Thursday, April 30, 2009

Antique Doll on a Stand

Yesterday while poking around a vintage shop on Queen Street, I came across this antique doll on a stand. Unfortunately, the owner of the store could not tell me anything about its history. The doll is about 2 feet tall and has a beautifully painted face and articulated joints in the arms.

Has anyone ever seen something like this? I'd love to research the doll but don't even know where to begin. Help!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Lace in Contemporary Fashion

Photos from Prada shop in London, England, July 2008

This is the last of my posts about lace. Although I intended to write about lace lappets (a relic of fashionable formal headdresses) I found myself yawing at the thought. If I'm bored by the topic, I'm fairly certain you, my loyal readers, will be too.

While I appreciate intricate workmanship that goes into making lace, especially by hand, I don't care to wear it myself. I agree with Monsieur Dior that lace "easily looks old fashioned". I prefer simple elegant lines in my clothing.

Last summer, when the fall 2008 lines were launched, I was quite surprised to see that Muicia Prada had used lace extensively in her collection. To me, the look was dowdy and old-fashioned. I think only gazelle like creatures with long legs and slim waists could carry off the look.

What do you think? Do any of you like to wear lace?

Monday, April 27, 2009

Book Review: Fashion Show, Paris Style

This book is not what it appears. While it may appear from the cover to be a superficial look at the world of fashion, it contains a wealth of information on the history of French fashion, beginning in the 17th century and up to the present day. Fashion Show: Paris Style was the exhibition catalogue from a 2006 show at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.

The essay "La Mode: Paris and the Development of the French Fashion Industry" by Pamela A. Parmal, curator and head of the Department of Textile and Fashion Arts at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, comprises one third of the book. Well written and beautifully illustrated with engravings, paintings and fashion plates, this is the best part of the book. Parmal writes with precision and elegance as she explores the rich history of the development of Paris as a fashion capital. I have read this essay numerous times and with each rereading I come away with a deeper level of understanding as to why Paris remains the focus of fashion to this day.

"To be in Paris without seeing fashion is to have one's eyes closed."
Marquis de Caraccioli, 1772 (page 13)

The second part of the book is a bridge between fashion history and contemporary fashion designers and consists of an 18-page essay on "Haute Couture and Ready-to-Wear: A Recent History" by Didier Grumbach.

The balance of the book is comprised of profiles of 10 fashion houses and designers, including: Azzedine Alaia, Hussein Chalayan, Chanel, Christian Dior, Maison Martin Margiela, Rochas, Valentino. Viktor & Rolf and Yohji Yamamoto. The profiles are accompanied by lavish colour photographs.

This book is an absolute must-read for all serious students of fashion!!

Title: Fashion Show, Paris Style
(Exhibition Catalogue, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston)
Essays by Pamela A. Parmal and Didier Grumbach
Designer Profiles by Susan Ward and Lauren D. Whitley
Published by: MFA Publications, Boston 2006
Category: Non-fiction, fashion
Number of Pages: 221
Price: $65

Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Lace Sleeve Ruffle

Detail from a painting of The Marquise d'Aigurandes by F. Drouais, 1759

In eighteenth century France, lace sleeve ruffles were a very important fashion accessory. The sleeve ended just above or just below the elbow to show off the lace ruffle to best advantage. The ruffles could be single, double or treble, with each layer cut to enhance the effect of the lace.

Sleeve ruffles evolved during 18th century (as fashion is wont to do):
Early 1700s: Ruffles are slender and shaped, tapering from a deep central motif.
1720s: Double ruffles are popular.
1730: Shaped ruffles were often attached to muslin upper ruffles.
1750s: The weeping ruffle, which consisted of three layers was introduced.
1780s: Ruffles declined in popularity as the preference for simpler, lightweight, informal styles of dress such as the muslin chemise took hold.

Who knew that lace sleeve ruffles could be such an important accessory?

