Thursday, February 12, 2009

Marie Antoinette's Mother Warned her about Extremes in Fashion

In at least three separate letters, the Empress Maria Theresa reprimanded her daughter Marie Antoinette for her extravagant and extreme sartorial selections.

Maria Theresa to Marie Antoinette
Vienna 5 March 1775
"In the same way I can't prevent myself raising a point which many gazettes repeat all too often: it is the coiffure you use; they say that from the forehead up it is thirty-six inches high, and with so many feathers and ribbons to adorn it! You know that I always have thought that fashion should be followed moderately, without ever exaggerating them. A young and pretty Queen, who is full of attractions, doesn't need all these follies; on the contrary, the simplicity of your adornment will show you off better and is more suitable to the rank of a Queen." (page 159)

Maria Theresa to Marie Antoinette
Vienna 30 May 1776

"Madame my dear daughter, ....You have forgotten the drawings showing how you dress; we are being shown outfits so exaggerated that I cannot believe that the Queen, my daughter, should wear the like. Please also add how women of a certain age are arranged; it is not that I want to be critical, but I cannot believe that reasonable people dress as we are told over here, and I want to defend the French nation and only attribute these childish displays to the young, with whom one must be indulgent." (page 190)

Maria Theresa to Marie Antoinette
Schonbrunn, 30 June 1776

"Madame my dear daughter....I am delighted that you go on with your reading and your music; they are necessary resources, especially so for you. I must say that the drawings of the French outfits are very extraordinary; I can't believe that they are actually worn, and even less at Court." (page 194)

Source: Secrets of Marie Antoinette, by Olivier Bernier, Doubleday & Co, 1985