My latest talk is titled ‘Marie Antoinette and What She Wore to the Revolution. My talk included a costume display consisting of reproduction 18th Century underwear – chemise/shift, corset/stays and hooped underskirt called panniers. My display also included a magnificent pink silk Robe a La Francais worn with a high wig, stomacher and grand panniers. or Sack Dress plus the La Reine Chemise a pretty white cotton more casual style which she preferred.
I presented my latest costume talk twice during the last week – for the Yorkshire Embroiderers Guild on Saturday 10 March 2018 in Cottingham in Beverley and then again for the Royal Scots Club in Edinburgh on Tuesday 13 March. https://www.royalscotsclub.com/afternoon-tea-2/
My talk about Marie Antoinette compares the styles of two dresses she wore – elaborate and and ornate Robe a La Francais or Sack Dress and the simpler La Reine Chemise. I explore the character of Marie Antoinette in relation to the clothing she wore and the impact it had on the French Aristocracy.
I am always happy to include a question and answer session after my talks. You may be interested to read some of the questions and answers below.
How wide was silk produced in France during the 18th century?
Silk today isn’t usually very wide – mostly 44” however I have bought some silk which is 60” wide although this isn’t very readily available. I know that the width of silk produced in the past was generally dependent upon the length of the arms of the weavers as they moved the frame. So the silk fabric was usually about 28”during the 18th Century but could vary from a narrow as 24” up to as wide as 36”.
Did the ladies of this period wear anything at all under their skirts?
The ladies of this period wore nothing at all under their skirts and petticoats. The first pair of knickers or drawers were worn about 1795. They were separate legs and not joined at all in the middle. They were tubes of fabric based on men’s trousers. As the skirts were lighter and sometimes see-through they were needed for cover and warmth.
Were the cocoons of the silk worms producing silk in China brought to France to produce silk?
Silk dying and weaving developed in ancient Syria, Greece and Rome but the silk itself always came from the East. Silk production first made it way to the West in the A.D. 6th century when monks working as spies for Byzantine Emperor Justinian brought silkworm eggs from China to Constantinople in hollowed out canes. Bursa in present-day Turkey and Athens, Thebes, Corinth and Argos in present-day Greece all became silk producing areas.
Silk production spread to Italy and France and continued through the Middle Ages, the Renaissance and Industrial Revolution but was devastated by a silkworm plague in 1854. Louis Pasteur discovered the cause and developed a treatment. The Italian industry recovered but the French industry never did.
I would like to thank my super son James for assisting me with the talks and my kind friend Dave for doing all the driving and there was a lot of driving!
I really enjoyed presenting the talks – I love meeting new people and enjoy chatting to them about my passion – costumes!