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Queen of Fashion: What Marie Antoinette Wore to the Revolution Hardcover – September 19, 2006

4.3 out of 5 stars 89 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. At Versailles, where even the daily rouging of the Dauphin's cheeks was a highly ritualized and politicized affair, and where obedience to protocol could brook no infringement, 14-year-old Marie Antoinette's refusal to wear her whalebone corset threatened the Bourbon-Hapsburg alliance. As this prodigiously researched, deliciously detailed study (perfectly timed for the fall release of Sofia Coppola's movie) of the doomed royal's fashion statements demonstrates, her masculine equestrian garb, ostentatious costumes for masked balls, high Parisian hairdos and faux country-girl gear were bold bids for political power and personal freedom in a suffocating realm where a queen was merely a breeder and living symbol of her spouse's glorious reign. An iconic trendsetter whose styles were copied by prostitutes and aristocrats alike, Marie Antoinette was blamed for France's moral decay and financial bankruptcy, the blurring of class lines and callousness toward the poor. When many of her aristocratic contemporaries donned tricolor ribbons and jewelry set with stones from the Bastille's demolished walls as pro-revolutionary emblems, a defiant Marie Antoinette reintroduced her most opulent jewels into her daily costume. The generously illustrated history by Weber (Terror and Its Discontents) posits that the queen's fashion obsession wasn't about narcissism and frivolity but self-assertion; even at the guillotine she controlled her image with a radiantly white ensemble. (Oct. 1)
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From Booklist

Plenty of proof here, from an associate professor of French at Barnard (and author of Terror and its Discontents, 2003), that clothes did indeed make the woman. Weber's thesis, made clear at the outset, is that the dauphine-soon-turned-queen's costumes became an accurate symbol of her individuality and personality versus political unrest. No minutiae is left unnoticed; for example, Marie Antoinette's struggles with the strictly mandated whalebone corset was the epitome of her initial lack of acceptance by the French court, whereas her creation of the three-foot-high pouffed hair-dress was emblematic of her preoccupation with fashion. One revolution in women's accoutrements, unfortunately, was swapped for another more deadly revolution in politics and freedom. Tales of intrigue dot every page (for instance, the long-standing feud with Louis XV's mistress, Comtesse du Barry), as do the foibles of commoners and royalty. Using bold and engaging prose, the author has created a whole new appreciation for academic writings. Barbara Jacobs
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (September 19, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805079491
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805079494
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.5 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (89 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #645,042 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
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 we send in our clothing, making one rethink the social consequences of an "I'm with Stupid" T-shirt. Making the satorial social and back again, Weber looks at the way in which Marie Antoniette affected her public and the rebellion she was able to mount without saying a word.

Obviously interest in this book will be high due to the Kirsten Dunst movie. However, this book gave me more of a sympathy for the queen who was thrust into the public eye in France and the decisions made by her and for her. It gave me a different picture of a rebellious queen that I couldn't find in the film. A great read for anyone interested in fashion, Marie Antoniette, and the French Revolution.
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Format: Hardcover
Marie Antoinette is all the rage. From Sophia Coppola's new movie to a bevy of recent magazine articles, the infamous queen is making headlines. But the spotlight is nothing new for her; people have been interested in her life and activities since she arrived in France as a 14-year-old princess. One such person is Caroline Weber, a French professor teaching at Barnard College, Columbia University who has written a fascinating biography of Marie Antoinette titled QUEEN OF FASHION.

Weber approaches the queen's life story from a totally unique perspective: what Marie Antoinette chose to wear (and what was chosen for her to wear) at various stages in her life. Weber suggests that her fashion choices reflect her attempts to assert her identity and to gain power in a culture where she was expected to be a passive representative of the throne.

Even before she married the future King of France as a young girl, the Austrian Archduchess was told that her looks and appearance were of the utmost importance. She had to undergo a makeover that included extensive, painful dental work and the powdering of her strawberry blond hair, just for marriage negotiations to continue. As she was handed over by the Austrian entourage to the French, she was stripped naked in a room of strangers and redressed in what was considered to be more appropriate (that is, more French) attire. Right away the young woman knew that fashion was what she was expected to be interested in, and she decided to use it to her advantage. She became a figure that challenged propriety, the roles of women and the nobility in her society through the clothing and hairstyles she wore.
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Format: Hardcover
In this elegantly written, fast paced book, Caroline Weber shows that Marie Antoinette was not an empty-headed and materialistic teenager, but rather a conscious political actor in the turbulent times of the French Revolution. Boxed and ribboned in the confining world of court fashion and etiquette, Weber entertainingly and authoritatively illustrates how the doomed French queen used the fashion packaging which Louis XIV had created to stifle the aristocrats of his court, turning them from warriors into powdered courtiers, and used it as both an individualistic and politically expressive force. This book not only gives an accurate and nuanced historical account of Marie-Antoinette's relationship with fashion missing from Sofia Coppola's movie, its also a great read!
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Format: Kindle Edition
This is not a review of the book itself (which seems well researched. argued, and written), but of the Kindle edition of it. The Kindle edition is unacceptable for academic purposes for the following reasons:

1) The note numbers are not links, and there is no simple way to read the endnotes while reading the text. The only way to do so, is to write down the chapter and note numbers and then go to the endnotes section, page through it until locating to the appropriate note. 2) Same goes for illustration (actually, I am not sure if the illustrations are included at all, I have not been able to find them yet--which means that either they are there, and i cannot find them--a problem; or they are not there and the entire visual argument is missing--even bigger problem). 3) Also, page breaks are not indicated anywhere in the text, again diminishing the usefulness of reading for academic purposes (cannot cite to the page number). 4) Additionally, though index is included, the items in it are not linked to the text but rather display page numbers form the paper version of the book, and since those are unavailable in the kindle edition, this makes the index useless (and, no, searching the text does not substitute for the index)

Overall, I find the Kindle edition of this book unusable and will have to go and get a copy from the library to finish reading it.
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