Friday, April 24, 2009

Dior on Lace

Today on my book blog, Blog of a Bookworm, I reviewed The Little Dictionary of Fashion written by Christian Dior and first published in 1954.

This is what Dior wrote about lace:

"Originally beautiful and expensive handwork, now machinery has made it possible for every woman to have it. I love lace for evening dresses...for a cocktail frock...or for a blouse. I am not so keen on it for trimmings -- it easily looks old fashioned. A little lace collar can look charming on a black frock but it must be chosen with discretion -- you don't want to look like Little Lord Fauntleroy! Under a black suit or with a full skirt for parties, a lace blouse can look charming. But being a rich and elaborate material it should only be used for very simple styles. When a fabric is fancy in itself it needs simplicity of design to show it to its best advantage. It is the same with an evening dress -- choose a style of great simplicity; no complicated drapes or complicated cutting." (page 71)

Book Review: The Little Dictionary of Fashion by Christian Dior

Title: The Little Dictionary of Fashion, A guide to dress sense for every woman
Author: Christian Dior
Category: Non-ficiton, fashion
Publisher: Abrams, New York, 2007 (First published in 1954 by Cassell & Co)
Price: US$19.95, Canada $21.95 (hardcover)
Number of Pages: 126

What it is about:
Christian Dior was not only a leading couturier, he was also a writer. He wrote several books, including this one. In his introduction, he says "Much has been written about Fashion, in all its aspects, but I do not think any couturier has ever before attempted to compile a dictionary on the subject".

In The Little Dictionary of Fashion, Dior compiles an alphabetical guide/dictionary to dressing with style and elegance. Beginning with "Accent" (that little personal touch which makes a dress your own dress) and ending with "Zest" (that is the secret of beauty and fashion, too), the book includes tips on style.

Dior wrote the book so that it would be "possible for a woman to be elegant without spending very much money on her clothes, if she follows the basic rules of Fashion and is careful to choose the clothes that suit her personality. Simplicity, good taste, and grooming are the three fundamentals of good dressing and these do not cost money."

Why I Chose this book:
After hearing Dr. Alexandra Palmer (Senior Curator of Fashion and Textiles at the Royal Ontario Museum) talk about her upcoming book on Dior, I decided to read everything I could about this leading couturier.

My Favourite Passage:
"Elegance: This is a word that would need a book to give it is right definition! I will only say now that elegance must be the right combination of distinction, naturalness, care, and simplicity. Outside this, believe me, there is no elegance. Only pretension.
Elegance is not dependent on money. Of the four things I have mentioned above, the most important of all is care. Care in choosing your clothes. Care in wearing them. Care in keeping them." (page 37)

This is an amusing book for a serious fashion history buff like me. Although I was charmed, I would guess that most people would find this book out of date and somewhat dull.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Establishment of a Lace Making Industry in France

Dress c 1690 (Note the profusion of lace trimmings and the lace lappets).

Lace is said to have originated in Venice in the 1300s. Over time, centres of lace-making developed in other parts of Europe including Flanders, Dresden and France.

Designs of early bobbin and needle laces have a strong resemblance to one another due to the creation of pattern books, which were disseminated throughout Europe. The earliest lace pattern book is believed to be from 1524.

Making lace was a labour-intensive process. For example, a pair of men's ruffles made of Valenciennes lace (a type of bobbin lace with the motifs outlined by small pin holes) might take "10 months to produce, based on a 15-hour working day". Not surprisingly, lace was extremely costly.

As the dictates of fashion in the seventeenth century proscribed lace cuffs, ruffs, collars, and trimmings, the demand for Venitian lace (as well as lace from Flanders) resulted in a huge amount of capital flowing out of France. Louis XIV's brilliant finance minister, Colbert, authorized significant investment in a French lace-making industry in Normandy. This site may have been chosen because there was already the beginnings of a lace and braid industry in the Duchy of Alencon.

