For almost 250 years, Marie Antoinette, the Queen of France from 1774 to 1792, has been inspiring the fashions of the era. In the 18th century, her influence was felt directly in the courts of Louis XVI, while her love of exorbitant attire put her couturier Rose Bertin on the map, to the extent that everyone went to Bertin in an attempt to dress like royalty. If Marie Antoinette wore it, you wore it too, and you hoped to gain her attention in court (or, at the very least, hoped to not be snubbed by the notoriously hard-to-please queen).
It was certainly an exhilarating time for fashion until it all came crashing down. Her love of opulent style, decadent cakes, and lavish parties cost the kingdom everything. It’s easy to see why her lifestyle has seized upon our conscious, even in the present day – we all love a good dose of drama with our clothes. Since Marie Antoinette’s day, designers have been mimicking, reinterpreting, and improving upon styles inspired by “Madame Déficit”, from her impossible hoop skirts and empire-waist gowns to the extravagantly embroidered footwear and diamond-layered accoutrements. Here, Savoir Flair rounds up the best runway moments inspired by her.
Chanel Cruise 2013
Not only did Chanel’s Cruise 2013 presentation take place at Marie Antoinette’s former home of Versailles, but Karl Lagerfeld also put a cheeky twist on fashion’s famous doyenne and her beauty looks by giving his models their own “beauty marks” (which were actually tiny intersecting double-C logos) and decking them out in a variety of pastel wigs. Additionally, his couture creations paid homage to her penchant for extravagance with beautifully embroidered gowns that were amplified with hip padding.
Dior Couture Fall/Winter 2014
Marie Antoinette’s sway over the fashion world is still so strong that, even in the year 2014, designer Raf Simons was exploring the silhouette potential of hoop skirts and panniers at Dior. The exaggerated shape of his slim-fitting bodice, enormous skirts, and pastoral embroidery formed a striking and memorable collection for the fall season.
Balenciaga Spring/Summer 2006
Nicolas Ghesquière had a particular knack for effortlessly fusing the past and the present and, for Spring/Summer 2006 at Balenciaga, he wove a strange and alluring tale inspired by both Marie Antoinette and Billy Idol for a riotous and provocative collection. There was a sense of Idol’s dandyism at work in the full-skirted, full-lace looks that proved the 1780s and the 1980s – both obsessed with their own view of extravagance – were a perfect match.
Oscar de la Renta Spring/Summer 2013
Lest we forget, Marie Antoinette was a teenage queen, married off to Louis XVI at the unbelievably young age of 14. Perhaps her youth accounted for her decadent, irresponsible love of opulence and finery, but regardless, we’re almost certain it contributed to her sense of sartorial whimsy. For Spring/Summer 2013, Oscar de la Renta celebrated her joyful embrace of vibrant pastels, lavish crystal embroidery, and towering wigs with a modern spin on Rococo styles.
Simone Rocha Fall/Winter 2014
Simone Rocha explored the maudlin side of royal fashion with a Fall/Winter 2014 collection filled with empire-waist dresses and voluminous skirts done in a slick, noir palette.
Hervé Léger Spring/Summer 2011
The late Hervé Léger placed a modern, ultra-sensual spin on the Marie Antoinette reference by reinventing 18th century corsetry with fitted, moulded silhouettes in fabrics such as velvet, rubber, and perforated leather. He then amplified the silhouette through the hips with tiered ruffles.
Ruffian Spring/Summer 2013
For Spring/Summer 2013, Ruffian transformed Marie Antoinette into a hipster heroine. She still had the pompadour, but traded her hoop skirts for printed walking shorts, and her lavish houppelande layers for chic and shrunken blazers.
Fenty x Puma
When Rihanna shot her campaign for Dior in 2015 at the Palace of Versailles, the iconic location’s gilded interiors and former inhabitants – Marie Antoinette in particular – inspired her to create her Fenty x Puma capsule collection with baroque fabrics. References to 18th century fashion also appeared in the form of corseted waistlines, doily-lace trims, and brocade embroidery. Since her first Marie Antoinette-inspired collection for Fenty x Puma, Rihanna has continued to use the queen and her extravagant sense of style as a point of reference for other collections, like her baroque athleisure work for Spring/Summer 2017.