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Queen of Fashion: What Marie Antoinette Wore to the Revolutionby Caroline Weber
Synopses & Reviews
A Washington Post Book World Best Book of the Year
When her carriage first crossed over from her native Austria into France, fourteen-year-old Marie Antoinette was taken out, stripped naked before an entourage, and dressed in French attire to please the court of her new king. For a short while, the young girl played the part.
But by the time she took the throne, everything had changed. In Queen of Fashion, Caroline Weber tells of the radical restyling that transformed the young queen into an icon and shaped the future of the nation. With her riding gear, her white furs, her pouf hairstyles, and her intricate ballroom disguises, Marie Antoinette came to embody--gloriously and tragically--all the extravagance of the monarchy. Caroline Weber is associate professor of French at Barnard College, Columbia University. A specialist of eighteenth-century French literature, culture, and history, she has also taught at the University of Pennsylvania and Yale University. She lives with her husband in New York City. Marie Antoinette was a woman who used clothing to command attention. Caroline Weber tells the story of Marie Antoinette's Revolution in Dress, which helped make, and unmake, her reputation, and examines her wardrobe's impact on French history.
When the fourteen-year-old Austrian arch-duchess first arrived at the Palace of Versailles to become dauphine, rigid tradition governed what she wore, when she wore it, even who put it on her person. Her required wardrobe included twelve-foot-wide hoopskirts and organ-crushing whalebone corsets. But when she became queen, Marie Antoinette established her own royal style to seduce the public and to distract attention from her failure to conceive. Wearing male riding gear, white furs and diamonds, and monumental pouf hairstyles, Marie Antoinette created a national interest in her fashion and style. By leaking news of her clothing preferences to newspapers, she helped create her own finely tuned image. She caused sensations among people unaccustomed to seeing kings' wives dressed untraditionally. But her sensationalist dress eventually crossed the line of tradition. Inspired by Rousseau and her time in the parklike setting of the Petit Trianon, Marie Antoinette began to sport provocative, radical chic chemises and other outfits that incited rumors and scandals, ultimately fueling the Revolution and bringing down the monarchy. Surprisingly, many of these styles would later be adopted by the same revolutionaries who put the Queen to death. In Queen of Fashion, her suspenseful, remarkably well-documented and surprisingly humanizing account of the role style played in Marie Antoinette's fate and legacy, Caroline Weber, who teaches at Barnard College and is an expert on the Terror, adds texture, shimmer and depth to an icon most of us thought we knew already.--Liesl Schillinger, The New York Times Book Review In Queen of Fashion, her suspenseful, remarkably well-documented and surprisingly humanizing account of the role style played in Marie Antoinette's fate and legacy, Caroline Weber, who teaches at Barnard College and is an expert on the Terror, adds texture, shimmer and depth to an icon most of us thought we knew already.--Liesl Schillinger, The New York Times Book Review Caroline Weber's Queen of Fashion examines Marie Antoinette from an arresting angle--her theatrical persona as a fashion innovator. Forced to jockey for position, French courtiers were slaves of fashion, while queens tended to be more modest and reserved. Fashion flash was practiced instead by the kings' semi-official mistresses--a role that Weber demonstrates was borrowed by Marie Antoinette (whose husband had no mistress) and that eventually compromised her reputation and made it easier for scurrilous pamphleteers to caricature her as a whore.--Camille Paglia, The Chronicle of Higher Education
It is always gratifying to discover how much a fashion statement can mean, and Weber's account of the transition from ancient regime to the Republic from a sartorial point of view is a perceptive work of scholarship that helps to explain the transcendent importance of fashion to French culture.--The New Yorker Entertaining and thought-provoking . . . Caroline Weber's book is absorbing, fascinating, a wonderful display of grace and expertise, full of telling details.--Hilary Mantel, The New York Review of Books As Caroline Weber demonstrates with dazzling detail in Queen of Fashion, when it came to Marie's wardrobe, more was better and too much was never enough: Her pearl bracelets, jewel-flecked gowns, ruffled skirts, and fur-trimmed headdresses launched a thousand imitators hoping to borrow even a little of her awe-inspiring glamour. Weber's book is an ode to the art of dressmaking at its most fantastic, a heady, gorgeous glimpse into the past . . . Queen of Fashion is as richly imagined as the gowns it describes . . . It's nothing short of stunning--Suzanne D'Amato, The Washington Post A delightful revelation. The delight is due to author Caroline Weber's intelligence and insight--as if a keen scholar was writing for Vanity Fair. The revelation results from the way the writer imbues a much-reviled and seemingly well-known figure with great empathy . . . Weber dishes up titillating intricacies of French court life (the palace at Versailles was dirty; many nobles had poor hygiene) . . . Readers who fancy excellent writing, power plays and prodigious research will enjoy Queen of Fashion. In humanizing Marie Antoinette, Weber recasts history--a splendid accomplishment. This trek in Marie Antoinette's bejeweled slippers turns the callous and frivolous 'cake queen' into a figure of sympathy.--The Cleveland Plain Dealer A serious work of social history. Marie Antoinette may not have invented the politics of costume, but she understood, although she often miscalculated, the importance of manipulating her public image.--Th
A ground-breaking retelling and reclaiming of Anne Boleyn's life and legacy from a preeminentand#160;cultural thinker puts old questions to rest and raises some surprising new ones.
andldquo;Bordoandrsquo;s sharp reading of Boleyniana and her clear affection for this proud, unusual woman make this an entertaining, provocative read.andrdquo;andmdash;Boston Globe
Part biography, part cultural history, The Creation of Anne Boleyn is a reconstruction of Boleynandrsquo;s life and an illuminating look at her very active afterlife in the popular imagination. With recent novels, movies, and television shows, Anne has been having a twenty-first-century moment, but Bordo shows how many generations of polemicists, biographers, novelists, and filmmakers have imagined and reimagined her: whore, martyr, cautionary tale, proto-andldquo;mean girl,andrdquo; feminist icon, and everything in between. Drawing on scholarship and razor-sharp analysis, Bordo probes the complexities of one of historyandrsquo;s most intriguing women, teasing out what we actually know about Anne Boleyn and what we think we know about her.
andldquo;Riveting . . . Bordoandrsquo;s eloquent study not only recovers Anne Boleyn for our times but also demonstrates the ways in which legends grow out of the faintest wisps of historical fact.andrdquo; andmdash;Book Page
andldquo;Engrossing . . . Ms. Bordo offers a fascinating discussion.andrdquo;andmdash;New York Times
In this dazzling new vision of the ever-fascinating queen, a dynamic young historian reveals how Marie Antoinettes bold attempts to reshape royal fashion changed the future of France.
About the Author
Caroline Weber is an associate professor of French at Barnard College, Columbia University. She lives in New York City.
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