Marie Antoinette to McQueen in French fashion exhibit

Wed Sep 28, 2011 11:20am EDT
Email This Article |
Share This Article
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
| Print This Article | Single Page
[-] Text [+]

By Alexandria Sage

VERSAILLES, France (Reuters) - "Let them eat cake," Marie Antoinette is famously quoted as saying, but the 18th century fashionista, had she lived today, may well have said, "Let them wear Lacroix."

Frills, foppery and all the delicious excess of 18th century fashion -- juxtaposed with contemporary interpretations of France's Golden Age -- are on display at the Grand Trianon at Versailles in the exhibit "The 18th Century Back in Fashion."

As Paris Fashion Week begins, the dozens of ornate dresses on show, both antique and modern, stitched from endless yards of silk and adorned with sumptuous embroidery and lace, are the antithesis to the politics of austerity on the world's lips today.

Restraint, sobriety, discipline -- these are not the words that spring to mind when viewing the show, and it's part of its appeal, as global economic stagnation and a potential euro zone collapse are the order of the day.

Christian Lacroix's mustard brocade gown from 1994 is encrusted with patinated metal, its lavish skirt jutting out dramatically at the hip through use of "paniers," or side hoops.

Witness the pink confection designed by Vivienne Westwood for her 1995-96 season, a six-year-old girl's dream with a surfeit of bows, flounces and lace in the color of Pepto-Bismol.

In the hands of the provocative British designer, the saccharine-sweet gown, inspired by King Louis XV's mistress Madame de Pompadour, is a subversive commentary on femininity and the disheveled, brooding grunge look popular in the 1990s.

It's no surprise that all but a handful of the modern looks in the exhibition that runs through October 9 were designed before the 2008 global financial crisis made flamboyance a dirty word.   Continued...