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Queen of Fashion
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Rating
A "Washington Post Book World" Best Book of the YearWhen her carriage first crossed over from her native Austria into France, fourteen-year-old Marie Antoinette was taken out, stripped naked before an entourage, and dressed in French attire to please the court of her new king. For a short while, the young girl played the part.But by the time she took the throne, everything had changed. In "Queen of Fashion, " Caroline Weber tells of the radical restyling that transformed the young queen into an icon and shaped the future of the nation. With her riding gear, her white furs, her pouf hairstyles, and her intricate ballroom disguises, Marie Antoinette came to embody--gloriously and tragically--all the extravagance of the monarchy.
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About the Author

Caroline Weber is associate professor of French at Barnard College, Columbia University. A specialist of eighteenth-century French literature, culture, and history, she has also taught at the University of Pennsylvania and Yale University. Her other publications include Terror and Its Discontents, a well-received and widely taught book on the Reign of Terror; an edited volume of Yale French Studies; and numerous academic articles. She lives with her husband in New York City.

Reviews

The queen who made fashion history-and another sort of history when the sans-culottes cried, "Off with her head." Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

At Versailles, where even the daily rouging of the Dauphin's cheeks was a highly ritualized and politicized affair, and where obedience to protocol could brook no infringement, 14-year-old Marie Antoinette's refusal to wear her whalebone corset threatened the Bourbon-Hapsburg alliance. As this prodigiously researched, deliciously detailed study (perfectly timed for the fall release of Sofia Coppola's movie) of the doomed royal's fashion statements demonstrates, her masculine equestrian garb, ostentatious costumes for masked balls, high Parisian hairdos and faux country-girl gear were bold bids for political power and personal freedom in a suffocating realm where a queen was merely a breeder and living symbol of her spouse's glorious reign. An iconic trendsetter whose styles were copied by prostitutes and aristocrats alike, Marie Antoinette was blamed for France's moral decay and financial bankruptcy, the blurring of class lines and callousness toward the poor. When many of her aristocratic contemporaries donned tricolor ribbons and jewelry set with stones from the Bastille's demolished walls as pro-revolutionary emblems, a defiant Marie Antoinette reintroduced her most opulent jewels into her daily costume. The generously illustrated history by Weber (Terror and Its Discontents) posits that the queen's fashion obsession wasn't about narcissism and frivolity but self-assertion; even at the guillotine she controlled her image with a radiantly white ensemble. (Oct. 1) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

