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Queen Of Fashion: What Marie Antoinette Wore To The Revolution
(Caroline Weber)

One of the most celebrated?and doomed?women in history, Marie Antoinette has come to symbolize style, frivolity, extravagance, and callousness. But what lay behind her frivolous conduct and her fashion whims? Who was this woman who continues to capture our imaginations, not only as a symbol of style and decadence, but also of tragedy? Fashion historian Caroline Weber paints a picture not of the air-headed, heartless fashion addict so often depicted in popular history, but of a woman struggling to establish and maintain her precarious political position in a hostile foreign court.Arriving at the court of Versailles at the age of 14 to marry the future Louis XVI, Austrian princess Maria Antonia faced a political environment full of competing factions, only a fraction of whom favoured this marriage. Since her primary responsibility was to produce heirs for the kingdom, her position was made even more untenable by her husband?s sexual dysfunction?a problem that persisted for several years and prevented the couple from having children until 1781, 11 years after their marriage. With few allies, many enemies, and a shy, inattentive husband, young Marie used one of the few tools available to her?style?to establish a unique persona for herself and solidify her place in the Versailles social order.A carefully researched work of historical fact, not fiction, and a compelling read from start to finish, Queen of Fashion charts Marie Antoinette?s style phases from her early days as the young Dauphine, through her heady days as Queen, to her fall from grace and final tragic ending. Fashion takes centre stage here, but always intricately interwoven with the politics of the French court and the rising unrest in the rest of the country. Always, political forces compel Marie?s style choices; and always, Marie?s style choices generate political consequences. Often accused nowadays of fashion extremism, Marie was also criticized in her day for dressing simply: discarding the corset for a time, wearing men?s riding clothes and riding astride like a man, and dressing in plain white cotton muslin at her country estate. When she adopted more formal attire for her role at Versailles, she was faulted for excess. Unfortunately, Marie did not wish to adopt the more conventional costuming of the day because she needed to set herself apart as a figure to be reckoned with. In this, she succeeded, even contriving, despite illness and maltreatment, to make a fashion statement on her final ride to the guillotine.

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