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Marie Antoinette’s Influence on Fashion


When discussing fashion, the name, Marie Antoinette is mentioned frequently. The contribution of this former France queen is so significant to fashion that some fashions are associated with her. There are clothes that are named after Antoinette and that draw memories of her influence not only to fashion and design but also to France revolution. The unique hairstyles worn by Antoinette have developed to a hairstyle that is still being used today. The role of Antoinette in France revolution led to a lot of attention on her. Many artists have focused of her posture and fashions. Various painting made during and after here exists give us memories of Antoinette, Louis XVI and France revolution. A recent film by Sofia Coppola, Marie Antoinette, refreshed the memories of Marie Antoinette. Unlike other feature on Marie Antoinette that focuses on her role in France Revolution, this film celebrates the role played by Marie Antoinette to growth in fashion.

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Unlike what many may be tempted to assume, Marie was not French by birth. Marie Antoinette was born in Austria at Hofburg palace at Vienna in 1755. She was a royal daughter, having been born of a loyal family. Her father, Francis 1 was the emperor of Holy Roman Empire while her mother Maria Theresa was the Austrians Empress. Antoinette can be considered as unfortunate since she was born in the same day as the famous Lisbon earthquake. In her early life, she was interested with music and other artistic works. She lived a relatively private life as compared to other royal daughters and her sibling.

As it was a tradition with royal families, Antoinette was promised for marriage to the son of France king, King Louse XV, with an aim of building a diplomatic alliance between the two royal families. When her time to marry came, Antoinette was married to French dauphin, Louis. After the death of King Louse XV, Antoinette’s husband ascended to power and became King Louse XVI. With louse as the king, Antoinette took the role of queen of France.

As the wife of the king, Marie Antoinette legitimate role was to give the king offspring. However, the younger new king seemed not to be able to perform his role from the start of the marriage. This is demonstrated by the fact that Marie got her first child after eight and a half years in marriage.

This state led to disillusion on her and she started to focus her attention to art and fashion. Actually, Marie Antoinette dif not create her fashions, however, she promoted radical creative fashions through her publicity and personality. Her life as a queen was marked with fabulous fashions, some of which were accused as extravagant. Although her marriage to the king and her way of life was heavily criticized, today Marie Antoinette is known for her contribution to growth of fashion.

The growth to fame of Marie Antoinette was made possible by her marriage to King louse XVI. Marie Antoinette mother, Maria Theresa had prepared her for the marriage without her knowledge. The Austrian Express prepared to marry her daughter to France royal family right from her birth. She groomed her behaviour and appearance to it pleasing to the French at all levels.

The early life of Marie Antoinette was complex. In one view, her royal parents had made substantial innovations in the courts of Austria that made them some of the most progressive in Europe. The innovations in the court allowed the Emperor and Empress to preside over many functions. Although some of court functions remained formal, the royal figures presided over many of the core functions in the court. This role of the royal family allowed some of the people by pass the normal channel of life and rose by the favour of the Empire. The empire and the empress led to relaxation of the formal protocols of the court and allowed people to go to court with lax dresses. Their precedence in the court led to removal of some strict court protocols and some rituals performed in courts.

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Marie Antoinette lived a relatively private life. However, she was involved in some publicity in her parent palace. Her mother was very much interested with establishing a diplomatic alliance through marriage. Marie Antoinette was not the only child; other children could be married away for the same role. This led to Marie Antoinette to be neglected by her mother. This neglect led to Marie Antoinette to describe her relation with her mother as full of awe and fear. In addition, from this relationship, she started to mistrust older and intelligent women. Her relation with her older sister, who was Theresa favourite child led, contributed to poor attitude towards older and intelligent women. The royal parent did not have time for their children. Due to lack of supervision at her early life, Marie Antoinette was not able to develop well intellectually. For example, she was not able to learn and speak her native language until she was twelve years. Although this could have been contributed by lack of care, it was also partially influence by the fact that Austrian courts mostly used French other than German.

