FASHION AND VERSAILLES by Laurence Benaïm (Foreword by Catherine Pégard)

Published by Flammarion;  Buy on Amazon.

Many tourist trips to Paris include a visit to the Palace of Versailles, the home of the French monarchy from the time Louis XIV got fed up with living at the Louvre in Paris in 1682 until the bloody French revolution in 1789. The palace has been magnificently maintained with sumptuous gardens, exquisite decorations and splendidly restored 17th and 18th century furniture. But it’s mostly a museum and and the ghosts remain mainly behind the curtains. However, in Fashion and Versailles, French fashion expert Laurence Benaïm brings to life the fine fashions of the royal court, from shoes to hair dos, to diamond studded lapdog collars, particularly around the trendsetting years of Marie Antoinette, the Austrian bride of Louis XVI and her contemporary duchesses, countesses, princes and courtiers. Benaïm reveals how the fashions didn’t die with the executions of the king and queen but indeed continued to influenced the world until today, including references from Jackie Kennedy to Madonna; from Dior and Lagerfeld to Rihanna.

The book delicately described the art de vivre of Marie Antoinette, the symbols and codes of accessories and the manner in which flirtation and seduction were articulated through dress. The claim that Versailles is not just nostalgic but a real inspiration of contemporary fashion is backed up with a comprehensive time line tracing Versailles’ fashion and influences from from 1661 to 2017 including the first use of the term falbala (frill or flounce) in 1676; the appearance of the robe volante in 1715-23; the first retrospective exhibition devoted to Marie Antoinette at the second Paris Exposition Universelle in 1867; the release of the film Marie Antoinette by W.S Van Dyke in 1938 and that of Sofia Coppola in 2006; the ‘Dior at Versailles’ haute jewellery collection inspired by the palace, and Rihanna’s ‘Marie Antoinette at the gym’ Fenty Puma collection in 2017.

Highly illustrated with 200 exquisite drawings, paintings and fashion photography through the ages, Fashion and Versailles makes a delightful gift and coffee table book. It may also inspire a trip back to Paris and not just to the legendary palace but to the boutiques and fashion events of the French capital today. 

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