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Fashionable Queens

Body – Power – Gender

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Edited By Eva Flicker and Monika Seidl

The essays collected in this book provide profound insights into the wide-ranging topic of the fashionable queen: the manifold implications and effects that the combination of body, power and gender can have are examined by using different approaches and a variety of theoretical frameworks. By addressing queenly appearances in the past and the present, in politics and the media, in royalty and the middle-classes, in the arts and in popular culture, this book offers a new way of thinking of publically significant women, who exert, and at the same time subvert, their power through their attires and thereby negotiate notions of gender, class, power and media representation.
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Fashion Victim? Marie Antoinette (1755 Vienna, 1793 Paris): Barbara Vinken

The Dismantling of the Body of the Queen

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Fashion Victim? Marie Antoinette

(1755 Vienna, 1793 Paris)

Barbara Vinken

Abstract

Marie Antoinette’s sartorial politics upended the courtly etiquette of the time. The very bodies of the king and queen were meant to put in evidence God’s stamp on the prevailing aristocratic order. Her withdrawal from the court to her retreat in the Trianon challenged the norm, as did her erotisation of the queen’s body by playing the role of the king’s mistress. She even engaged in cross-dressing and mounted a horse like a man. Vigée LeBrun’s portrait of her wearing transparent muslin caused a scandal by showing her in immodest ‘underwear’. This unconventional behaviour had significance beyond her control. The new bourgeois order refigured her as the paradigmatic woman. Even the queen was now above all a wife and a mother. Previously both sexes could show their attractiveness, whereas now sexual display became the prerogative of women alone. Post-revolutionary fashion figuratively castrates the aristocratic male by retrospectively reading him as effeminate and similarly disempowers women by dressing them all as queens of fashion.

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