1 – ⚜️🎀It's time for #ThreadTalk & today we're going big with the infamous Marie Antoinette: the oft-misquoted, scandalous, fashion forward last Queen of France (before the Revolution).

Her image is iconic, but she did not do it alone. To her dying day, she had a *squad*.🎀⚜️

Marie Antoinette in 1775. She is in full court dress, wearing a high grey wig and long sausage curls. Her dress is a blue satin lined with lace and chiffon (trimmed in gold). She wears a long ermine wrap and a cape with the fleur-de-lis on it in gold on a dark blue background). Her right hand rests on a globe. She is smiling peacefully and in a regal pose.

2 – Born in 1755, Marie was not French; she was Austrian. Daughter of Empress Maria Theresa, Hapsburgs bigwig.

Known then as Maria Antonia, she even met young Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart during her charmed childhood.

Here she is in 1762, bedecked in satin, ribbons, and flowers.

A placid looking Marie in blue satin, a long scooped neck, pink and blue ribbons, and a grey, curly wig. She looks like a doll.

3 – At 14, she was married by proxy to the Dauphin of France, in an effort to secure peace between their regions.

It was not a marriage of passion & the French people were not thrilled with an Austrian future monarch. But, she had one thing going: she was *fashionable*.

Marie in 1769, at the age of 13. She is wearing a robe a la franchise, in stripes of blue and brown on a satin background. She wears a lacy neck choker, and her hair is piled high in grey curls. She leans on a blue pillow.

4 – Scandals followed her like precocious puppies. Marie's wedding dress caused a stir. Why?

It was terribly ill-fitting 😲. Also encrusted in diamonds. Though the dress no longer exists, the fit caused shockwaves throughout the country. To say nothing of the flaunted expense.

Marie in what is believed to be her wedding dress. It had rows of diamonds, silver satin, and massive panniers. She has an immense wig on, with plumes at the top (a panache) and a ribbon where the dress may be gapping on her chest. The dress has tiers of satin, like a large curtain.

5 – We have Rose Bertin to thank for curating Marie's post-wedding image.

Rose was born in humble circumstances, in Picardie, but she received a basic education. At 16, she moved to Paris to apprentice as a milliner.

The new queen was *obsessed* with Rose's designs.

Rose Bertin, wearing an absolutely marvelous wig of vast proportions. She looks rather plain, but is wearing much draping silver sating.

6 – Together, Marie and Rose concocted the over-the-top styles of the age, including hair poufs measuring over 3' & elaborate feather decorations called panache.🪶

This dimpled wig in this portrait is one of my favorites. Who needs panache when your dress is gilded sea foam?

Marie sitting in a waterfall of green sea foam colored skirts, edged with gold and silver chiffon, and a gold and creme striped bow at her chest. Her hair is piled high and oddly smooth. She is holding an open book.

7 – But we can't give Rose all the credit for hair.

Another member of the squad was Léonard Autié. The son of household servants, after moving to Paris like Rose, he met the actress Julie Niébert and began getting notice for his flamboyant hair designs.

Marie noticed.

Léonard Autié at work, doing the hair of a lady reading a book (perhaps Marie?). He wears a red coat, wig, and white stockings. She has a white blouse and a yellow skirt. Her hair is high and layered.

8 – Caricature artists mocked the towering wigs in papers, and Marie's frivolous spending (and gambling) along with it.

One of the most infamous hair styles was known as À La Belle Poule, commemorating a naval victory over the English with a *replica* of the actual ship.⛵️

A woman with an immense wig and a BOAT on it. Yes, a whole boat, after the ship itself that helped sink the English. I'm all for the attitude, though.

9 – By 1778, the tide of trends (haha) rose so high we saw the invent of the first fashion plates from Galerie des Modes et Costumes Français.

These sets of prints, sold in groups of six, served to show Parisians real-life applications of the hottest fashion, in vivid color!

A woman wearing a large blue gown bedecked in chartreuse bows (at least 14!) with a plunging bodice, strings of flowers, and a loose hat over her curls.

10 – Another 1778 ensemble here really goes to great heights, even though one of those feathers looks like a tongue.

