hold of French woman’s imaginations and dictate what to wear for the next twenty-four years.
In that time there were none more famous as stylist Rose Bertin and hairdresser Monsieur Leonard. They would form a friendship with the French Queen and would aid in establishing her bevy of distinct looks. Bertin and Leonard came to fame in 1774 with the creation of the hairstyle, the Pouf. Made from wire, cloth, horse and fake hair, the pouf intention was to express feelings or commemorate an event. Marie Antoinette’s poufs would express her love for a current opera, or defend her husband publicly with constructed scenes made from ribbon and props. Some of the poufs were more whimsical bearing fruits and vegetables growing larger and more excessive with time. Each new style caused frenzy amongst the women
of France and many went into debt trying to keep up with the trend setting Marie. Her dresses, made of the finest cloth, consisted of a low bodice and huge panniers. The bodice was often incrusted with jewels and sat atop a skirt accented with ribbons, flowers and ruffles. Marie Antoinette basked in all the finery and enjoyed hearing of all the trends she had set. She
encouraged Bertin and Leonard to illustrate her latest “looks” in a newspaper for the women of Paris and Europe. Sold by subscription only, it is considered
one of the first fashion magazines.
Her excessive frivolity soon got the best of her and instead of the admiration from the people of France she was scorned. Poor from war the French people began to starve and felt ignored by the royal family. With the Queen still spending lavishly on her wardrobe she was nicknamed Madame Deficit and blamed for the majority of French economic trouble. In the coming months the royal family was over thrown and put on trial for their crimes against France. Marie Antoinette was beheaded October 16, 1793 at the age of 37.
Marie Antoinette is as captivating today as she was in her time. The release of the movie has sparked new interest in her life and love of fashion. It is predicted spring looks will recreate the romantic nature of Marie’s personal style. Some have even suggested her hairstyle will be modernized and mimicked. Often described as air-headed, Marie Antoinette would have to had some presence of mind to be able to create a look then that is sought after now. She was a pioneer and one of the first fashionista’s. She died stripped of her title, renamed at trail citizen Widow Capet, but with her modern resurrection she has gained “it” back.