In 1665, a Royal Ordinance established the manufacture of Points de France with an exclusive right to supply the French Court.

In 1667, the sale or wearing of Venetian lace or any other foreign lace was prohibited in France.

This prohibition was taken very seriously and foreign laces were publicly burned. In 1670, R. Montague said: "They are so set in this country upon maintaining their own manufactures that only two days ago there was publicly burnt by the hangman a hundred thousand crowns worth of point de Venise, Flanders lace and other commodities that are forbid."

Initially, the French copied Italian lace designs. With the high level of Royal patronage, the centres of Alencon and Argentan eventually developed their own styles and characteristics. Alencon often has a horsehair stiffening for the picots (loops) which meant that it was more often used in winter when humidity swelled and stiffened the horsehair. Argentella uses hexagonal mesh, each side of which is worked with buttonhole stitches.

After the French Revolution and the banning of ruffles in 1794, production fell dramatically. Alencon lace continued to be produced in the 19th century.

In May, I will be visiting Normandy, specifically the the Musée Baron Gérard which has an impressive collection of the local lace in both bobbin and needle technique dating back to the 18th century. The collection has household items (tablecloths, doilies, pillows, curtains, bedspreads) as well as garments (infant Christening gowns, wedding veils, dresses and blouses).

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Lace in 18th Century France

1760 Robe a la francaise with engageantes, quilles, and lappets of lace

In the 18th century, lace was used extensively to enhance the dress of both men and women. For women, lace could adorn the fronts of their robes and gowns (engageantes), the sleeve ruffles (quilles) and lappets on the headdress. Decorative lace aprons were also very popular.

Lace was created using delicate handwork techniques involving either a needle (needle lace or needlepoint lace) or bobbins (bobbin lace).

Needle or needlepoint lace involved a single needle and thread. In its earliest form, lace was created using a piece of fine linen or silk where the threads of the fabric were cut or pulled to form holes and shapes. Those threads were then secured with tiny stitches or embroidered into patterns.

As lace-making developed, another form of needlepoint lace was created whereby the lacemaker pinned a groundwork of linen threads to a parchment strip and the pattern was built up on them with buttonhole stitches. This allowed the lacemaker to break free of a rectilinear pattern and permitted the creation of curved shapes (often found in 17th century laces).

Part of a French needle-lace collar associated with Marie Antoinette, 1780s

Bobbin lace was created by weaving linen threads separated by weighted bobbins around pins stuck in a pattern on a circular pillow. The pins were removed as each section developed and reinserted into the pattern. Between 80 and 200 bobbins had to be manipulated to create the lace patterns, making it the purview of professionals, while needle lace was considered appropriate for the gentlewoman.

Brussels bobbin lace cravat possibly made for Louis XIV

This post was inspired by an inquiry by Melinda who is a student at Missouri Southern State University. To that end, I'll writing about lace all this week. Lappets are worthy of their own post!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Book Review: The Beautiful Fall: Fashion, Genius, and Glorious Excess in 1970s Paris

Title: The Beautiful Fall, Fashion, Genius, and Glorious Excess in 1970s Paris
Author: Alicia Drake
Publisher: Back Bay Books, New York, 2006
Category: Non-fiction, Fashion, History
Number of Pages: 439
Price: US$14.99, Canada $17.25 (Paperback)

What it is about:
The lives and careers of Karl Lagerfeld and Yves Saint Laurent were intertwined from the moment they both stood on the stage to receive their awards in the 1954 International Wool Secretariat fashion design competition. Yves Saint Laurent, aged eighteen and recently arrived from Algeria, was the winner of first and third prizes in the dress category. Karl Lagerfeld, aged twenty-one from Hamburg, was winner of the coat category. From that point, Laurent and Lagerfeld were friends and rivals as their careers and lives evolved in the heady world of Parisian haute couture.

