Recs + Reviews: Queen of Fashion
Ever since I was a little girl, I've been fascinated by Marie Antoinette. She seemed like a kind of real-life Disney princess to me: beloved by her people (well, for the most part...), incredibly glamorous, and always wearing the most beautiful clothes imaginable. Also, I love that she used something she knew all about - fashion - to gain power in a society that viewed her as little more than a decoration by the king's side. In short, I grew up being enchanted and inspired by her.
Because of this, I've read a lot about Marie Antoinette over the years, but never anything even half as wonderful as Caroline Weber's Queen of Fashion. In a word, it's exquisite. It covers every aspect of Marie Antoinette's lifelong fashion progression, from her crooked teeth and plain dresses growing up in Austria to the five-foot hair poufs she created for her court appearances in the height of her popularity. Also, I appreciated that the book didn't glamorize or idolize Marie Antoinette beyond what was factual: it simply told her story - which, to be honest, is glamorous and fascinating and outrageous enough that it doesn't need any extra embellishment.
Weber expertly mixes fashion with politics in her telling of the story. Every outfit and accessory and hairstyle had a purpose, and that purpose was often to ensure that the people knew who was in charge. Marie Antoinette had a difficult life once she moved to Paris as a preteen, from the way people in the court tried to manipulate her for their own gain to the way that she had to compensate for her lack of children in the first few years of marriage (through no fault of her own). Her fashion was not just a way to pass the time, but a way to assert her dominance in Versailles when so many were trying to undermine her. Best of all, Weber does a great job of presenting Marie Antoinette as a real person and not just a mannequin for her elaborate costumes, which in this type of book might be an easy hole to fall into.
To sum up, this book is a must-read for anyone who has an interest in French history or fashion in general. It's pretty long and has small print and very few pictures, and admittedly a few parts run a little dry, but I don't think I've ever learned more from a biography. Queen of Fashion is one that I'll be recommending to friends (like y'all!) for many years to come.
What have y'all been reading during these dog days of summer? Leave your recs and reviews in the comments!