Fashion at Versailles continues to inspire notable contemporary designers. Decrypting its symbolic trends which emerged in the 1780s, around the iconic figure of Marie-Antoinette.
Antoinette-Élisabeth-Marie d’Aguesseau was admired for her strength of mind and good nature, but was nonetheless conscious of the fashions of the time. The Countess is depicted in simple attire, with large creole earrings and a hat. Her hair has not been powdered and is styled according to a fashion which portraitist Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun claimed to have started.
Depicted in 1788, the Queen is seated and leaning on a table covered with a red cloth and upon which there is a vase of flowers and the crown resting on a cushion. She is wearing a manteau of blue velvet with a fur trim along the edge over a skirt in white satin with a caraco, illustrating a version of the robe à la lévite. This was a straight, supple dress with pleats at the back. It had a large shawl collar and was often tied at the waist by a sash. In accordance with the latest fashion, the queen’s hair is styled with a pouf with ostrich plumes.
This portrait, of which Madame Vigée Le Brun delivered the original in 1779, follows the tradition of formal court portraits. The queen, depicted with a halo of light, is dressed in an impressive white satin robe de cour with a panier and a train decorated with fleur-de-lis; the crown of France is beside her.
This print shows the famously lost “Queen’s necklace”, which was comprised of two parts: a choker with festoons and pendants, and a second necklace composed of four dangling parts with two strands of diamonds separated by pearls, ending in four strands of diamonds and pearls inspired by the designs of trimmings.
Until the French Revolution, the formal gown for theatre and attending balls was the robe à paniers. During the reign of Louis XVI the two paniers spread outwards at hip-height, a style known as the panier à coudes. It was also during this period that steel elliptical paniers with hinges were designed, which could be folded. The skirt here is decorated with sable tails, blue satin bands and lace.
Her hairstyle is characteristic of this period, namely a pouf. The princess’s hair is curled on either side of her face and topped with a cloth hat with a ribbon tied in a flat bow. This hairstyle, however, is relatively modest compared with the extravagant pouf à la Belle-Poule or pouf à la Montgolfière.
Louis-Auguste Brun de Versoix depicted the queen riding astride with tight-fitting breeches. This kind of horse-riding breeches, often made of black silk, were often worn under a skirt, although this is not the case in this audacious painting. Brun de Versoix worked at Versailles from 1782 to 1788, where he painted the queen and her inner circle’s walks and hunts with hounds. This informal existence during the final years at Trianon was spent in simplicity and apparent carefreeness.
Depicted in 1782, aged 33 at the time, the queen’s friend is shown from the waist upwards with a rose in her hand. She is wearing a chemise gown made of fine white linen and decorated with a lace frill and a sky-blue ribbon. A straw-yellow belt with blues strips marks her waist, while the black taffeta mantelet with netting along the edge is draped over her left arm. The Italian straw hat, decorated with a black plume and bouquet of wild flowers held in place by a sky-blue ribbon, fits with the countryside lifestyle of the Petit Trianon. The sitter creates an impression of freshness and infinite delicacy.
During the trend of a return to nature, Madame Élisabeth was depicted in 1782 in an attractive jardinière gown with a broad-rimmed straw hat decorated with flowers and ears of corn. She is holding a bunch of freshly-picked flowers in her hands. She is wearing a green bodice laced over a white linen blouse and a plain skirt in red cotton. This gown follows the fashion of a return to nature which was hugely popular in the late 18th century, as demonstrated by the construction of Marie-Antoinette’s farm by Richard Mique between 1783 and 1786.
The Duchess of Bourbon, wife of the Duke of Orléans who was later known as Philippe-Egalité, is depicted sitting down with a gauze turban on her head, wearing a déshabillé made of striped muslin under a light white satin garment wrapped over her chest. Her waist is accentuated by a sky-blue belt. Dressed in the orientale style and leaning on a red velvet cushion, the Duchess has adopted a pose which is melancholic, to say the least.
Catherine Pégard, President of the Palace of Versailles
Laurent Salomé, Director of the museum
Thierry Gausseron, General administrator
Béatrice Sarrazin, General curator, in charge of the paintings department
Yves Carlier, General curator, in charge of the collections management
Vincent Bastien, PhD in Art History, curator assistant, curator of the digital exhibition
Géraldine Bidault, in charge of the photography library and the digitization of the collections, curator of the digital exhibition
Ariane de Lestrange, Head of communication
Paul Chaine, Head of digital service
Maïté Labat et Marie Delamaere, Coordinators of the digital exhibition