"A perceptive work of scholarship that helps to explain the transcendent importance of fashion to French culture." --The New Yorker "Queen of Fashion is as richly imagined as the gowns it describes. . . . As sociology, it's nothing short of stunning." --The Washington Post Book World "Absorbing, fascinating, a wonderful display of grace and expertise." --The New York Review of Books "A thrilling frock-by-frock account . . . While this book is rigorously researched, Weber's narrative style is energetic and alive with her own feminine pleasure at a beautiful dress or an outrageous pouf." --Entertainment Weekly (grade: A) "Wickedly enjoyable." --The New York Times Style Magazine A perceptive work of scholarship that helps to explain the transcendent importance of fashion to French culture. "The New Yorker" "Queen of Fashion" is as richly imagined as the gowns it describes. . . . As sociology, it's nothing short of stunning. "The Washington Post Book World" Absorbing, fascinating, a wonderful display of grace and expertise. "The New York Review of Books" A thrilling frock-by-frock account . . . While this book is rigorously researched, Weber's narrative style is energetic and alive with her own feminine pleasure at a beautiful dress or an outrageous pouf. "Entertainment Weekly (grade: A)" Wickedly enjoyable. "The New York Times Style Magazine"" "A perceptive work of scholarship that helps to explain the transcendent importance of fashion to French culture."--"The New Yorker" ""Queen of Fashion" is as richly imagined as the gowns it describes. . . . As sociology, it's nothing short of stunning."--"The Washington Post Book World" "Absorbing, fascinating, a wonderful display of grace and expertise."--"The New York Review of Books" "A thrilling frock-by-frock account . . . While this book is rigorously researched, Weber's narrative style is energetic and alive with her own feminine pleasure at a beautiful dress or an outrageous pouf."--"Entertainment Weekly" (grade: A) "Wickedly enjoyable."--"The New York Times Style Magazine" " Caroline Weber weaves her portrait of Marie Antoinette-- and pre-revolutionary France-- from the very fabric of the Queen's wardrobe. Here is fashion at its most cut-throat and history at its most sumptuous; an original, arresting tale, of high stakes all around." -- Stacy Schiff, author of "A Great Improvisation""" " "Queen of Fashion "is a marvelous read. Fascinating in its rich detail yet also deeply moving, no other book about the tragic Marie Antoinette so captures her fatal flair for fashion. Caroline Weber not only combines fresh insights with new material, she also has a dazzling style of writing that most authors would kill for. This is a book to be read and reread and then passed among friends." -- Amanda Foreman, author of "Georgiana """ " Caroline Weber deftly details the volatile interplay of fashion and politics during Marie Antoinette's reign as a sartorial trend-setter. A witty account of fashion as dynastic high stakes, this rereading of the lead-up to the French Revolution sees the queen's vestimentary caprices as politically motivated, an ill-fated approach to her personal disenfranchisement. An original look at a turning point in European history." -- Carolyn Burke, author of "Lee Miller: A Life""" "Caroline Weber's historical imagination and zest for fashion make for a sparkling take on the tragic, trendy Queen. Scholarly and entertaining -- a brilliant, wholly original book."-- Kennedy Fraser, author of "The Power of Style""" " Even at its red-carpet, "who-are-you-wearing?" giddiest, fashion is never trivial. Far from it. In everypleat and wardrobe malfunction, cultural as well as sexual definitions constantly stretch and change. But Weber goes further. In her thrilling frock-by-frock account, which coincides with Sofia Coppola's biopic confection starring Kirsten Dunst, she concludes that 'Marie Antoinette helped invent fashion as a high-stakes political game -- one that she played in dead earnest, and with deadly results.' And while this book is rigorously researched, Weber's narrative style is energetic and alive with her own feminine pleasure at a beautiful dress or an outrageous pouf." -- "Entertainment Weekly, "' EW Pick' (A) " Caroline Weber's "Queen of Fashion" examines Marie Antoinette from an arresting angle-- her theatrical persona as a fashion innovator. Forced to jockey for position, French courtiers were slaves of fashion, while queens tended to be more modest and reserved. Fashion flash was practiced instead by the kings' semi-official mistresses-- a role that Weber demonstrates was borrowed by Marie Antoinette (whose husband had no mistress) and that eventually compromised her reputation and made it easier for scurrilous pamphleteers to caricature her as a whore." -- Camille Paglia, "The Chronicle of Higher Education" " It is always gratifying to discover how much a fashion statement can mean, and Weber's account of the transition from ancien regime to the Republic from a sartorial point of view is a perceptive work of scholarship that helps to explain the transcendent importance of fashion to French culture." -- "The New Yorker" " Wickedlyenjoyable." -- Horatio Silva, "The New York Times Style Magazine" " Prodigiously researched [and] deliciously detailed . . . The generously illustrated history by Weber posits that the queen's fashion obsession wasn't about narcissism and frivolity, but self-assertion; even at the guillotine she controlled her image with a radiantly white ensemble. Who knew that in 1909 one could have a dear friend give you a Brazilian shave?" -- "Publisher's Weekly "(starred review) " Comprehensive, entertaining . . . the fashion segments are fun to read and researched with consummate attention to detail. When the royal couple is finally imprisoned, the author does a splendid job of explaining how their political fall was mirrored in their dress. Her account of the queen's final appearance-- all in glorious white-- on the ride to the guillotine carries enormous poignancy. A briskly written account of a time when high fashion took death's hand and danced." -- "Kirkus Reviews" "Caroline Weber weaves her portrait of Marie Antoinette--and pre-revolutionary France--from the very fabric of the Queen's wardrobe. Here is fashion at its most cut-throat and history at its most sumptuous; an original, arresting tale, of high stakes all around."--Stacy Schiff, author of "A Great Improvisation""" ""Queen of Fashion "is a marvelous read. Fascinating in its rich detail yet also deeply moving, no other book about the tragic Marie Antoinette so captures her fatal flair for fashion. Caroline Weber not only combines fresh insights with new material, she also has a dazzling style of writing that most authors would kill for. This is a book to be read and reread and then passed among friends."--Amanda Foreman, author of "Georgiana """ "Caroline Weber deftly details the volatile interplay of fashion and politics during Marie Antoinette's reign as a sartorial trend-setter. A witty account of fashion as dynastic high stakes, this rereading of the lead-up to the French Revolution sees the queen's vestimentary caprices as politically motivated, an ill-fated approach to her personal disenfranchisement. An original look at a turning point in European history."--Carolyn Burke, author of "Lee Miller: A Life""" "Caroline Weber's historical imagination and zest for fashion make for a sparkling take on the tragic, trendy Queen. Scholarly and entertaining -- a brilliant, wholly original book."--Kennedy Fraser, author of "The Power of Style""" "Even at its red-carpet, "who-are-you-wearing?" giddiest, fashion is never trivial. Far from it. In every pleat and wardrobe malfunction, cultural as well as sexual definitions constantly stretch and change. But Weber goes further. In her thrillingfrock-by-frock account, which coincides with Sofia Coppola's biopic confection starring Kirsten Dunst, she concludes that 'Marie Antoinette helped invent fashion as a high-stakes political game -- one that she played in dead earnest, and with deadly results.' And while this book is rigorously researched, Weber's narrative style is energetic and alive with her own feminine pleasure at a beautiful dress or an outrageous pouf."--"Entertainment Weekly, "'EW Pick' (A) "Caroline Weber's "Queen of Fashion" examines Marie Antoinette from an arresting angle--her theatrical persona as a fashion innovator. Forced to jockey for position, French courtiers were slaves of fashion, while queens tended to be more modest and reserved. Fashion flash was practiced instead by the kings' semi-official mistresses--a role that Weber demonstrates was borrowed by Marie Antoinette (whose husband had no mistress) and that eventually compromised her reputation and made it easier for scurrilous pamphleteers to caricature her as a whore."--Camille Paglia, "The Chronicle of Higher Education" "It is always gratifying to discover how much a fashion statement can mean, and Weber's account of the transition from ancien regime to the Republic from a sartorial point of view is a perceptive work of scholarship that helps to explain the transcendent importance of fashion to French culture."--"The New Yorker" "Wickedly enjoyable."--Horatio Silva, "The New York Times Style Magazine" "Prodigiously researched �and� deliciously detailed . . . The generously illustrated history by Weber posits that the queen's fashion obsession wasn't about narcissism and frivolity, but self-assertion; even at the guillotine shecontrolled her image with a radiantly white ensemble. Who knew that in 1909 one could have a dear friend give you a Brazilian shave?"--"Publisher's Weekly "(starred review) "Comprehensive, entertaining . . . the fashion segments are fun to read and researched with consummate attention to detail. When the royal couple is finally imprisoned, the author does a splendid job of explaining how their political fall was mirrored in their dress. Her account of the queen's final appearance--all in glorious white--on the ride to the guillotine carries enormous poignancy. A briskly written account of a time when high fashion took death's hand and danced."--"Kirkus Reviews"

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