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Queen of Fashion: What Marie Antoinette Wore to the Revolution

4.13  ·  Rating details ·  2,716 Ratings  ·  220 Reviews
In this dazzling new vision of the ever-fascinating queen, a dynamic young historian reveals how Marie Antoinette's bold attempts to reshape royal fashion changed the future of France

Marie Antoinette has always stood as an icon of supreme style, but surprisingly none of her biographers have paid sustained attention to her clothes. In Queen of Fashion, Caroline Web
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Hardcover, 412 pages
Published September 19th 2006 by Henry Holt and Co.
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Luci
Dec 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This book should definitely be read after one reads Antonia Fraser's "Marie Antoniette: A Journey." This is not a definitive biography, nor does it claim to be. However, it looks at the ill-fated queen in a unique and textual way- through the clothing choices she made at every juncture in her tenure as Dauphine, and later Queen of France.

Weber analyzes everything from color to fabric, hair to corsets in this impeccably researched work. She makes the reader conscious of the UNCONSCIOUS messages w
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Emily
Nov 08, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2008
The title of Queen of Fashion: What Marie Antoinette Wore to the Revolution is somewhat misleading, because this book isn't about fashion in the narrow sense of clothing. There are descriptions of Marie Antoinette's luxurious outfits and of the styles she promoted (like the Rousseauesque country muslin dress, the gaulle). But the author discusses a whole range of courtly styles and habits and shows how Marie Antoinette attempted to assert her individuality in this constrained sphere that was all ...more
Rachel Smalter Hall
From the masculine equestrian outfits that made her Louis XV's favorite, to the regal counterrevolutionary gowns in green and violet that exposed her as an enemy of the state, Marie Antoinette's fashion statements were always unfailingly both fabulous and controversial. In Queen of Fashion, Caroline Weber paints a comprehensive portrait of the fashion icon, from Dauphine until death. Weber is not only a brainy Barnard scholar, but also a fashion connoisseur herself, and her fastidiously research ...more
Heather
Aug 06, 2012 rated it really liked it
While this book is not perfect, it points out that clothing is a method of communication which greatly affects human interaction. Even today, in a less charged atmosphere than the French court, what we choose to wear (or not wear) says a lot about our social, economic, political and religious affiliations.

I feel that a lot of the book was a stretch--the brand-new Dauphine notices a tapestry of Jason and Medea, calls it a "bad omen" for a wedding, and we assume that it plants in her mind the ide
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Katie
Feb 08, 2011 rated it really liked it
What makes a successful queen? Where is the line between majesty and excess? And how did Marie Antoinette go from being a beautiful and loved dauphine to an object of intense popular hatred? Queen of Fashion doesn't answer any of these questions, but it provides substantial food for thought on all of them. Mostly very satisfying, except for the dearth of illustrations. Her clothing didn't survive the Revolution, so I don't expect photos, but the fashions of the time were illustrated by dressmake ...more
Kathryn
Feb 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Don't be put off by the seemingly frivolous title: this is a superb, academic (almost 100 pages of endnotes and a long bibliography) yet highly readable account of Marie Antoinette and her life at Versailles, full of insight and fascinating detail. I loved it and am now reading it for the second time.
Scarlettfish
Dec 08, 2007 rated it it was amazing
I don't think anything could get better than this. An analysis of Marie Antoinette's life through her spectacular clothing. Weber explains how what Marie wore could function as a social and political statement, and the dresses and descriptions of the gorgeous gowns are clothes porn at its very finest.
Caidyn (BW Book Reviews; he/him/his)
3.5

Fashion was a huge thing for Marie Antoinette. I mean, she pioneered quite a bit. Not just the huge hairdos and dresses, but also a simplistic look that she took from the poor around her. Now, I do agree that fashion is very political. You can make a huge statement with it, and it's been used in that way for years upon years. Look at political rhetoric today. You can still see it. "Who are you wearing?" That's the forever question.

