I recreated Marie-Antoinettes Court Gown (Part 1) – Introduction

Finally!!!
Finally I am allowed to tell you what I was working on in the past couple of months!
Many of you know that I started the mastersclass for stage costumes at my school in september.
This year we were given an amazing, once in a lifetime opportunity – we were able to work together with the Kunsthistorischem Museum. It’s not only the biggest art museum in austria but also one of the most important museums worldwide, known for the collection and also research!

At the start of the school year in september we students got from our teachers the information, that we will work together with the museum to make dresses for a new exhibition.
A week later Mr Zeisler, creative director of the museum, visited the school and told us what he and his team planned.

They planned a new exhibition called ‘Mode schauen – Fürstliche Garderobe vom 16. bis zum 18. Jahrhundert’ (‘Fashion Show – Princely Wardrobes Of Three Centuries’) in Innsbruck in austria.
The castle Ambras will be putting many famous paintings from the 16th to the 18th century with corresponding accessoires from the time on display and we were asked to make corresponding dresses to those paintings.
The exhibition will last from june 18th to october 4th and I highly recommend visiting the castle and also the exhibition.
We also will be at the opening of the exhibition and some of us students will probably also be at the ‘Schlossfest Ambras’ on the 15th august 2020.
So please come by if you want to say ‘Hello’!

If you don’t know the castle Ambras you should watch the video down below! The castle is is the worlds oldest museum and so so beautiful! Thanks to a lovley friend I was able to see the castle in october in person and it was amazing. The video doesn’t show at all how beautiful the castle is. Also the permanent exhibition was very pleasing to see because you could get pretty near to the paintings and see details you wouldn‘t see on pictures in online collections. This was also when I saw one of my favourite paintings, one of Elizabeth I, the first time. It was amazing and I can’t wait to see her again!
You probably already can imagine what an honor it is for me to be involved in this project and how I excited I was and still am!

And now back to the fun stuff – the dresses! 😀
After we were given all those informations we got a list and printsouts from all the paintings and we were allowed to choose a painting we like.
Of course, some of the paintings were super popular and some weren’t but luckily the painting I chose was only chosen by one other girl from my class. We were also allowed that more than one person uses the painting as an inspirations but our dresses had to be different. Since I wanted to work as historically as I could and the other girl wanted to interpret the dress completly different we had no problems with each other.
We were asked to work in very light colours like white and cream but we were allowed to decorate with also darker colours and change things up. We also were allowed to use modern fabrics since it’s impossible to get authentic fabrics in this short amount of time we had.


And now: Which painting did I choose? Well, the title of this blog posts gives it away who was painted but not in which gown.
I was able to choose an amazing 18th century painting which I saw a few weeks before school started in the museum when I visited with a friend.

The famous painting of Marie Antoinette in her court gown painted by Élisabeth Vigée-Lebrun in 1778!

(Funny story: I was in the museum with a friend, took pictures of the painting and said to her, that I’d love to make a replica of this dress in the future. Also Marie Antoinette was at the time of this painting 23 years old – the same age I am right now and this made my decision also pretty easy! :D)

I took this picture of the painting when I was at the KHM in summer!

Here is the link to the full painting. (I’m not allowed to show it directly on my blog because of copyright reasons and stuff!)

The painting was painted by one of the most important artists in the 18th century: Marie Louise Elisabeth Vigée-Lebrun. She was also the women who painted Marie Antoinette in the famous robe a la chemise which outraged Paris at the time when the painting was displayed.

I decided that I wanted to replicate the dress as good as I can with our modern fabrics and time given. My main questions were ‚How would this dress be constructed today with modern pattern making techniques, how would it look like on a ‘real person’ and how close can I come to replicate the whole look including her make up and hair?‘
I knew right away that I couldn‘t make a perfect replica of the dress because things like the lace, fringe trim and even the silk are not available anymore (or at least way out of my budget which was already very very high). I still wanted to try my best and I think I did well.


The first step after choosing the painting was to analyse the dress as best as I could, research court gowns, authentic patterns and then decide what fabric and what patterns I want to use/draft.

My research started with looking through my books I already owned and I found a court gown in Patterns of Fashion 5. This was a great starting point for my research. I then looked into Structuring Fashion from the bavarian national museum where I had a whole chapter about court gowns.
After reading this I analyzed the dress and decided how I want to make the skirt and bodice. For the grand pannier I used a pattern from PoF5. The bodice was made with modern pattern construction. The skirts were directly draped onto the hoop but I’ll talk more about all of this in extra blog posts.
The biggest problems I came across were getting lace and a gold fringe trim for the dress. I searched MONTHS for both, bought some things I didn’t really like, but finally I found the fringe trim on etsy and some lace at Textil Müller only a few weeks before I had to finish the dress.

I also wanted to replicate the hair and make up in the painting. I talked to Mr Zeisler if he was okay with me using authentic hair and make up techniques and he was very okay with that which made me super happy! 😀
Since I researched a lot about this topic in 2019 I had no further research to do, only make the decoration for my hair, finally make the pomade and test out the hairstyle!

And that‘s it for today! I can‘t wait to share more of this project with you! And if you have questions about the construction, the exhibition or anything else leave a comment!
In the next post I’m going to tell you more about the construction of the grand pannier and all the layers of skirts and the decoration of it!

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