Following Fashion

I’ve been totally obsessed with 18th century France since I visited Versailles last month! And I’ve been feeding that obsession by reading the new book Versailles: The Biography of a Palace by Tony Spawforth. (I also wanted to buy another new book, Marie Antoinette and the Last Garden of Versailles, but I have been strictly warned by my family that I am not to buy any object on my Christmas gift wishlist!) And I’ve been shopping for fabric and trim for next summer’s Beau Monde Soiree costume. It’s just a total Marie Antoinette moment around here. And then I heard about this fabulous exhibit at the Royal Ontario Museum. They are displaying one the few extant gowns that belonged to Marie Antoinette!!! It’s very delicate and can only be displayed for a short time, but they’ve extended the exhibit to November 16. If you live near there at all, go go go, and send me info! (In the meantime, the website’s podcast about the gown is very interesting, but not nearly long enough)

It seems the gown was given to a lady-in-waiting and eventually taken to England (probably when that lady or her family fled the Revolution). It was re-cut during the 19th century, and the (fabulous, I’m sure) stomacher was lost. But it’s easy to picture how it must have looked when the Queen ordered it from Rose Bertin. It’s amazing.

I also found this picture of an exhibit in France (the shoes and garters are Marie Antoinette’s; the baby bonnet belonged to her daughter Marie Therese, Madame Royale).

And this is a fragment of one of the Queen’s petticoats in the Museum of London (given as mourning mementos to emigres in London after her death)

And this little goat carriage belonging to the royal children, displayed at the Petit Trianon

More Petit Trianon pictures!

So, I need some help putting together this costume for next summer. My living room is littered with swatches and bits of trim, not to mention “inspiration images” like the ones above! What color (pink, blue, silver, lavender? All of the above?) Trim (lace, tassles, fringe, flowers)? Shoes? Jewels?

And who are some of your historical inspirations? If you were going to a costume ball, what would your costume be (if you had to be either a historical figure or a character in a book?)

About Amanda McCabe/Laurel McKee

Writer (as Amanda McCabe, Laurel McKee, Amanda Carmack), history geek, yoga enthusiast, pet owner!
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13 years ago

I just love those pictures! πŸ™‚ I’ll never be able to see the real thing, but I most especially liked seeing a real, honest to goodness outfit of hers, not just a Hollywood creation. πŸ™‚

I really can’t help much on your creation, but I always like the sound of anything blue! πŸ™‚ But me though. . . hmm. . . a first choice I would get my own Regency gown with bonnet, but other choices – if Hatshepsut was doable, I would (though I dare say everyone probably would think I’m Cleopatra LOL), maybe Jane Austen as done in the one picture we all know of. . . and there’s always Sally Ride! πŸ™‚


Louisa Cornell
13 years ago

Fabulous pictures, Amanda! I really need to go back to France sometime!

I loved your costume for Beau Monde this year so you simply MUST outdo yourself in Washington!

I would go with lavender with silver lace and Austrian crystal accents. Silver shoes with VERY high heels! And jewels? Diamonds and amethysts, of course!

13 years ago

I loved reading your post and seeing your pictures. I always love seeing historical garb- the real thing!- but Canada is too far to travel for one dress, fabulous though it is.

As for costume ideas, I always think that late 18th century is better than Regency for anyone other than late teenagers- those Empire waists and little puffy sleeves just don’t do us justice. JMHO

Amanda McCabe
13 years ago

The 18th century fashions are my favorites, too! Being short, and with less-than-flat abs, I love the tight waists and full skirts. Not to mention the beautiful fabrics! (I like the pre-Elizabethan Tudor fashions for the same reason–corseted bodices and full skirts). I like the Regency gowns, but I’ve found that if I don’t always stand perfectly straight while wearing them they don’t “hang” right. πŸ™‚

“Austrian crystal accents”

Louisa, that sounds beautiful! One of the trims I’m looking at is sewn with tiny crystals. I may have to take pics and post them here one of these weeks.

“a first choice I would get my own Regency gown with bonnet,”

Lois, the Austentation web site has some great Regency bonnets, at very affordable prices (if you ever want to order one!). I’ve bought a couple from her and was very happy with them.

Diane Gaston
13 years ago

The gown is so lovely!

I’d like a new Regency gown. Not sure what, but something new and different than the two I have. Which I should show you all someday.

Amanda McCabe
13 years ago

Diane’s Regency gowns are beautiful shades of blue! I especially like the floaty, light blue one…

Megan Frampton
13 years ago

I like the idea of you in silver, Ammanda, with flowers as trim. Fantastic pictures, too.

Elena Greene
13 years ago

Lovely pics, Amanda! Just to confuse you I’d vote for pink.

If I were getting another dress-up outfit, I’d love to have a gown like this one from a portrait by Ingres.

Cara King
13 years ago

I suspect the period with the clothes most flattering to me would be the Victorian period…but I do have a great fondness for 18th century garb. And I agree with Ladydoc — Regency gowns aren’t flattering for a lot of women — and they aren’t good at concealing things! πŸ˜‰


13 years ago

Love the photos. They’re so fabulous!