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Queen of Fashion: What Marie Antoinette Wore to the Revolution
Queen of Fashion What Marie Antoinette Wore to the Revolution
Author: Caroline Weber
A Washington Post Book World Best Book of the Year — When her carriage first crossed over from her native Austria into France, fourteen-year-old Marie Antoinette was taken out, stripped naked before an entourage, and dressed in French attire to please the court of her new king. For a short while, the young girl pl...  more »
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ISBN-13: 9780312427344
ISBN-10: 0312427344
Publication Date: 10/2/2007
Pages: 432
Edition: Reprint
  • Currently 4.4/5 Stars.

4.4 stars, based on 4 ratings
Publisher: Picador
Book Type: Paperback
Other Versions: Hardcover
Members Wishing: 0
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lostinthelibrary avatar reviewed Queen of Fashion: What Marie Antoinette Wore to the Revolution on + 16 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
Who knew that fashion could be so important?

This excellent book is a great analysis of how fashion was an important political tool for Marie Antoinette, her supporters, and also her enemies.

In Marie Antoinette's world in the court of Versailles, fashion was extremely significant, and Weber gives us MA's personal fashion history. In Vienna, fashion is not as important to young MA, in fact, it is rather relaxed; a far cry from what she'll experience at Versailles.

Consquently, she chafes at the very rigid and formal costume of Versailles, due to the discomfort of wearing it, and also (as Weber illustrates beautifully), the elaborate pain-in-the-butt rituals of her daily dressing and toilette that require many prying and eager eyes to be present.

When Louis XVI fails to participate in consumating their marriage, MA is forced to give the public illusions that she had more power than she would have, and for this, she bends the gender line by dressing as her mutual ancestor with her husband, that would be the Sun King, Louis XIV. This causes scandal; consorts of Dauphins and Kings are expected to be low-key and submissive.

Eventually Louis XV passes away, and MA along with her husband accede to the throne, where MA becomes the belle of the ball, with ever more extravagant costumes, created with the help of a personal seamstress, Rose Bertin, and a stylist, Leonard. Girl had an entourage long before the days of 21st century starlets, their crews, and paparazzi.

What MA didn't realize, was that her fashion choices stirred up resentment in people. The big difference between this book and Antoina Fraser's biography is that Weber's work can very much make you dislike Marie Antoinette, and consider her selfish and shallow (Fraser's work is quite sympathetic). And indeed, the French people found many reasons to dislike her. She was damned if she did, damned if she didn't. She disrespected the monarchy by outshining her husband. At other times, she disrespected the monarchy by not dressing as spectactuarly as a Bourbon consort ought to. The people hated her for her greedy use of flour for her hair when bread was short in supply, but her acts of charity were also frequently met with contempt.

Which brings us to the arrest and eventual execution. Weber does a great job of illustrating how low MA had been brought, how pitiful her attire had become to match her lot in life. And finally, Weber reveals how MA died with dignity and defiance, via her white clothing she wore to the scaffold, and Weber tells the significance of that clothing.

An excellent book, and I highly recommend it to anyone who wants an interesting perspective on Marie Antoinette's life, and the enviroment she lived in.
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