Monday, 18 March 2013

Dressing the Queen

In a court that was famous for being the most fashionable in Europe, the Queen's wardrobe was of the utmost importance. Marie Antoinette had a great love of fashion and she often spent more than her allowances on dresses, shoes, perfumes etc. But - of course - there was a strict etiquette that had to be followed even when it came to the Queen and her dresses.

Marie Antoinette started every morning with being presented with the gazette des atours which was a book with fabric samples. She would then place a pin on the fabric she wanted to wear, the book would be sent to her wardrobe and the chosen dress would be carried to her bedchamber in baskets of velvet taffeta in a dark green. When the Queen's bedroom was renovated several pins were found that had slipped down between the floorboards during one of these ceremonies.

The court etiquette dictated that the Queen must change dress three times a day. The first dress would be for going to Mass and would often be made of silk or velvet. She would then change into a "simple" gown made of muslin or cotton and she would wear this for the rest of the day. Then, for the evening, the Queen changed into the famous extremely elaborate gowns and she would often attend balls or operas. You can almost imagine a room filled with ladies wearing huge dresses decorated with gemstones...

Furthermore the Queen could only wear a dress once - and then she had to pass it on for a lady-in-waiting or a friend. Marie Antoinette's wardrobe allowances meant that the Queen could buy thirty-six dresses for winter and another thirty-six dresses for summer. Three entire rooms at Versailles stored the many - and huge! - dresses of this last Queen of France and it was open for the public as an exhibition.
But sadly the revolution meant that many of Marie Antoinette's dresses were either destroyed or reused.


  1. if "the Queen could only wear a dress once" and "could buy thirty-six dresses for winter and another thirty-six dresses for summer", what did she wear for the other 293 days of the year?!

  2. @skindustrial68, the Queen would indeed only be permitted to wear a dress once but remember that a dress was made of several pieces and as such could be combined with other pieces to make a new dress. Her ladies-in-waiting expected to receive some of the dress but rarely the entire dress