However, I side with this: Marie Antoinette just wasn't smart
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Stephen Cadywold
Born in the right place at the wrong time the poor girl couldn't win either way. It's not difficult to comprehend why a teenager would want to rebel against the rigid etiquette and court ritual of Versailles and, like many a rebellious teenager, use fashion to do so. This is a balanced and fascinating account of how Marie Antoinette's fashion statements allowed her to create her own identity and compensated for 7 years of unconsummated marriage and the futile existence of a queen of France. Alth ...more
Amanda
May 17, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
The life and history of Marie Antoinette, but with a focus on how clothing/fashion shaped her life and the perception of her life. I have read other biographies of MA, as well as books about the French revolutionary period, but never one that explicitly focused her fashion/appearance. Given the extensive critiques of her manner of dress (positive and negative)available in contemporary sources, the author did not have to reach to make connections between the way the Queen chose to present herself ...more
Jennifer
Sep 14, 2007 rated it it was amazing
This is the book that spurred me on to reading biographies again. The premise for this book is that Maria Antoinette did not have a lot of power--certainly not the kind-of power she might have expected to have given her mother. She was also limited in the ways she could express herself. So, Marie Antoinette turned to fashion as a way to express her views and to influence her husband.

I loved that this biography had a strong character arc and how real the characters and the setting felt.
Alex
Sep 30, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Killer read! The story of the Queen's life and the revolution told through fashion. The concept may sound like a stretch, but given that clothing at the time was massivley important in showcasing one's status in society, it proves to be a wonderful new language with which this familiar story can be told.
Courtney Rubin
Sep 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book (and even read most of the footnotes.) It sounds like the foofiest of history books -- I couldn't help imagining an illustrated paper doll book or something -- but it's actually just a great biography with lots of great details about how the court functioned.
Victoria
Jun 30, 2010 rated it really liked it
Upon completion of the text, I was torn between being impressed at the intense detail paid to the descriptions of clothing and the manner in which they expressed political opinion, and being unimpressed with the way in which the author equated physical attractiveness and grace with the value which an individual possesses.

The author goes to great lengths to clearly illustrate her idea that fashion was a tool by which many woman found a venue to express their hopes, ideals and beliefs. I found the
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Natacha Pavlov
Sep 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, nonfiction
Amidst all the books on Marie Antoinette that I've acquired over the years (for reasons which are both curious and somewhat unknown to me!), Caroline Weber's "Queen of Fashion" has figured high on my list.
This captivating, heavily annotated scholarly work offers deep insight into the role of fashion in the queen's life, and which, combined with all the politics, propaganda and lies, contributed to her increased unpopularity and demise. While fashion as a mode of expression will always be part o
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Dorothy
Mar 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biography
This was an exceptional biography of Marie Antoinette with fashion as a decoding device akin to an anthropological device used in ethnography. More than any other treatment of Marie Antoinette this thoroughly researched work really set her in an historic cultural framework. Moreover, there was no glossing over the less attractive behaviors and attitudes of our heroine. Instead they are presented as all too human foibles exacerbated by the stultifying and constricted world of the French court ami ...more
Katharine Ott
Jan 24, 2015 rated it really liked it
"Queen of Fashion: What Marie Antoinette Wore to the Revolution" - written by Caroline Weber and published in 2006 by Henry Holt and Company. This was a fascinating and exhaustively researched discussion of how Marie Antoinette used fashion as a "key weapon" and a "vehicle for communicating" during her reign as Dauphine and then Queen of France in the years preceding the French Revolution, 1770-1789. The skirmishes in this book were not of the military variety, but sartorial, as she staged many ...more
Caroline
In all honesty, I'm very critical of biographies, perhaps more so than I should be. The fact is that I'm sick of reading everything in the same style, with the same approach. Unfortunately, there are reasons why the study of history is given a bad rap, and dull biographies is one of them. Luckily, "Queen of Fashion" is not at all dull, and not at all boring. It's a biography with a unique spin--almost more of a thesis, approaching Marie Antoinette's life through the lens of fashion--and the conc ...more
MichelleCH
Aug 16, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: france
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Carole Rae
Apr 07, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This is probably the 5th times I've read this novel. I received this book as a gift for my sweet 16th birthday (the theme was masquerade/costumes, which I went as Marie Antoinette). One of my good friends got this book for me. When I got it, I wanted to go home and read it right then and there. However, I restrained myself.

