A reader asks: How to dress like a Modern Marie

In this Sunday Series, Marie Antoinette makes sense of the world and how we live it. To ask your own question of the queen, email whatwouldmarieantoinettedo at gmail dot com.

Madame Queen,

How does one dress as a modern Marie Antoinette? This is my question.

PS: Love the blog

My darling girl,

Dressing as a modern day Marie is no small feat and not for the faint of heart. It takes a commitment to fashion and the confidence to wear what you think is fabulous regardless of the current climate. A Marie, modern or otherwise, sets the trends, she does not follow them.

That said, the traits are open to any girl.

Is this not Marie Antoinette's hair and a leather redingote? Is it not a ruffled chemise reminiscent of her Trianon garb? If this jacket were made in any other fabric than leather, could we not see her majesty lounging in it in her private quarters? Note to Dior's Fall 2010 collection: You're welcome.

Trait #1: Be an inspiration
You need to be sufficiently moved to wear a three-foot high sculpture on your head that looks like a cornucopia. You really need to feel there’s a greater good. But despite the weight, the height, inconvenience and the obvious fact that there was a horn of vegetables on their head and it looks ridiculous, women didn’t mind. Marie represented the start of a new age. Other women wore their hair dressed as a sun, showing the dawn of a new era. Women were captivated and happy to celebrate their hope by copying Marie’s hair, gowns and styles. Even her enemies couldn’t escape her fashion influence. The simple redingotes revolutionaries wore in protest of wealth and opulence were knock-offs of the equestrian-inspired riding habits Marie shocked court with as a mere dauphine.

Trait #2: Take fashion seriously
If you’re tired after an afternoon at H&M, trust me, you couldn’t handle Marie’s shopping regimen. Marie was no amateur and she spent hours reviewing fabric swatches and trim to create one-of-a-kind garments with her makers, taking inspiration from the smallest aspects of her life (down to the deposits in her baby’s diaper) for new colors and accessories.

Blogger Doe Deere, self-styled "Queen of the Unicorns" at a recent fall fashion week event. http://www.doedeereblogazine.com/articles/new-york-couture-fashion-show-fall-2010.

Trait #3: Be Fresh
A fashionable girl always looks more in touch than the dowdy girl beside her. That’s hard to hear, but it’s true for one reason: Fashion is synonymous with new thinking. When Marie arrived in France she brought new life – and new fashion – to stodgy old Versailles. It had been known as the fashion capitol, but its influence had waned. Suddenly, after Marie’s arrival, styles that hadn’t changed for years altered to accommodate the princess’ love for shorter skirts, lower collars, and exquisite detail. Marie Antoinette brought France back into Europe’s style spotlight.

Trait #4: Recreate, reinvent, re-accessorize
Rose Bertin, Marie’s marchande de modes, was not a fashion designer. Tailors and dressmakers had a state sanctioned monopoly on that trade. So while Bertin did not make the dresses Marie wore, she did design trimmings such as silk flowers, spangles, laces, shawls and gemstones that established the flair and flexible style of her wardrobe.

The Verveine necklace from Anthropologie combines silk cords and crystalline baubles into a Marie-inspired statement necklace ($42).

Trait #5: Be a Sensation
Marie’s headdress for an opera featured a pyramid shape with three large feathers, a rosette of curls, pink ribbon and a large ruby. The hair resulted in an actual scene where people crushed one another to get a glimpse, resulting in three dislocated arms, two broken ribs and three crushed feet. Upon hearing this, Léonard, the a creator of this headdress, declared, “My triumph was complete.”

Mini corset dress at H & M ($49).

Trait #6: Encourage imitation
Imitation isn’t just the best form of flattery – it’s the only proof you’ve set a trend. Marie allowed her best vendors, Rose Bertin and Leonard to continue their shops outside palace and sell to other patrons. This violated royal tradition, but she wanted them to stay sharp on trends but also to bring style to the public. Marie’s shift brought high-fashion to a wider public, solidifying her position as fashion queen. Women rushed to copy the looks, wanting look like a queen in their own right, in their own smaller ways.

Is this not Dior's modern Marie redingote and gaulle-like tunic? Only at H&M for a fraction of the price ($49)?

Marie's most subversive fashions -- the simple chemise, the redingote -- seem to be at the mall right now (These are also from H & M).

This updated gaulle at H&M (yes, again) is adorable, only $29 and as built for scandal as the one Marie wore in her controversial portrait.

Really, these tips do nothing but say one simple thing: To dress as a modern Marie is to dress as like as if your choices will be remembered for years to come. (It is, after all, the first step towards making sure that they are).

Mille bisous,
Marie Antoinette


3 thoughts on “A reader asks: How to dress like a Modern Marie

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