Today, Amber Buchart examines the wardrobe of Marie Antoinette and she is examining a portrait of Queen Marie Antoinette dressed in a chemise gown. She was painted wearing the dress. It caused a scandal in the French Court. The portrait shows the Queen wearing her underwear! Fashion had played a role in the French Revolution and Amber explores the role that it played in the fall of the French monarchy. What can the recreation of the Chemise tell us about Marie Antoinette? What does Amber learn about the Queen?
The gown Marie Antoinette wore was a complete departure in comparison to the stiff garments of the French Court. Is the dress as simple as it looks? Amber and Ninya talk about the dress and the materials that were used to create it. Muslim was used to create the dress. She would have been wearing stays under the dress. The dress would have been a radical departure from the normal dress. It was essentially underwear. Ninya and her team will have their hands full with this recreation. Not only will the stays be recreated, but there will also be yards of hand sewing.
The Chemise Dress Portrait was displayed to the public. When it was displayed it caused a huge scandal because the queen was shown in an informal dress, let alone showing a queen in her underwear. The portrait was taken away and a new portrait was put up. Marie Antoinette had the same pose but was dressed formally. However, that did not stop the chemise dress from being the unofficial uniform at Marie Antoinette’s court. The chemise dress portrait was the beginning of the end for Marie Antoinette.
Harriett works on the stays and is trying to lay out the pattern for the stays. They do not want to cut the silk brocade wastefully. It will be stiffened with reeds. The material for the dress arrives. Harriett and Ninya look over the material.
Butchart continues to explore Marie Antoinette and examines a surviving chemise gown. The chemise gown would have given off a pastoral vibe, a romantic view of the countryside. Even though it would have been considered a simple gown, it would have been expensive. The muslin would have been expensive because it was importing. Keeping it white would have been a challenge. It took a great deal of time and labor to keep things white. When Butchart reflects on it, it would have been patronizing to the peasants.
Amber catches up with everyone on the project. Ninya talks about sewing a really fine hem and how much work it has to take on such delicate material. Harriett is working on the stays and Hannah is working on the sash. Harriett allows Amber to cut on the stays and talks about the history of cutting fabric. Amber is nervous about cutting into the silk. Everyone watches Amber as she cuts the fabric.
After this experiment, Amber examines a wardrobe book of Marie Antoinette. Inside this book, there were fabrics swatches and Marie Antoinette would select the fabrics that she wanted to wear for the day. There are pinpricks in the fabric, demonstrating her fashion choices. It is a tangible link to the past and the mind of Marie Antoinette. Leon was the center of silk production at the time, so when she wore muslin that was a shock to these silk makers. She was accused of putting the silk makers and merchants out of work. So when she tried to simplify her wardrobe, it turned heads.
To see how the chemise gown turned out continue to watch this episode.
This would be an excellent episode to show to a home economics class as well as a history class. If you have an independent study student, then put this show on their list as well.
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