This kind of marketing really got the upper crust into fashion action, stoking competition. The sheer amount of fabric $$$ here is beyond cost calculation.

This is not a dress. It's a layer cake. The print depicts a woman in a red gown with so much frothy lace and ribbon it's hard to tell where it begins and the woman ends. Her hair is as tall as her torso and twined with feathers and greenery. She holds a very unnecessary fan.

11 – What does a monarch do when everyone has glommed on to the most ostentatious fashion?

She pivots, of course.

But first, we must meet Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun. Trained initially by her father, she became a prolific & celebrated portraitist of the Rococo.

(I have a crush.)

Self portrait of Élisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun, wearing a straw hat covered in red and white flowers. She looks directly at the painter, and is wearing dusky pink on her gown, and has her painter's palette in her hand. She also wears a chiffon black shawl.

12 – Vigée Le Brun painted over 660 portraits in her lifetime, and was admitted to the Académie royale de peinture et de sculpture: 1 of 14 women (of 550 total members) in its history pre-Revolution.

She also caused a scandal with this portrait for her open mouth! Truly! 👄

Elisabeth with her daughter Julie, painted in a satin gown of pale purple and saffron yellow, wearing a turban-like wrap. She is smiling open-mouthed, which was not considered proper practice in portrait painting at the time, a defiance of Classical traditions.

13 – As Marie like to collect famous people, Vigée Le Brun became her official portrait painter & gambled her own career on their next move.

In 1783, Vigée Le Brun painted Marie in a simple muslin chemise, known as a robe de gaulle, and put it on display in public. 😲😲😲

Marie in the infamous chemise de gaulle, eventually becoming known as chemise á la Reine" (queen's chemise). She wears a straw hat with immense grey ostrich plumes, and a simples her ribbon about her waist in gold. She is holding roses with blue ribbons.

14 – To our modern eyes, this may just look a bit frothy & romantic.

Then, it was shocking. That the Queen would wear pastoral peasant clothes, let alone such revealing attire! And in fabric associated with Britain and India!


Below: another Le Brun.

Another similar painting from Vigee Le Brun--but on a less visible subject.

15 – The gallery insisted the portrait be removed from public view and…

Of course the rich folk became obsessed with it. Suddenly, cotton became all the rage, fueling the slave trade to the Americas and the devastation of the industry in India. We know that story.

A late 18th century caraco and petticoat made of cotton. It is delicate and transparent, and there is delicate flower embroidery around the waist.

16 – As exhibited by the Regency period, plain, white, diaphanous gowns became all the rage. Not just in England, but across the world.

Sure enough, the silk industry in France tanked over the next two decades, and well…

The French people had had enough, to say the least.

Portrait of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, bust-length, Marie Antoinette directed to the left and Louis XVI to the right, within circle
Etching and stipple. From the British Museum.

17 – The people rose up. They could not take one day more.

And by 1792, Marie Antoinette, along with her family & entourage, was imprisoned in the Garde Nationale. She attempted to rally help from Europe, but to no avail. King Louis was executed by guillotine Jan '93.

An artist's depiction of the royal family being arrested, with Marie in the center looking bold and brave.

18 – Though she had toned down her style in her final days, Marie Antoinette was the absolute symbol of royal excess.

But even in incarceration, awaiting her trial, Rose Bertin was able to deliver Marie dresses.

She wore all white to her execution, a symbol of widowhood.

Marie Antoinette's execution on 16 October 1793: Sanson, the executioner, showing Marie Antoinette's head to the people (anonymous, 1793)

19 – Rose Bertin escaped to England, but struggled to adapt to toned down fashions post-Revolution.

Léonard Autié was arrested with the family's household, but eventually escaped to Russia.

Vigée Le Brun left France in 1789, traveling to Italy, Austria, Russia & Germany.

Madame de Staël as Corinne at Cape Miseno, 1807-1809 - woman with Regency inspired "Classical" clothing, a lyre, and a whimsical expression.

20 – Vigée Le Brun eventually returned to France, where she died at the age of 86. She published her own memoires (Souvenirs).

