Daily Archives: June 5, 2010

Marie Antoinette wore muslin

Chemise á  la Reine (also “gaulle”)

The simple gaulle shift Marie Antoinette popularized in her middle reign at Versailles is ubiquitous in her image today.  We see it in her famous portrait by Elizabeth Louise Vigée Lebrun where she is a confection of gauzy white ruffles, her cheeks pink and fresh, a green ribbon trailing in her hands, a flush colored rose clutched in her fingers.  Assumed by everyone from Georgiana Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire (who received the shift as a gift from Antoinette, as one fashionable friend to another) to the Princesse de Lamballe, even one of Antoinette’s earliest opponents, Madame du Barry, found the gaulle divine.


Madame Du Barry

Eventually after Antoinette’s death in 1793, the gaulle revolutionized fashion, leading  to the pared down looks of Jane Austen’s time in the early 19th century. 

Caroline Weber describes the gaulle in great, succinct detail in Queen of Fashion:

“By the summer of 1780, one of her [Marie Antoinette’s] favorite ensembles for Trianon was a white muslin shift known as gaulle, which Bertin had copied from “Creoles” and colonialist’s wives unable to wear the silk in the Caribbean heat.  This garment was slipped over a flexible cloth bodice instead of whalebone stays, and was free of any other structuring elements except a ruffled drawstring neck, puffy sleeves held up by ribbon “bracelets,” and a wide ribbon sash at the waist.  Wearers accessorized it sometimes with a saucy white apron, sometimes with a white fichu, and almost always with a soft white bonnet or wide-brimmed straw hat, perched atop hair that was loose and unpowdered.”