Saturday, October 11, 2008

Marie Antoinette's Minister of Fashion: Rose Bertin

Marie Antoinette Dress, back view (copyright of Assouline, NY)
I saw the dress today. It was utterly breath-taking! A truly magnificent creation and a work of art. While doing some research on the clothing of this period I found this image of the dress in a book called Marie-Antoinette Style by Adrien Goetz (Assouline, New York, 2005).

Note the beautiful fabric and exquisite embroidery on the train. According to Goetz, Marie Antoinette was known for her great love of fabric. She had a distinct preference for pastel colours (greens, liliacs, and pinks), bouquet motifs and heavy brocades.

The ROM purchased the dress from the Christie's auction house in London, England in 1925. It was attributed to Marie-Antoinette based on the knowledge that it came from the atelier of the Queen's celebrated fashion merchant, Rose Bertin.

The Rachel Zoe of her time, Rose Bertin was a marchande de modes - the equivalent of a modern day stylist. She did not make dresses but completed ensembles and advised on how the wearer could best enhance their dress and coiffure. Apparently her fees were astronomical and Bertin was so well known at court that she was given the moniker of "Minister of Fashion".

Marie-Antoinette often gave away gowns to courtiers at the end of each season and it is believed that this dress made its way to England in such a fashion. It was remodeled around 1870-80 to remove the paniers that would have been worn in 1780s.

Royal Ontario Museum
100 Queen's Park Circle, Toronto