Marie Antoinette in Court Robe, c. 1779

This picture, and another version of the same in a yellow dress, depicts what most people imagine to be typical Rococo dress, although at the time the Rococo period was long over as far as the history of art is concerned.

In fact, this dress has as much to do with the delicate Rococo fashion as a bulldozer has with a limousine. With its overkill of draperies and bow, a panier going up to the elbows and a width that had long been out of fashion (since the early 1740s), it represents the height of 18th century court decadence just before the fall.

What is astonishing at first glance is that despite the above-mentioned overdone features, the dress still retains many features of early 18th century court dress which in turn looked back as far as the 1660s.

Those features include: A bodice apart from the skirt and laced up the back, no overskirt opening above the jupe, narrow sleeves trimmed with lace from shoulder to elbow, and an oval neckline that sits low on the shoulders.

When not dressed up for court, Marie Antoinette could be seenwearing dresses more in keeping with the current fashion, e.g. a country-style polonaise or a pre-revolutionary manteau.



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