True, Mme. Vigée LeBrun’s portrait La reine en gaulle went over like a lead balloon with the French public. Their queen had been immortalized in what essentially was her underwear. It wasn’t just the gossamer nightgown that set her critics off; the rose in her left hand gualled* them further. The rose being the symbol of the Hapsburg-Lorraine family. As the Queen of France shouldn’t she be gripping a fleur de lys? What seems like an innocent prop just threw gunpowder on the austrichienne fire. *Sorry I couldn’t resist
The portrait had to be removed from display and another commissioned to replace it. Public disdain over the portrait of their Queen did not mean the chemise à la reine was disavowed at Versailles. Soon every lady in the Queen’s Circle was wisping about in one. Even those on the Queen’s Shit List–duBarry!– clamored to get their hands on Rose Bertin’s latest frock.
Marie Antoinette’s older sister, Maria Josepha, forewent the sun-hat for a spray of plumes in her coif while Madame Elizabeth (Louis XVIs sister) eschewed the chapeau with the head-band up-do and slightly less puffy-pirate sleeves. Finally, Comtesse duBarry–unable to soak herself in jewels with this ensemble–added another bow, insuring her habitual status as “most decorated”.
Lady Gerorgiana Cavendish, commonly known as the Duchess of Devonshire, was a regular visitor to the French Court. Upon seeing all the ladies of Versailles flitting about the gardens, Georgiana needed one too. Many credit the Duchess for introducing the gossamer gown to Ol’ Blighty. Gaulle was soon all the rage among London’s Fashion élite.
Since it’s so atypical for London and Paris to set the fashion trends, soon the diaphanous gaulle dress flowed across Europe just like the fashionistas’ silhouettes. The chemise was the must-have in every aristocratic placard from Portugal to Poland.
In the true spirit of winning the “Who Wore It Best” Olympiad, many of the damas accessorized or altered the Bertin original in order to make it their own. The ladies above are obviously no exception. Wiktoria’s red-and-black striped sleeves are a daring choice while “Lady with a Book” brings the gaulle to elegant new heights with a finer choice in fabric. Not to be outdone, the Princesse de Lamballe and the Duchesse de Polignac even sat for multiple portraits to immortalize their chemise stylings.
The far left and far right portraits show M@’s favorites in dresses so similar to the Queen’s that you’d think they all decided to dress alike one day in junior high. Maybe they’ll think we’re triplets! The princesse switches it up, accenting with pink ribbons and topping it off with a very Trianon-spirited chaplet of matching roses. At first glance I thought it was her hair but that’s a hat she’s rocking underneath the garland. (Wow, one headdress wasn’t enough. You go Lamballe!) Such a fashion risk couldn’t be one-upped so Polignac went for the artsy, intellectual look. Imagine the hours she held that open book aloft, frozen in that posture and expression to imply her reading has been interrupted by an abrupt compliment on her teal-green sun hat with veil.
Well, who DID wear it best? You’ve got a few choices…in case you forget, they’ll all be listed again for citation purposes. I’m really looking forward to your commentary on this one. We’ll have a full poll tomorrow, but I need your feedback since Polldaddy only allows for 10 options.
Who will the 10 Gaulle finalists? Only you can decide!
- Trivia ‘Toinette #15: Face-to-Face with the Real Deal? (tiarasandtrianon.wordpress.com)
- Trivia ‘Toinette #14: Comtesse du Barry was a Blonde. (tiarasandtrianon.wordpress.com)