As one comes across what becomes a genuine, cultivated passion, with time, ever new hints and interpretations of this fascination start arising, sometimes from the apparently least relevant places. And fashion does have a particular power of becoming a point of reference in one’s life, especially when not being given its due attention and care.
But when, looking for a good read or a hot topic to write about – you can’t even remember how it started – you run into a biography of Marie Antoinette called Queen of Fashion: What Marie Antoinette Wore to the Revolution written by a historian, you stop questioning the limits of your passion and you just start reading.
Caroline Weber, in Queen of Fashion – USD 12.66 for the paperback or USD 9.99 for e-reader, at Amazon – does not get all wrapped up about deep cleavage and elaborate lace dresses, but develops a theory as to how Marie Antoinette used opulence and ostentatious extravagance as nothing less than a complex method of projecting power and of claiming her validity as the queen of France.
And throughout the book she shows an appreciation of the queen of fashion that goes beyond the shallow fascination with the silk, powder and decadence world at Versailles, but also beneath the layers of her deep understanding of the turbulent time during which the adolescent daughter of Maria Theresa of Austria was forcefully made the leading figure of a tragic destiny.
She studies and empathically and richly explains what was both Marie Antoinette’s survival strategy and the guarantee for her fall from grace, and probably the reason why her story is so significant both historically, and from a human and, of course, fashion standpoints. As parallel to the queen’s dense history, through episodes such as the one when, after the fall of Bastille, she carefully planned an exile she failed to live, by preparing herself a special wardrobe, we also learn about the fascinating Rose Bertin, the one that created everything for Marie Antoinette, arguably even her guillotine outfit.
Queen of Fashion: What Marie Antoinette Wore to the Revolution is a fascinating read, a biography that really does make you loose your head. Happily, today there’s only one left meaning to the expression, and that is metaphorical.
Photo sources: Amazon, marie-antoinette.org, Vogue