Marie Antoinette was promised in marriage to the France royal family in 1768. She was to be married to the French Dauphin Louse-Auguste. This marriage did not come as planed by her mother. Her mother had promised to marry other Marie siblings but a smallpox attack to the royal family changed the state. The small pox attack to the royal family led to the death of the Emperor Francis 1. This led to Joseph, one of the sons to take over as the emperor. In consequence, Empress Theresa was supposed to co-rule with Emperor Joseph, since he was not experienced in ruling. From these changed, the other eligible daughters were married away to other royal families leaving Marie Antoinette as the only eligible candidate to be married to royal family in France. When she was married away, Marie was only fourteen years old and had little experience. In her royal family, Marie had received little education on life due to poor attention given to her by her family and attendants. Poor relation with her mother contributed to her poor education in married and sex life.

The shaping of her outlook started long before she arrived in Versailles in her marriage. Some year before her marriage, she was under a process that would make her better in her new roles in France. Maria Theresa, Marie’s mother had brought experts to their royal home so that they could help in preparing her daughter in her new roles n marriage. The experts were instructed to educate Marie in the way of life royal family in France. In addition, they were to educate her on the way of life in courts in France. From the education, Marie was instructed on how to speak, walk and behave as a woman of Versailles. Since France was the leader in fashion and beauty in Europe, Marie had to learn the sophisticated fashions, beauty and other issues of life in France. From her instructors, Marie was remade to resemble the ideal image of beauty in France. The dress she wore, appearance, movement, mannerism and style of dance were fashioned to resemble those in France.

The appearance of the anticipated bride was very important to the way in which the people would receive her. It also determined the reception that she would receive at Versailles and to the future life with the royal family. At the time, France was ruled by Salic law, which prohibited inheritance by a woman or through a woman. This law was very important to France queen. Most of the France queens, who were mostly foreigners, understood their place in the royal family. Their roles were to bear the king a male child that would be the heir of the king. Failure of the queen to bear a child to the king was a great tragedy both to the king and to her. The community did not accept such a queen and she mostly received rejection from the community.

From the demand made on the queen, Marie Antoinette new that, she had to look French before she could be married to Louse. It was understood that if she did not look French, Louis XV would not agree to the marriage. King Louse, the father to the bridegroom had to look at the bride to be and agree or disagree on whether the bride could be married to his son. However, Marie appearance had been worked on to make her appealing to both the king and the French. The altered constructions of Antoinette were crowned with a commissioned portrait.

The appearance of Marie included a fabulous Parisian hairstyle. Her appearance had also been worked on for three months using orthodontic work that gave her an appearance that would lead to sure acceptance from the king. The portrait that accompanied the bride to be was very important for it showed the improvement made during the preparations. The Ducreux portrait was necessary to the negotiations. This was necessary since the portrait alone only showed the external features of the bride and could not show the character and other necessary element to the negotiation.

Once Marie Antoinette was engaged to Louis XVI, she began to live her life in her own way. She involved herself with her look as she focussed on new clothes, hair and jewels. Marie focuses with her pampering, the hair duos, elegant cloths, fashionable shoes, gambling, sensational foods and alcohol.

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As young queen, Marie Antoinette struggle with effort for etiquette. In Versailles, her mistress, Madame de Noailles, closely watched her. The pressure to the new queen weighed her life. The queen found it difficult to accept that she belonged entirely to the kingdom but not to herself. The belief that a queen belonged entirely to the kingdom led her to be scrutinized by the mistress and other royal family officials. Each element of her life was monitored very closely. The food that she took, her clothing, hair style, appearance and behaviour were closely monitored from the moment that she woke up to the moment that she went to bed. Every gesture from Marie was closely scrutinized to the smallest details. Royal rules that could not be changed were used to monitor every part of her life. The new roles in the kingdom was overwhelming to her life as it denied her most of her private time as she was used before her marriage. The rules in the kingdom also expected the king to ask for permission before her could meet the queen. As a rule, the king only went to dine with the queen but did not sleep in the same bedroom.

The life in palace led Marie to look for way to counter the boredom. She withdrew herself from the roles and surrounded herself with young intriguers whom she considered as her friends. With this arrangement, she was not spied nor followed as before. However, her solitary withdrawal did not go well with the court leading to members of the court distancing from her. In her withdrawal, Marie involved herself with demonstrating her beauty and feminism. She asked designers to design fabulous fashions for her. Her hairstyles were made in a unique manner with high wigs.