The story of the rivalry between these two iconic designers is written chronologically and the book spans the period 1954-1989. The pawn in the game between the two men was the bon vivant Jacques de Bascher. In the course of his short life, Jacques traveled between the two rival fashion camps, wrecking havoc in his wake with his affair with Yves Saint Laurent and troubled relationship with Lagerfeld.

Why I Chose this book:
It was recommended as an excellent chronicle of the 1970s fashion scene in Paris.

Favourite Passage:
"It is a grim moment for the designer when he or she finds himself or herself totally out of fashion, left behind, out of synch as time moves on. A new generation is born and the designer's vision or creative expression no longer describes or evokes the time around them. This is a creative pain unique to fashion. Of course there are trends and moods in every art form, the recent dominance of conceptual art being an obvious example. But a painting, even if it is not fashionable, can still possess its own intrinsic artistic and creative merit. Whereas one of the defining qualities of fashion is that it should describe its epoch and the desires of that moment." (page 291)

This title of this book is a misnomer because it doesn't even hint at the scandal contained within the pages. The author has constructed shocking portraits of two of the 20th centuries greatest designers.

I was stunned by the story as it unfolded. There was so much genius, so much debauchery and so much animosity. Even though I have written extensively about Yves Saint Laurent on my fashion blog, I had little knowledge of his personal life until I read this book.

I was horrified by the degree to which Lagerfeld has manipulated and refashioned his life story to suit his purposes. The fact that Lagerfeld filed a legal writ against the author in 2006 claiming invasion of privacy, which was denied by the court, is proof of the explosive nature of the material contained in this book. No doubt the author's meticulous research and documentation (extensive footnotes and interview lists are included in the book) served her well in court.

The only weak part of the book are the title and the cover image. The rest of it is sizzling hot!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Paper Dresses and Accessories

Zara, Paper Dress and Accessories, Mixed Media, mounted in 8x10 shadow box
copyright Ingrid Mida 2009

Gabriela, Paper Dress and Accessories, Mixed Media, mounted in 8x10 shadow box,
copyright Ingrid Mida 2009

Daisy, Paper Dress and Accessories, Mixed Media, mounted in 8x10 shadow box,
copyright Ingrid Mida 2009

These whimsical miniature paper dresses and accessories are meant to evoke a feeling of nostalgia for the 1960s when paper dresses were all the rage. I hope they bring some sunshine and delight to your day.

If you'd like to read more about paper dresses and their place in fashion history, please see my posts from February 8, 2009 and February 9, 2009.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

A Peek into my Studio

Inspiration: "a divine influence directly and immediately exerted upon the mind or soul of a man"/(woman) Webster's Enclyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary

Although books and films are sources of inspiration for my artwork, I also am constantly ripping out magazine clippings of pretty things. Sometimes it is a line, a colour, or a mood that I like. I try not to think about it, I just rip..... Many of these clippings sit in piles on my desk at home, on the table in my studio, in files, in art journals, stuffed into drawers.... Only a fraction of them end up on this mood board.

For Gabriela Delworth's Mood Party today, I spent a bit of time tidying up my board to make it presentable. After looking at my photo, I think I might have ADD!!! Audrey Hepburn, Egon Schiele's wife, the Mondrian dress by YSL, the red dresses and a corset by Valentino, an outfit by Balenciaga and Jean Paul Gaultier, a pink couch, a French playing card, a peacock feather -- I have no idea what they share, except beauty and elegant lines. I suppose that is the essence of my work, of me....

Friday, April 17, 2009


Gabriela Delworth is hosting a mood party on her blog on Saturday, April 18th and invited me to join her as she celebrates the powers of inspiration behind this creative tool.

Being somewhat wrapped up in this week's deadlines, I wasn't sure whether I could participate. And truth be told, I have been somewhat disorganized in how I handle all the clippings I've ripped out of fashion, design and art magazines. Sometimes I glue them into an art journal. Sometimes they pile up around my computer. And sometimes I hang them up on my inspiration or mood board. But with a little bit of effort, my mood board was presentable enough to take some photographs for Gabriela's party.