She also made a less scandalous portrait of Marie Antoinette, before the Revolution, & was one of the most productive and celebrated artists of her age.

A far more acceptable depiction of Marie Antoinette, in blue satin and lace, holding a rose. The pose is precisely the same as the muslin painting.

21 – Little of Marie Antoinette's own wardrobe exists, but let's take a look at some gowns from her era, anyway. 🎀🎀🎀

I am a sucker for pink, and this breathtaking number has florals and stripes! In patriotic French silk, too. ca. 1775, from the Met.

From the Met:  Found in a perfect state, with no alterations, it is a masterpiece of the French textile maker's art. As with other gowns of this form, the elaborately brocaded fabric has been woven with an accompanying passementerie trim. The trim not only matches the colors of the fabric but also repeats, in abstracted form, the little sprigged floral bouquets that appear as the textile's primary motif.

For all its conformity to the decorous sartorial requirements of the time, the button-closing front of the bodice is a development of the last half of the eighteenth century. Previously, the overgown did not close over the corset. The part of corset that was left exposed was concealed by an inverted triangle of fabric called the stomacher. Pinned in, it conveyed the impression of an overdress with matching underbodice and petticoat.

22 – Made between 1775-80, this dress was also altered at the turn of the 20th century.

Still, you can see decadence! Though it's an English example, it's a good example of high court style that persisted quite some time. Silk with white passementerie trim.

A woman's sack and petticoat of white silk satin. The sack is open at the front with elbow-length sleeves. The bodice meets at centre front, with boning on each side. The bodice and sleeves are lined with bleached linen. There is an opening at the centre back lining, boned on each side with lacing holes for adjusting the bodice. There are two, double, box pleats at the back, stitched at the neckline. The sack is made of 7 widths of silk, with a waist seam from the front edges to the side-back seam. The skirts are shaped for a wide hoop. The hem is faced with a deep band of white silk taffeta. The skirt fronts are decorated with a wide ruching of satin, edged with white silk chenille fringe, gathered into puffs and arranged in at zig zag pattern, and passementerie tassels of white silk chenille. Narrower ruchings of silk and chenille are placed either side of it. The same narrow ruching adorns the neck. © Victoria and Albert Museum

23 – One of my favorites, this was also altered in the turn of the 20th century, and dates from the same period as above.

But now we have bobbin lace and stunning embroidery to really bring it over the top. I love the netting detail in the second picture!

24 – I am sorry about the face on this one, but the autumnal color way just makes me giddy here. Another French example, this time in burgundy & gold, with florals and just enough ruffles. Boston MFA, dating from about 1775.

And it's block printed cotton! Well before her time.

Dress (overdress without skirt). Glazed, heavy printed cotton, showing undulating polychrome floral vine and sprigs alternating with undulating white floral stripe, on dark brown-red ground. Square neck and plain bodice with hook and eye closure; wide folds ruinning down both front edges from neck to hem. Pleated back panel runs up to back of neck out of skirt. Elbow-length sleeves with two scalloped self flounces on underside. Louis XVI style: meandering flowers and foliage block printed on rust-colored, glazed cotton ground

25 – Not to miss out on menswear, this ensemble is fire. The silk taffeta is holy wow, and then the embroidery just whoa.

From the Boston MFA, from 1780-90, France.

A man's waistcoat of white silk taffeta with all-over sprig in black silk chain stitch, borders and pocket flaps embroidered with polychrome silk chain stitch in small-scale floral design; back and lining of white linen.

26 – If you'd like a few more gowns, you can do so if you're a Patron! After my #threadtalk here, I always add a few more to


27 – Some sources for your perusal:


28 – More Sources!


29 – I hope you enjoyed our excursion to some of the frothiest, decadent clothes to ever grace Europe.

And a lesson that no icon works alone & no trend is without consequence.

Rose Bertin: "There is nothing new except what has been forgotten."

Below, Vigée Le Brun in 1790.

30 – Patron post is live!


ALSO – some older #threadtalks you might like to read.

Muslin: https://twitter.com/NataniaBarron/status/1374134942385442816


Originally tweeted by Natania Barron (@NataniaBarron) on April 29, 2022.

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