Queen of Rococo

Marie Antoinette blue gown at Versailles
Marie Antoinette, played by Kirsten Dunst and directed by Sophia Coppola in 2006. Marie entered Versailles in a classic Rococo style pastel gown in a soft shade of blue.

Versailles. A place of luxury, dreams, politics and romance. The palace served as the heart of the French court for over 100 years during the 17th and 18th centuries. 

It was within the palace’s shimmering walls that Marie Antoinette made her home as the Dauphine and then the Queen of France. Ruling the cultural and political scene in the years before the French Revolution, Marie Antoinette became a fashion icon. 

Marie Antoinette Queen of Rococo Fashion
Pictured in collage: Marie Antoinette style on the Thom Browne Spring 2020 runway; Kirsten Dunst as Marie Antoinette; Marie Antoinette 18th century painting by Jean-Baptiste Andre Gautier d'Agoty; interior view of Versailles.

During the Rococo era, Marie Antoinette embodied the stylistic notions of the movement by embracing the romantic details, ornamentation and light hearted spirit in her fashion choices. Rococo fashion often included pastel shades, ribbons, bows and an air of frivolity. 

Marie Antoinette Queen of Rococo
Pastel confection with luxe layers, feminine details and sky high hair.

If Marie Antoinette was still alive and reigning from the palace of Versailles, she would surely be dressed in Thom Browne’s Spring 2020 collection. The designs were dripping in romance and whimsy. 

Marie Antoinette Queen of Rococo

The clothes told a story of fantasy in shades of pastel yellow, green, blue and pink, where Rococo panniers (hoop skirts) met blazers and breeches. Whimsical flower arrangements bloomed from headpieces as dolphins danced across fabrics.  

Marie Antoinette Queen of Rococo

There was a riot of textures, where rules did not seem to exist as tweeds mixed with quilting, seersucker and embroidery. The level of detail seen on the runway with buttons, embroidery and surprising touches mirrored many the stylistic notions of aristocratic Rococo fashion, where design helped communicate class and status.

Marie Antoinette Queen of Rococo

The power suit was reimagined as blazers and ties were worn with corsets and panniers. While the traditional three piece suit of Rococo era included a coat, waistcoat and breeches, Thom Browne's collection merged the 18th century with modern suit elements such as ties and collared shirts. And by using a pastel color palette and romantic details like a flowing veil, the suit is softened to fit the pastel world of Rococo courtiers.  

Marie Antoinette Queen of Rococo

In what could be a nod to the French Revolution, blue, white and red ribbon was used as accents on cardigans, shoes and skirts. Marie Antoinette reigned France alongside Louis XVI during the Rococo era before the people rose up during the Revolutionary period to establish the First French Republic. Patriotic colors of blue, white and red seen in the Thom Browne designs would have made for the perfect Revolutionary color palette.

The grand extravagance of Marie Antoinette's fashion choices were widely known by the French people. As the people starved in the streets, the courtiers lived a life of luxury within the walls of Versailles. If only Marie Antoinette and her courtiers had stopped powdering their wigs with flour, perhaps there would have been more food to go around and suppress the people's desire for revenge against the royals. 

Marie Antoinette Queen of Rococo
The elegant design with a full skirt and gold details is much like the court dresses of the Rococo era.

Even as pastels and romance dominated the story on the runway, there was a hint at the revolution that would replace the Rococo world. Or in the case of Thom Browne, the revolution that has already arrived with women donning the menswear pieces alongside feminine skirts and dresses. He has created a modern Versailles where women rule unapologetically.

Runway Photos: Photographed by Filippo Fior for Thom Browne via Vogue.com