Here is a peek at a corner of my mood board today:

Come back tomorrow and I'll show you the whole thing!

Thursday, April 16, 2009


This gorgeous red gown (I love red!!!) is one of several Dior gowns in the Royal Ontario Museum collection. Dr. Alexandra Palmer, Senior Curator of the ROM's Textiles and Costumes, is currently writing a book on Dior which will be published under the V&A label in October 2009.

Recently, I had the privilege of listening to Dr. Palmer talk about her research for the book which covers the post-war period until his death 1947-1957. She alluded to the possibility of a Dior exhibition at the Royal Ontario Museum in the future. (Wouldn't that be divine?) With 35 pieces in the ROM collection storage facilities, they probably could put together a fine show with what they already have. Nevertheless Dr. Palmer said they were happy to accept donations of Dior, if anyone has any at the back of their closet.

I am currently reading three books on Dior including:
"The Little Dictionary of Fashion" by Christian Dior (Abrams 1954)
"Dior on Dior" by Christian Dior (1957)
"Christian Dior" by Farid Chenoune and Laziz Hamani (Assouline 2007)

I cannot get enough Dior and look forward to Dr. Palmer's book which is based on "new research" and is "absorbing and beautifully illustrated".

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Fragile Fashion

Eugenia, copyright Ingrid Mida 2009
Mixed Media, 5x7 mounted

Amelie, copyright Ingrid Mida 2009
Mixed media, 5x7 mounted

Henrietta, copyright Ingrid Mida 2009
Mixed Media, 5x7 mounted

These are samples of some of my latest work now on display at Launch Gallery in Toronto. These tiny paper creations (approximately 2-3 inches mounted on a toile de jouey fabric background inside a shadow box) are made of paper, ribbon and beads.

By creating miniature paper clothing, the paper becomes a manifestation of the fragility of fashion and its place in history. In working at this small scale, I am emphasizing the precious quality of these beautiful historical garments.

Launch Gallery
410 Adelaide Street West (one block west of Spadina on north side), Toronto

Opening reception April 16th, 2009 7-10 pm
Hours: 12-5 pm Friday, April 17th to Sunday, April 26th, 2009
Artist in attendance Saturday, April 18th 12-3 pm

Monday, April 13, 2009

Book Review: Style & Splendour, The Wardrobe of Queen Maud of Norway

Title: Style & Splendour, The Wardrobe of Queen Maud of Norway 1896-1938
Authors: Anne Kjellberg and Susan North
Publisher: V&A Publications, London, 2005
Category: Non-fiction, fashion
Number of Pages: 112
Price: 30 English pounds

This beautiful book accompanied the exhibition of Queen Maud of Norway's costumes at the Victoria and Albert Museum in 2005.

This is a magnificent book with spectacular full-page colour photographs of Queen Maud's wardrobe from 1896-1938. The book is still available on the Victoria and Albert Museum's website and will be eye-candy for fans of historical and royal fashion.

The Wardrobe of Queen Maud of Norway

While researching my last post about royal wardrobes, I remembered another beautiful exhibition of royal costumes and clothing that I saw at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London in 2005. This spectacular exhibition was called "Style and Splendour" and featured the wardrobe of the stylish Queen Maud of Norway (seated on left of photo).

Maud Charlotte Mary Victoria was the youngest daughter of Edward, Prince of Wales and Alexandra, Princess of Wales, and granddaughter of Queen Victoria. Born in England in 1869, Princess Maud took after her fashionable mother with her slender figure and refined sense of style.

Married to Prince Carl of Denmark in 1896, Princess Maud left England to her new home in Copenhagen. After a vote in Norway in favour of a monarchy rather than a republic in 1905, her husband Danish Prince Carl was chosen to be King of Norway and Princess Maud became a Queen in 1906.

