I Fall Apart When my Mascara Clumps | Marie Antoinette's Gossip Guide to the 18th Century: I Fall Apart When my Mascara Clumps

June 14, 2008

I Fall Apart When my Mascara Clumps

Heather has revived my research into nyc club life circa 80's-90's so I thought I would just post this fun little entry about quirky similarities between club land (1980's) and court life (1780's)! The comparisons I am drawing are solely for fun and there is a chance that only Heather will get a kick out of it but here it goes anyway!

As described by author James St. James, in the 1980's the club scene was an
"inpenetrable clique, with a complex hierarchy of 'superstars.' There were intricate rules of behavior, Byzantine rituals, and unspoken customs that were designed to exclude the unwanted, and massage the egos of the Chosen Few."
NYC club scene
Well I don't know how much detail i need to indulge in to point out the blatant similarities here. The court of Louis XVI also was formed by intricate customs and rituals that gave certain responsibilities and jobs to persons of a specific rank. The strict enforcement of these rules made everyone feel their rank entitled them to importance within the system and basically kept things under control. Not anyone could gain these 'responsibilities' without holding specific titles and therefore court life was an impenetrable clique- unless you could adapt to the art of schmoozing, had a bright personality and wit- then it was a nut you could crack.

"Spend at least six hours getting ready. Study yourself in the mirror at home. Is your hairdo media-friendly? Will your outfit read in black and white?"
Style was ever evolving for this group of celebutantes and it helped keep them at the top of their social circle. It also may have been a side effect of simply having nothing else to do
"For someone, like myself (St. James), who had all the time in the world, and a closet full of flowing lamé things, it seemed like a perfect way to while away the evenings."
There is no denying fashion being an enormous part of court life as well- starting at the top with Marie. With all the responsibilities on her plate enjoyment of picking out new and fun styles and fabrics was certainly a way to find pleasure in life! A new outfit for every occasion was how things seemed- and although outfits were reused (like her favorite seasonal ensembles) to the public eye and media there seemed to be an endless bolt of silks and taffetas, laces and pearls.
"All wished instantly to have the same dress as the Queen, and to wear the feathers and flowers to which her beauty, then in its brilliancy, lent and indescribable charm."
"Everyone followed the trends even if it was not affordable, and "giddy women contracted debts; unpleasant domestic scenes occurred; in many families coldness or quarrels arose."

The club scene produced pamphlets (magazines) and it's stars found themselves in the media regularly. One interesting thing that came out were cards. These cards were printed up with images of the different stars on them and could be easily handed out. This was a way for persons outside of the circle to learn who's who of downtown. It was propaganda that elevated the popularity of downtowns stars.

It was really much like the affordable miniatures that were continually made throughout the 18th century. They were small so they were easy to attain and carry around. And they really served a similar purpose! 


Well both societies certainly revolved around the social aspect of gatherings and fun. pleasures and leisures. Dressing up fabulously and in disguise was a favourite pastime for all! And themed parties in particular, costumes, masquerades, incognito, mystery, dazzling, thrilling....

Finally the general feeling of fabulousness floated over both scenes. Those who were deemed débutante's were entitled to all things wonderful. Free drinks, free drugs.
"She [superstar drag queen] is very famous...a legendary legend. Never pays for drugs...keep the stars happy and everyone else will follow."
Marie also enjoyed her fair share of freebies, vendors knew if they attained her business others would follow. Loss leaders! But it was not only about freebies, even money came by the Queen easier than it should have. When asked about her financial spending, she had responded - if I asked for 50,000 they would hand me 100,000. And this could have merely been for the comptroller to be on her good side. Things come along easily when you are sitting pretty, perched in the upper branches of a fabulous hierarchy.

Left: Marie Right: James St. James


  1. Oh that was awesome and you saved me the trouble of doing that comparison post myself!

  2. Hands down best post EVA!!! Relevant and very provocative parallel.

    In a literature thesis a professor would be appalled with this anachronism, YOU go girlfr!!!

    Shall we talk about the whole wedding dance debacle and how several ladies were left out in order of precedence...I feel the same way when I am not on the DJ's Guest List. What a faux-pas?

    Could we also talk about the rite of the stool? Who could, or couldn't sit in the prescene of the famille royale. This too is like the V.I.P room with bottles of Louis Roederer Cristal cordoned off to the plebs.