underwent dramatic changes during
the 18th century. Liberating thoughts and
rhetoric inspired great shifts in politics,
economics, industry, religion, and society.
These new ideologies and shifts had their
effect on fashions.
contrasts 1778 (at
right) and 1793 (at left)
styles for both men and
women, showing the
large changes in just 15
Marie Antoinette set many of the styles
at court is indisputable. During the beginning
of her reign, Marie Antoinette's fashions were
elaborate and larger than life. Her gowns
were immense affairs, with hooped pannier's,
layers of of petticoats, flounces, and bands
of lace. "When the Queen passed along the
gallery at Versailles," noted an observer, "you
could see nothing but a forest of feathers,
rising a foot and a half above her head, and
nodding to and fro."
During the latter part of her
reign, Marie Antoinette
adopted a simpler style of
dress. She wore gowns,
called chemise a la Reine,
that resembled a shift and
was made of muslin. It was
free-flowing and comfortable.
For women that were
accustomed to dressing in
restricting and cumbersome
fashions, the Queen's new
attire was fresh and
liberating. She topped her
rustic, wholesome gown off
with a straw bonnet.
For as much as the French
opposed a monarchial state and
proclaimed to detest Marie
Antoinette, they certainly named
a lot of fashion items after the
Royals. Prune de Monsieurwas a
shade of purple worn by the
King's eldest brother and often
used in velvet coats or
gowns. Robe a la Reine was a
beautiful gown with an
underskirt, an overskirt, and a
bodice. Decorated with cords,
tassels, and rosettes, this gown
was named after Marie
Antoinette. A gorge a la
Gabrielle d'Estrees, was a risqué
neckline named after the
mistress of Henri IV.
began to make serious political
statements during the later part of 18th
Century. Ladies who wore the colors red,
white and blue indicated their patriotism.
Their gowns, shoes, and even the plumes on
their hats could be dyed red, white and blue.
Pins with revolutionary slogans and shoe
buckles depicting the Bastille could be
purchased at various shops around Paris.
was a neutral color which could be
worn to indicate loyalty to the
revolutionaries or the the royalists.
Ladies fans also served
a duality in purpose: to
keep the owner cool
while establishing her
Many fans were handpainted with symbols,
slogans or portraits of
Revolutionary or Royal
The French Revolution
helped to blur the lines
between the classes.
Suddenly, pursuits that were
once considered singularly
aristocratic, like fashion,
were open to the masses. In
1799, there were over 1700
dressmaker's shops in Paris.
Any woman with the
inclination and the means
could visit a modiste and be
outfitted like a queen!
Though Marie Antoinette
ceased to exist, her influence
on style could still be felt.
The Empire Gown, popular
during the final years of the
18th century and early years
of the 19th century, was an
evolution of her chemise.
Perhaps it was the attitude
Marie Antoinette adopted and
not the dresses which left
the most lasting mark.
Women were no longer
content to be sheep in the
fashion pasture, and more
likely to be the lone wolf by
taking fashion risks.
Controversial Vigee Lebrun portrait
of Marie Antoinette in her chemise.
Visual Analysis: Using OPTIC, analyze the above
image with no more than one sentence for each
of the items and answer the following question.
What ideas of the Revolution can be seen in the