Maud lived through a period of tremendous change in fashionable dress for women, from the elaborate and decorative clothing of the Victorian age through to the light, simple dresses of the 1920s. The fact that her clothing was preserved in the Royal Dress Collection of Norway allowed a rare opportunity to see those changes in dress in person, instead of only by way of photos.

Given my penchant for historical fashion, my favourite piece was this fancy dress costume which Maud wore to the Duchess of Devonshire's Ball in 1897. This costume ball specified that the 700 guests wear allegorical or historical costumes dating to before 1815.

This pink satin dress was appliqued with silk and silver thread in a lattice pattern and adorned with silver sequins and glass beads. the lace collar and cuffs were machine made. The dress was made by Morin-Blossier in imitation of late sixteenth-century dress from the court of Marguerite.

Pink was one of Maud's favourite colours and there are many pink dresses in the collection, although she enjoyed jewel tones as well. These two evening gowns are dated from 1910-1913.

If you happen to be going to Norway, the National Museum of Art/Museum of Decorative Arts and Design in Oslo has an ongoing exhibition (until December 31, 2010) of garments belonging to Queen Maud from the Royal Dress Collection.

Otherwise, there is a beautiful book by Anne Kjellberg and Susan North called "Style & Splendour: The Wardrobe of Queen Maud of Norway". The book is available from the Victoria and Albert Museum website.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Court Dress in Europe 1650-1800

Many of the garments that are presently on display in the Court Pomp & Royal Ceremonies exhibition at Versailles have been loaned by museums in other countries, including Sweden and Denmark. While at first it might seem that the French Revolution was the reason that few garments from the 18th century French court have survived, that is not actually the whole story....

In the 18th century, it was the custom of the French court that the kings and queens would retire their wardrobe after one year of wear. Those garments would be given to the ladies and gentlemen who served them at court. The courtiers could resell them, refashion them for their own purpose or dispose of them as they wished. Most of the refashioned garments ended up being sold in Parisian second-hand clothing shops.

That is the process by which the "Marie Antoinette dress" owned by the Royal Ontario Museum was refashioned in the 19th century and ended up in England. This dress attributed to the atelier of Rose Bertin (shown in the photo below) was on display at the ROM in the fall and is currently included in the Versailles exhibition Court Pomp & Royal Ceremony.

While other European royal courts followed French fashion, they did not all follow the custom of retiring their wardrobes.In particular, King Gustavus Adophus (1611-1632) decided to preserve royal garments worn during key moments of his reign, in particular two of the outfits worn during the war in Poland. This established a custom of preservation which was adopted by other Swedish kings. In other royal courts like Denmark and Poland, royal garments, especially those worn during great events during a reign, were also systematically preserved. It is many of those garments which are currently on display at Versailles.

Court Pomp & Royal Ceremonies
Court Dress in Europe 1650-1800
31 March to 28 June 2009
Chateau de Versailles

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Book Review: Marie Antoinette and the Last Garden at Versailles

Title: Marie-Antoinette and the Last Garden at Versailles
Author: Christian Duvernois
Photographer: Francois Halard
Publisher: Rizzoli, 2008
Category: Non-fiction
Price: US$65, Canada $75

After Marie Antoinette received the Trianon as a gift from her husband the King, she immediately undertook to redesign the grounds and pavilions. Gardening was in her blood; both her imperial parents, Marie Therese and Francis I, had been enthusiastic gardeners. As well, they had allowed their children to roam the grounds of the imperial residences, especially the castle of Laxenberg, a favourite royal retreat. Knowing this, it is no surprise that Marie Antoinette approached the redesign of the gardens of Versailles with passion and became her private domain.

In my two prior visits to Versailles, I had not given much attention to the grounds, never realizing what I was missing (until I reviewed Chinoiseries). And then I found another beautiful book about the gardens: Marie-Antoinette and the Last Garden at Versailles.

