Dior's Spring Makeup Line is Inspired by Petite Trianon — Why is Marie Antoinette Still Influencing Fashion?
Almost 221 years after Marie Antoinette's death, the stylish Dauphine still inspires the fashion industry. The most recent homage? Dior's spring makeup line, all soft pinks and icy blues, is themed after Petit Trianon, the little château on Versailles grounds where Marie Antoinette retreated when she needed to escape the strict confines of court life.
Dior's makeup line, which centers around a bow-shaped "Trianon Palett" and will be available in stores mid-January, is only the latest in a long line of editorial nods to the extravagant queen. From Sophia Coppola's ultra-stylish film to multiple Vogue editorials, the fashion industry just can't shake her. Here, five hypotheses why.
Her famed extravagance
Marie Antoinette was quickly reviled by the people of France for what they saw as lavish, unnecessary, unthinking expenses (one example: Hameau de la Reine, her own private “farm” where she pretended to be a milkmaid). But that same infamous lavishness fits perfectly into the world of haute couture, which has always embraced a degree of conspicuous consumption, and is often willingly disconnected from reality. Why do you think so many editorials feature models surrounded by excessive spreads of food? Opulence is chic, ma petite.
Image: Wildfox Spring 2011 Lookbook
Fashion loves a signature look — think Coco Chanel and her pearls, or Jackie O and her Chanel. No matter how Marie Antoinette is depicted, one element of her style remains pretty consistent: a tower of teased, dyed, and lavishly decorated hair, larger than life and twice as bejeweled. Take a look at the hairstyle trends of the past year or so: big topknots, pastel hair chalk, and kitschy hair decorations. Sound familiar?
No boys allowed
There were plenty of rumors spread about Marie Antoinette during her brief reign — pornographic pamphlets often depicted her as a predatory lesbian, for example — and the rumors weren’t helped by her very tight, very exclusive inner circle of ladies. (Check out these fantastic names: Princess Marie Louise of Savoy; Yolande Martine Gabrielle de Polastron, Duchess of Polignac.) Marie and her gaggle of wealthy BFFs would retreat to Petit Trianon or Hameau de la Reine when life at court was just too much for them.
While her clique may have made her unpopular in her day, it’s certainly an appealing image now, and one that only grows more romanticized over time. Think Rihanna + Cara Delevingne, or Paris Hilton + Nicole Richie. Rich girls with a what-happens-at-the-slumber-party-stays-at-the-slumber-party attitude — it’s a classic source of inspiration for editorial after editorial.
All things pastel
Marie Antoinette knew the power of a signature color palette — she wore the same black dress for two months after her husband’s execution, but went to her death in pure white — and her heyday look is inextricably linked to pastels (which Coppola’s film makes great use of). Pastels are the color of flowers, of frosting, of extravagant youth, and fashion returns to them, like clockwork, every spring. Pastel-colored hair? Full pastel gowns? Dainty pastel pumps? Here’s guessing that at some point, the designer was thinking of the Dauphine.
Image: Columbia Pictures
A conflicting private image/public life
The conflicted duality of Marie Antoinette has only served to increase her legend. She was intensely scrutinized by the French court, but shocked them all with her English-styled clothes. She was paranoid about her privacy, but spent lavishly. France starved, she ate cake. She was a 15-year-old innocent when her rule began, and had a head of prematurely white hair when it ended.
And fashion has always loved dramatic duality, whether it’s androgynous clothing, drastically different silhouettes, or even just ombré hair. Is it really so surprising, then, that the image of a doomed queen with plumes in her hair is one that this industry just can’t get over?