I decided to re-read it once more, because I can't get enough of Caroline Weber's amazing writing style and depth into the world of fashion of that time period. She does a wo
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Jesi Brubaker
Jun 02, 2010 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this book, even though it was my second bio on Marie Antoinette. The only thing I disliked about this book is that it was more of a bio, it would have been nice if she focused on MA's clothing, and then compared/contrast that with the fashion of the day. Basically what I'm trying to say is, a little less bio and more fashion! And it's hard to read bio's where the main character is beheaded. Even though Marie Antoinette wasn't a saint she did not deserve the horrid punishment nor the di ...more
Shannon Lee
Jul 08, 2008 rated it really liked it
Though it doesn't stand on it's own as a comprehensive biography (many important revolutionary events - including the queen's own execution - are given short shrift) it succeeds as a supplemental text to traditional literature on the revolution. A fresh and thoroughly researched take on the impact of Marie Antoinette's wardrobe. In typical American fashion, Weber portrays the queen as a sympathetic figure; an unassuming victim of the revolution who could do no right. Yet Weber's research seems t ...more
Nancy
Dec 12, 2011 rated it really liked it
An engaging look at the way clothes can convey a political message. I don't know if the doomed queen actually thought about what she was doing with her sartorial choices, or if it was highly unconscious, but her clothes did convey a message and did spark endless interest and ultimately savage disapproval. One cannot help but be moved by Marie Antoinette's story. She became the scapegoat for all that was wrong at the time and she bore her terrible ending with a dignity that, hate her or love her, ...more
Adrienne
Mar 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Very well-written, engaging and moving. Not sure if it was meant to make the reader more sympathetic to Marie Antoinette's plight. Even if she was misguided and misunderstood rather than just outright evil, MA comes off as shallow, selfish and oblivious--exactly what the revolutionaries accused her of being. Also, I don't really think Weber proves the point that MA used her fashion choices to try and control her destiny; I think most people would agree that she ended up being condemned by them.
Ariane Trelaun
Feb 04, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Queen of Fashion is excellent! I've been obsessed with it since first opening its pages Monday evening, completely captured by its combination of fine, well-researched writing with a subject matter I adore. I only wished for more color plates, for a whole assembled Pinterest board of images to peruse while reading, for more to dazzle my eye as well as my imagination. If you're interested in Marie Antoinette, in the French Revolution, in clothing, this is a MUST read.
Bekca
Jul 01, 2015 rated it really liked it
See my blog post for a more definitive criticism of my review, but, generally speaking, I believed Weber's history of Marie Antoinette's extensive timeline of being a young Dauphine to her beheading as a despised Queen was a very intense read of how her style mirrored not just her politics but of the conflicts she faced and the struggles she suffered. It certainly showed behind the curtains of regality in that time period and just how hard it was for Madame. Long live the queen!
Maddog
Jun 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
I really enjoyed this book. Well-researched but not at all dry, it tells the story of Marie Antoinette's life in France through her clothes and how her style changed as a reaction to the things happening around her. Made me think a lot about clothes and politics and culture and how they are related.
Page Wench
Oct 24, 2011 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Antoinette fans, French Revolution buffs, clothing designers
Shelves: history, biography, france
Interesting approach to the subject of Marie Antoinette and well executed (no pun intended). I've read several books regarding the French Revolution and other biographies of Antoinette and found this added details that filled in the gaps of the broader stroke texts. This was obviously well-researched but Weber writes in an easy manner rather than a stuffy professorial tone. Highly recommended!
Beth
Jun 29, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I am finally reading this book in it's entirety after assigning chapters to my students. Delightful reading and excellent research. I especially like how the author recognizes the importance of personal recollections published during the Second Empire while also contextulaizing these texts in terms of Parisan society and politics during the reign of NapIII and Eugenie.
Izzy
Feb 10, 2008 rated it liked it
Argues that Marie Antionette's wardrobe determined the course of French history -- an argument that's not only interesting, but just cool. Oddly, as the story moved closer and closer to her beheading, I got less interested, I think because the thesis got a bit repetitive (yes, we get it, her mauve frock AND her white hat both changed history). But it's definitely worth a look.
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“François-Marie Arouet Voltaire, Siècle de Louis XIV, 2 vols. (Paris: Garnier-Flammarion, 1966), I,” 1 likes
“78. François Bluche, La Vie quotidienne au temps de Louis XVI (Paris: Hachette, 1980), 87. 79. Four indispensable studies on this subject are Jean Apostolidès, Le Roimachine: Spectacle et politique au temps de Louis XIV (Paris: Minuit, 1981); Louis Marin, Le Portrait du roi (Paris: Minuit, 1981); Norbert Elias, La Société de cour, trans. Pierre Kamnitzer and Jean Etoré (Paris: Flammarion, 1985); and Peter Burke, The Fabrication of Louis XIV (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1992). It is nonetheless important to note, as Elias does, that Louis XIV did not so much invent French court etiquette as consolidate and systematize it (76–77). A more colorful, less analytical account of etiquette under Louis XIV appears in W. H. Lewis, The Splendid Century (New York: Sloane, 1953), 54–66.” 0 likes
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