Sunday, January 13, 2013

Rose Bertin - The Minister of Fashion

In "The Private Life of Marie Antoinette, a Confidant's Account" by Madame Campan, the Queen's Lady-in-Waiting describes how Marie Antoinette met the up and coming couturier, Mademoiselle Rose Bertin, who became such a force in French fashion and who, unfortunately, unintentionally, contributed to the decline of Marie Antoinette's popularity.  And, we all know how that ended up.:

"…  It was also on this first journey to Marly that the Duchesse de Chartres, afterwards Duchesse d'Orléans, introduced into the Queen's household Mademoiselle Bertin, a milliner who became celebrated at that time for the total change she effected in the dress of French ladies.

It may be said that the mere admission of a milliner into the house of the Queen was followed by evil consequences to her Majesty.  The skill of the milliner, who was received into the household, in spite of the custom which kept persons of her description out of it, afforded her the opportunity of introducing some new fashion every day.  Up to this time, the Queen had shown very plain taste in dress;  she now began to make it a principal occupation;  and she was, of course, imitated by other women.

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 an indescribable charm.  The expenditure of the younger ladies was necessarily much increased;  mothers and husbands murmured at it;  some few giddy women contracted debts; unpleasant domestic scenes occurred;  in many families coldness of quarrels arose; and the general report was, - that the Queen would be the ruin of all the French ladies."

Ironic that the Duchesse de Chartres was the catalyst for the relationship.  Her husband was an enterprising intriguer and a catalyst in the downfall of the monarchy.

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