The photo above is from the cover (I could find no identifying info for this photo but I am guessing it is of the pavilion Belvedere). Inside are many sumptuous images of the gardens of Versailles taken by renowned Vogue photographer Francois Halard.

This is not a coffee table book of pretty photos. The author Christian Duvernois departs from the traditional interpretations of Marie Antoinette's reign as a notorious spend-thrift and focuses instead on her passion for the natural world, including analysis of her design and management of the gardens.

This book is exquisite. It is full of information about the gardens that I've not read elsewhere (and that rarely happen when it comes to anything about Marie Antoinette). The images are hauntingly beautiful, subtly capturing the ravages of time and the emptiness of spaces that would normally be full of people.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Court Costume Exhibition at Versailles

Wedding dress of Edwige Elisabeth Charlotte de Holstein-Gottorp (wife of Prince Karl of Sweden and sister-in-law of King Gustave III of Sweden), 1774

Court costume was designed to evoke the illusion of grandeur, wealth and power. In the 17th and 18th centuries, luxurious, expensive and ostentatious clothing was reserved for those at the top of the social hierarchy. Monarchs dressed for effect in textiles with gold and silver threads, laces, embroidery, and jewels to create a luxurious and lavish symbol of prosperity and power.

This week a magnificent exhibition opened at Chateau de Versailles called Court Pomp and Royal Ceremonies, Court Dress in Europe 1650-1800. This show, sponsored by Chanel, traces the history of court costume in Europe from 1650-1800 and includes 200 works (costumes, jewelery, and paintings) on loan from private collectors as well as museums like the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Pitti Palace, the Louvre, and the Royal Ontario Museum.

The exhibition encompasses seven rooms:
1. French royal costume
2. The coronation and the royal orders
3. Weddings and State ceremonies
4. The grand habit
5. Religious pomp
6. The king's day
7. Fashion and court costume

If you are a faithful reader of my blog, you will recall my many posts regarding the Marie Antoinette dress which was displayed at the Royal Ontario Museum in the fall of 2008. This dress was loaned to the Versailles exhibition and is on display in Room 7: Fashion and Court Dress. In the Versailles exhibition guide, this dress is attributed to Rose Bertin, marchandes des mode to Marie Antoinette but there is no assertion that the dress was worn by Marie Antoinette. The guide notes that the "front of the dress was modified" , "the skirt narrowed" and can "therefore no longer be presented as it was worn at the time".

It is indeed a rare treat to see garments from the 17th and 18th century on display. I can hardly wait to see this exhibition in May. Since I've already seen the dress attributed to Rose Bertin belonging to the ROM, I will be looking for:
1. The grand habit worn for the coronation of Sophie Madeleine on May 29, 1772
2. Doll's grand costume of whalebone stays, skirt, skit tail (1769-1775)
3. The wedding dress of Edwige Elizabeth Charlotte de Holstein-Gottorp (1774) in photo above

Court Pomp and Royal Ceremonies
Court Dress in Europe 1650-1800
March 31 to June 28, 2009
Chateau de Versailles

Friday, April 3, 2009

Book Review: Chinoiseries

Being an artist and a book lover, I have amassed a huge collection of beautiful books that I use for inspiration. This book called "Chinoiseries" is a reprint of a limited-edition collector's volume of forty-two stunning watercolour illustrations of "fantastical pavilions, picturesque pagodas and luxurious tents" in the Chinoiserie style of Europe.

This style was popular during the 18th century. Included in the book are several pagodas, pavilions and other structures which were commissioned by Marie Antoinette for Versailles including:

Pavilion of Diana for Trianon 1774 (unbuilt)
Chinese House for Trianon 1774 (unbuilt)
Chinese Rain Shelter for Trianon 1774 (unbuilt)
Carrousel at Trianon 1776 (destroyed)
Pagoda for Trianon 1777 (unbuilt)

Each illustration is rendered in exquisite detail in architectural elevation. Information is included on the person who commissioned it, the architect, the year it was designed, whether or not it was built, what happened to it after construction, and other tidbits of information.

