Bodice said to have belonged to Marie Antoinette (1755–1793)

  • Circa 1785
  • Blue silk taffeta, blue silk trim, wooden stay.
  • Gal 1997.76.1
  • Acquired by the City of Paris
  • Palais Galliera, musée de la Mode de la Ville de Paris

This backlaced bodice did not have whalebone stays. Instead, an interior gusset at the centre of the yoke held a wooden stay, or busk, which stiffened only the front. The back lacing, low neckline and short sleeves make it similar to the whalebone corset used for formal court wear. It was probably used on unofficial occasions or when the whalebone corset could not be worn for health reasons.

Apart from the writings of her memoirists and the letters she exchanged with her mother Maria Teresa of Austria, little documentary material exists regarding Marie Antoinette's fashion leanings: only the Gazette des atours (1782), the Etat de la garde-robe de Marie Antoinette by her lady-in-waiting Madame d'Ossun, the account book of Madame Eloffe, one of her marchandes de modes (Paris, Archives Nationales) and this blue silk bodice bought at auction by the City of Paris. It was found pressed between the pages of Madame Eloffe's account book. This valuable archival material confirms the queen's passion for fashion, and the importance of the marchandes de modes, notably the famous Rose Bertin, among her suppliers. In addition to embellishing garments with lace, gauze, feathers and artificial flowers, the marchandes de mode made bonnets and other headgear and sold lace and fans. Dotted with pinholes, this bodice was given, as was the custom, to Madame Eloffe for experiments in ornamentation.

Notice's author : Pascale Gorguet-Ballesteros