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Marie-Caroline of Bourbon-Two Sicilies, Duchess of Berry: 1820-1830

Marie-Caroline, born November 5, 1798 in Italy, was the widow of the duc de Berry; she was a duchess and mother of the heir to the Bourbon monarchy. She was an Italian princess who had married into the French royal family at twenty years of age and was the center of court life during the time of the Restoration reigns of Louis XVIII and Charles X. From the moment she arrived in France, she was inspired to be a leader in art, literature, music, and fashion; while these interests proved her amazing artistic abilities, her involvement in them became just as much a social practice as it did a creative one. She was known to be determined, unconventional, and frankly, iconic in the 19th century, most widely known for her fashionable attire. Some of her influence reflected the Romanticism of the era, a fascination with the past, and particularly, trobateur, a French style that depicts attire from the Renaissance era (Fashion History Timeline). When looking at photographs of her, one can note the Renaissance style jewelry, sleeves, and fabrics. For example, in the image above, she wears puffy silk sleeves and pearls. This differs from the typical styles of this era which included vibrant colors, ribbons, modest necklines, and tended to lack the Renaissance style silk sleeves shown on Marie-Caroline. Marie-Caroline gravitated toward more eclectic and costume-like styles; in fact, one of her favorite things to do was host parties where guests arrived in fashions of the 16th century, which came to be known as La Quadrille de Marie Stuart, and were shown in the fashion press during the 1820s. From her love of fashion and art to her social involvement in the royal court, Marie-Caroline was, and will continue to be known as, a rule-breaker, experimentalist, and icon. 

Marie-Caroline of Bourbon-Two Sicilies, Duchess of Berry
1820-1860: Text

Jane Digby: 1830-1840

An English aristocrat, born April 3rd, 1807, Jane Digby held an extremely unique reputation for her time. Since she was 22, Digby had been on the move; she first fled England to follow her lover, Prince Felix Schwarzenberg, leaving her husband in England after a scandal about her love life and divorce was brought to existence. At this time, divorce was practically unheard of so this was big news especially since she had divorced a fairly large political figure, Lord Ellenbourough of England. Not only that, but Jane became pregnant by her new lover, a foreign prince even though he was married to another woman. Her choices and lifestyle were known to be promiscuous and were quite unheard of. Not only did she indulge in what, at the time, was extremely radical behavior, but she also was a unique individual in terms of her fashion sense, as well. Interestingly enough, she had significant international inspiration when it came to how she dressed. Through traveling in Europe and the Middle East, she became aware of worldwide fashion and tended to wear colorful vests and layered with various undercoats and jackets; she prioritized practicality, especially during her travels where she could be seen riding horseback or walking miles in the sand (Fashion History Timeline). The typical style of the 1830s was feminine with intricate curly hairstyles, wide collars, and voluminous sleeves. Digby presented herself in an untraditional way not only with fashion, but also lifestyle. She was so revolutionary that newspapers continued to share her stories and legacies for decades after her time; By being so unconventional, Digby painted a picture for women that illustrated how what was once tradition, does not necessarily need to be strictly followed.

Jane Digby
1820-1860: Text

Queen Victoria: 1840-1850

Born in London, United Kingdom on May 24, 1819, Victoria became Queen at the age of 18. Over the span of 17 years, she birthed nine children and was known to be proud of her role as a devoted mother. She was known for breaking royal customs, especially in a fashion-sense. During this time, there were huge advancements within education and industrial expansion, so this was a time of renewal and rebirth, in general. Contrary to the widespread fashion trends of the time, she preferred a simpler style, which was more understated. She was also reluctant to follow typical fashion trends but was seen as the ideal Romantic woman in the sense of fashion, modesty, and dedication to her family (Fashion History Timeline). One of the most widely known moments of Queen Victoria breaking stereotypes was on her wedding day where she wore an eight-piece bodice with an open neckline and exaggerated pointed waistline in a deep v-shape. The waistline resembled the basque shape which refers to a corset-like garment which contours the waist and hips. At the ceremony, she wore a satin train which was over six yards long (Fashion History Timeline). She was proud to wear this dress, incorporating pieces inspired by old traditions as well as borrowing a brooch from her husband that she also wore. Her dress was more understated than those of Queens before her because she wanted to look tasteful, yet pure, on her wedding day. It is also important to note that all materials used to make her dress were sourced from strictly British materials which helped fund industries that were in decline at the time. Queen Victoria not only inspired brides of the 1800s, but also has a lasting influence on Western wedding dresses today. 

Queen Victoria
1820-1860: Text

Eugénie De Montijo: 1850-1859

Throughout the 1850s, fashion incorporating color became much more popular than it had been in recent decades; people wore deep greens, purples, and browns with brighter colored trimming (Apparel Search). One 1850s icon that well-portrayed these types of fashions was French Empress Eugénie De Montijo. Similar to other women in royal positions, she had a fascination with past styles (Château De Versailles). This included soft pastels, muted tones, and understated textures which differed from what was beginning to come into fashion during the 1850s. She took inspiration from Empress Josephine, who was in her bloodline, and Marie Antoinette, both women who lived decades before her time (Château De Versailles). She also had an interest in collecting furniture, which went hand in hand with her love of textiles and fashion in the sense that she was enamored with studying textures, fabrics, and even refurbishing older pieces. During this time, home decor and self expression were shown to parallel fashion trends; adding pops of color and including intricacy within drapes and couches were becoming more common. It is interesting to connect the two and consider the many ways in which one’s home decor and fashion sense can indicate and depict aspects of one’s lifestyle. By connecting Montijo’s personal style choices to what was commonly worn throughout the 1850s, one could note that she was most definitely unconventional when it came to choosing what to wear, even though she possessed high social status. All in all, through taking inspiration from the past, Empress Eugénie De Montijo was and is inspiring to those to step outside of the box. 

Eugénie De Montijo
1820-1860: Text
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