The cover illustration on this stunning book is of a Chinese Tent for the Trianon commissioned by Marie Antoinette in 1780. From the atelier of architect Jean-Baptiste Pillement, this simple wooden structure was covered with canvas painted with birds and florals and decorated with ostrich plumes. The project was never built.

In the words of the authors, "Chinoiserie is Western architecture's equivalent of plain, simple joy." If you can find this stunning book, the images of these whimsical structures will, without a doubt, make you smile.

Title: Chinoiseries
Authors: Bernd H. Dams and Andrew Zega
Publisher: Rizzoli, New York 2008
Category: Non-fiction, architecture
Price: US$60, Canada $77

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Quiz: Do you have Marie Antoinette Style?

Marie Antoinette inspired dress by John Galliano for Dior (2000 Masquerade and Bondage Collection)

Of the 12o people who participated in my survey, 85% percent selected Marie Antoinette as their favourite fashion icon. She is, without a doubt, the Queen of Fashion!!!

Do you have Marie Antoinette style? Take my quiz and find out. Answer yes or no to the following 10 questions:

1. Do you covet all things sparkly, especially diamonds and precious jewels?

2. When you walk in the room, do all heads turn your way to see what hot new look you are wearing?

3. Do you have a preference for pastel hues, especially sea-greens, lilacs, pale pinks and/or bouquet motifs?

4. Has your husband/partner ever covered your debts from clothing and/or jewelery purchases?

5. Do you have perfect posture?

6. Do people describe you as having grace?

7. Do friends copy your outfits?

8. Do you change clothes several times a day?

9. Do you like "big" hair?

10. Do you love ribbons, floral motifs and/or ostrich feathers?

Count up how many questions you answered YES.

9 or 10/10 You are a reincarnation of Marie Antoinette!!!

7 or 8/10 You have Marie Antoinette style!

5 or 6/10 You admire Marie Antoinette, but are grounded in reality.

Less than 5 Time for a style make-over, honey. Live a little!

Okay, I'm just kidding. But wasn't that fun?

P.S. Don't forget to drop by Cupid's Charm to see photos of some of Marie Antoinette's magnificent jewelery!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Marie Antoinette and Jewelery

It is Marie Antoinette Week on one of my favourite blogs Cupid's Charm. Joy is having giveaways on her blog so don't forget to stop by. Joy also invited me to extend the party to my blog and so I am dedicating this week's posts to all things Marie Antoinette.

On Marie Antoinette's wedding day, she was presented with a richly embroidered crimson velvet coffer of jewels nearly as tall as she was and three times as wide. Inside, there was a magnificent selection of jewels reserved for the Dauphine of France. Presented with a tiny golden key by Louis XV, she unlocked it to discover an array of necklaces, earrings, bracelets, buttons, fans and snuffboxes made of diamonds and other precious gemstones. The collection included a spectacular necklace of priceless oversized pearls worn by Louis XIV's mother Anne of Austria. Along with the set of white diamonds she had from her trousseau, Marie Antoinette "shone the brightest" among a sea of courtiers "clad in brocades, silk, and other gorgeous robes and flashing with jewels".

Her appetite for jewelery was legendary and she later found herself involved in a messy scandal known as the Diamond Necklace Affair (a good subject for another day's post).

Being something of a jewelery junkie myself, I can totally relate to her passion for all things sparkly!!! I recently indulged myself in some Marie Antoinette inspired jewelery purchases.

Check out the whimsical Marie Antoinette charm bracelet made by Joy from Cupid's Charm (which I intend to wear while in Versailles in May). As well, I found these vintage costume pieces in an antique store. It was the end of the month and the dealer was motivated to move them out so I got them for a song!!! Lucky me!!! All I need is a fancy dress party and some champagne and I'm set. Who wants to join me?