Marie Antoinette did not have any skill in painting; however, she was interested with the beautiful painting made by skilful painters. Her interest in painting made her to allow painter to make painting of herself. In consequence, she judged the ability of a painter by their ability to demonstrate her likeness or a likeness of beauty in painting. Several famous painters thus tried their luck by painting her image.

One of the painters that was successful in painting the image of the queen was Vigee-Le Brun. This painter painted her first image of the queen in 1978. The painting that she made was a full-length portrait of Marie in court regalia. The painting, referred to as Marie Antoinette showed the talent of vigee-Le Brun in painting. In the painting, Vigee showed a well-decorated white satin hoop skirt used by Marie. However, the painting feels a bit impersonal by how it is with drawn from the subject. Artist for the France court were expected to follow a certain characteristic on how they portrayed members of the elite. Some of the characteristics were that the elite were showed as sitting in full length, using decorative cloths and their features idealized. In this painting, the painter was able to show the characteristics. However, Marie as shown in this painting does not engage the viewer but looks away with little personality. The image in this painting conformed to the way in which Marie Antoinette was portrayed at the time. The painting shows her not only as a member of the royal family but also as a young woman that was much interested with beauty.

Paintings made for Marie Antoinette were made for particular purpose. For example, the Marie Antoinette and her Children made by Adolph Ulrich Wertmuller in 1985 was made for King of Sweden, Gustav III. However, when Marie saw the painting, she retained the painting. In this painting, there were exaggerations of the Marie beauty. This could be the reason why she declined to send the painting to king of Sweden as intended but retained it. In this painting, Marie is demonstrated as mature and unflattering while in the former painting made by Vigee-Le Brun where she was shown as ethereal and delicate.

Another painting made by Vigee-Le Brun was Marie Antoinette made in 1783. The larger part of the painting shows Marie Antoinette wearing an informal white, muslin dress. The dress showed in the painting was a message about Marie attitude towards the court since informal cloths were not allowed in the court. Normally, members of the court were expected to wear tight-laced corsets that demonstrated their social economical stand in the society. However, the image showing the queen in simple cloths showed changes in the court. The painting also shows Marie wearing a fabulous hair style and make ups that were conventionally not allowed in the courts.

Marie Antoinette also use painting in her defence from the public. She asked painters to paint he image to show her innocence and feminism. The painting made by the famous painter showed exactly what they were expected to show of the queen the painting remain as memory of the fashions used by the queen. As interest in the fashions used by Marie is rising, the paintings are being used as a reference for modern modification of her fashions.

The fashion of hair used by Marie Antoinette was extreme hairstyles and wigs. The hair and wigs were made to be very high while they were crowned with decorations. Some styles used in her hairstyle also incorporated objects such images of a ship. Marie also had a habit of wearing stylish large hats. These hairstyles are demonstrated in current Marie Antoinette hairstyle, although with some modification. The fashions used in the 18th century were very much influenced by France. Marie Antoinette was main figure that changed the trend in fashions to bring new elegance fashions. The elegant fashions build the foundation of fashions used in ceremonies such as weddings today.

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Most of literatures on Marie Antoinette show her in the wrong light. She is shown an extravagant queen whose way of life led to the fall of the France kingdom. Indeed, Marie was not liked by most of the people during her time but has something that she left us: fashion. Paintings on Marie demonstrate how she appreciated style and fashion. The hairstyles used by Marie were high and incorporated with decoration. Big and stylish hats worn by Marie contributed a lot to growth in fashions for hats all over Europe and beyond. Marie fashion and styles are still relevant today. Hairstyles and hats associated with Marie are still being used, although with some modifications. Despite of her death through treason charge, Marie will be remembered by her contribution to fashion.


Weber. “Queen of fashion: what Marie Antoinette wore to the Revolution”. New York: H. Holt, 2006.

Goodman.” Marie-Antoinette: writings on the body of a queen.” New York: Routledge, 2003.

Challamel. ”The history of fashion in France: or, The dress of women from the Gallo-Roman period to the present time.” Low, Marston, Searle, & Rivington, 1882.

Lasky. ”Marie Antoinette, princess of Versailles.” New York: Scholastic Inc., 2000

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