I had the opportunity to attend a lecture by Dr. Carolyn Weber of Columbia University. The subject was Marie Antoinette, the unfortunate queen of eighteenth century France. The lecture was based on Dr. Weber’s fascinating book “Queen of Fashion, What Marie Antoinette Wore to the Revolution”. It painted a picture of a dauphine (princess) obsessed with clothes and fashion. When she became queen that obsession contributed not only to her rise as a fashion icon of her time, but also to her violent demise.
She became a trendsetter whose attire was widely copied by all European women. It is also fair to say that some of the fashions she started pretty much rolled over into women’s fashions for hundreds of years. I found specially interesting the reference to a white muslin dress which Marie Antoinette and her contemporaries called the gaulle. The Queen and her female entourage wore the gaulle at the Petite Trianon, a retreat where she wanted to relax, away from the formalities of Versailles. It was a white muslin tunic with a ruffled neckline, tied at the waist and the sleeves with pretty ribbons, and caught on like wildfire in 18th century France and the rest of Europe.
You can see various versions of the gaulle in paintings of women in subsequent years. Depictions and photographs of the all-American Gibson girl show another heyday of the white muslin dress in the western world. Do you have pictures of your ancestors from this era wearing pretty white clothing?
Dear readers, please feel free to comment on your quintessential piece of white clothing! Do you live in white dresses in the summer? Have you sewn any white garments which are now your favorites? I did!
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