Marie Antoinette's Gossip Guide to the 18th Century

February 26, 2015

The 18th century drawing portfolio in art

Nicolas Bernard Lépicié, Boy with a Drawing Book. c. 1772 oil on canvas. Rijksmuseum.

A young artist with his own portfolio. Madame du Pompadour had a drawing portfolio in a similar green color! 

Maurice-Quentin de La Tour, Madame de Pompadour. 1752, pastel. Musée du Louvre.

And of course how could we forget that the classic Monkey as Painter.... !

February 22, 2015

Downton Abbey's Wedding Gown Will Brighten Your Day

Last night was Lady Rose's wedding on Downton Abbey on PBS. I didn't expect to be so taken with her gown even though the fashions have really been stunning this season.  I recently read an interview with Downton Abbey's costume designer Anna Mary Scott Robbins, where she said she tries to find as many original vintage pieces as possible for the cast to wear.  The vintage pieces that are found (in shops and flea markets) are restored to their former vibrancy before the cast wears them.

The wedding gown for Lady Rose is one of these cases.  Robbins found the dress in a vintage shop! A real authentic piece!

Lady Rose's Wedding Gown in Downton Abbey on Lily James
"Lady Rose would have had her wedding dress made especially for her big day, so I was anticipating having to make something from scratch," Anna told Radio Times. "As it happened, we had the biggest stroke of luck.

"The dress she wears is a completely original piece that we unearthed in a vintage shop in immaculate condition. The hairs on the back of my neck stood up when we found it and when Lily James put it on, it was one of those perfect moments you don't get that often in your career."¹

Side view
Front of the gown

Detail of the bodice

Detail of the front and train

The back of the gown. Look at that train!

Remember the wedding gowns of Lady Mary and Lady Edith?

Also of note was the headdress worn for the wedding.  It was mentioned that Rose would not be wearing a veil, so she wore what she wears best! Her jeweled headbands. 

Did you like Lady Rose's wedding gown?

¹"Downton Abbey: Lady Rose's Wedding Dress Revealed in Finale." Accessed February 23, 2015.

RELATED: Downton Abbey Inspired Fashion For Everyday

February 03, 2015

18th Century Dress Layers and Steps


Recently on twitter @RaffiJefri asked me about the step by step process of wearing an 18th-century gown such as one Marie Antoinette might have worn.  This is a fun question and there are some really excellent resources on this very topic.

Here are some video tutorials that illustrate the pieces, layers and process of wearing a fashionable 18th-century gown!

January 27, 2015

18th century, Birth of Design, Furniture Masterpieces 1650-1789

Marie Antoinette's jewelry case, used for storing her diamonds, rubies and other pearls, is one of the many stunning objects on display in a new exhibition at Versailles.

The exhibition 18th century, Birth of Design, Furniture Masterpieces 1650-1789  showcases the "innovative and avant-garde nature of the shapes, techniques, decorations and materials used in 18th century furniture."  The 18th century saw a revolution in design and functionality, and the desire for multifunctionality in furniture.

Detail of the roll-top desk (the King's desk) Jean-François Oeben (1721-1763) and Jean-Henri Riesener (1734-1806) Made of oak, satin-finish, amaranth and rosewood veneer, gilt bronze, porcelain; Paris, 1760-1769 H. 147,3 ; L. 192,5 ; W. 105 cm Versailles, National Museum of the Palaces of Versailles and Trianon; Inv. OA 5444 © EPV / RMN-GP / Ch. Fouin
The quest for the ideal shape and form hit its peak in the 18th century, when the shape of furniture began to change.  The same quest characterised the use of materials: furniture was covered with exotic woods, lacquers, varnishes, tortoiseshell, mother-of-pearl, bronze, brass, lead, porcelain, straw, steel and stone marquetry.
Cloth, bulrush and copper began to be used in chairs.

Long before the garish colours afforded by plastic in the 20th and 21st centuries, the 18th century saw the birth of furniture in red, daffodil yellow, turquoise blue, apple green, partially gilded or silvered, etc.
Chateau de Versailles

Madame de Mailly's commode Matthieu Criaerd (1689-1776), under the guidance of Thomas-Joachim Hébert (1687-1773) Made of oak, fruitwood veneer, vernis Martin, silvered bronze, Turkey Blue Marble; Paris, 1742 H. 85 ; L. 132 ; W. 63,5 cm © musée du Louvre / RMN / Th. Ollivier

The exhibition brings together over 100 beautiful pieces that were owned by Louis XIV, Louis XV, Marie Antoinette and other notable French dignitaries.

There will be works from private collections which will be on show to the public for the first time.

Showing through February 22, 2015.
The exhibition also features a Game Booklet for young art historians! Check it out here (PDF) 

January 18, 2015

Are you watching Million Dollar American Princesses? [POLL]

Are you or will you be watching Million Dollar American Princesses?

The name is a mouthful...for sure. Million Dollar American Princesses is a special series by the Smithsonian Channel that looks at the lives of young American heiresses between 1870 and the outbreak of World War One.  Narrated by Elizabeth McGovern, it features historical footage and reenactments to bring the stories of the young girls to life. I didn't think I would be so into the show but it has me hooked!

The show plays off the popularity of Downton Abbey in marketing because one of these American heiresses was the inspiration for Lord Grantham and Cora's relationship. It is a smart move, and excellent story.

American heiresses whose real life stories inspired the acclaimed TV drama "Downton Abbey." This series explores the time between the 1870s and the outbreak of World War One, when more than 200 daughters of America's new industrial millionaires marry into the money-strapped British aristocracy. They use their affluence, allure and ingenuity to their advantage, and they bring dramatic changes to the English ruling class and eventually the world.

There are three episodes and all three are airing tonight on the Smithsonian Channel, at 6pm EST.

Episode 1: Cash for Class (preview)
Episode 2: Wedding of the Century  (preview)
Episode 3: Movers and Shakers  (preview)

If you do not have access to the Smithsonian Channel, you can also purchase the episodes on Google Play, iTunes or Vudu.