SNARK WEEK: Maria Theresia’s Costumes: Actual Research!

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Although Snark Week has me about to keel over, I promised you an Actual Research post reviewing Maria Theresia‘s (2017-19) costumes:

Starting with our second Snark Week, I’ve picked a shitty frock flick to recap, because I love sharing the blow-by-blows with you. This year, I asked you to choose what film/series I should recap, and the clear winner was Maria Theresia (2017-). This is an Austrian-Czech miniseries about Empress Maria Theresa, Holy Roman Empress and empress/queen of Austria, Hungary, Croatia, Bohemia, Transylvania, Mantua, Milan, Lodomeria and Galicia, the Austrian Netherlands, and Parma, beginning in 1741 and reigning through 1780. The series had two (LONG) episodes in 2017, two more in 2019, and apparently a further two more are planned. I’ll recap the four existing episodes this week, and on Friday I’ll do some actual research and talk about what the production got right, and where they messed up, in the costumes.

Given my level of exhaustion, and the fact that they were the focus of my recaps, I’m going to restrict myself to talking about the women’s fashion. The series has a few quick moments in the early 1720s, then jumps forward and spends most of its time in the 1730s and 1740s, so that will also be my focus.

Now, the problem is that 1. the early 18th century isn’t as well documented as the later (no fashion magazines existed, fewer surviving garments, and portraiture tended to show more mythical/allegorical/formal styles than the more relaxed portraits of the late 18th century), and 2. this is an era of distinct regionalism in fashion, which starts to blur in the late eighteenth century (see: fashion magazines created, among other trends) — what was worn in Central Europe was slightly different from France or England or Sweden or Spain or Russia, and all of those were slightly different from each other too. So I’m going to try to focus on the Austrian/German area, but back to that poor documentation issue, I may need to pull from French sources sometimes. Sorry!

Also important to know is that there were strong distinctions between the formal, often regulated clothing worn for court functions (and those varied from court to court, so what was worn in Versailles wasn’t necessarily what was worn in Vienna), and the clothes worn for unofficial occasions (which could span “hanging out at home on the couch” to “fancy party”).

Let’s look first at court dress in early-mid 18th century Austria/Germany and compare it with the costumes show in Maria Theresia. Then we’ll look at less official dress.

 

Court Dress in Maria Theresia

Despite all my cautioning about differences, women’s court dress in the mid-18th century followed a particular look, which was based on the dresses worn in the late 17th century:

This court gown was worn in Sweden, but it follows the general style | Sofia Magdalena’s coronation gown, 1772 | Livrustkammaren.

The dresses were made of three main elements:

  1. A cone-shaped bodice that was boned and made with stiffened materials (so it was both a fashion garment and a corset in one), with a just-off-the-shoulder neckline, front point, back closure, and lace sleeves:
Sofia Magdalena court dress bodice back closeup

The front comes to a V; there are tab around the waistline hidden by the skirt; the silhouette in front is straight up and down and then curving away from there; the neckline is broad and forces the shoulders back.

Sofia Magdalena court dress bodice back closeup

It does indeed lace closed in back, but the lacing holes are hidden UNDER the fashion fabric. Here, the dress is laced loosely (due to its fragility) so you can see the hidden lacing strips. Note also the tab visible at the back right hem.

Sofia Magdalena court dress bodice back closeup

What the back looks like laced closed.

  1. A petticoat worn over side hoops whose width varies depending on the exact period and the formality of the occasion. Sofia Magdalena’s dress is from her wedding, so her hoops are huuuuuuuuuuge. The petticoat is the “underskirt” in the big image above.

  2. The train, which is what we would call an “overskirt.” It opens in front, and is pulled back to varying degrees over the hoops, and then extends a few to a gazillion feet in back.

Here’s some examples of Austrian/German court dress from the 1730s-40s:

Louis Caravaque, Benigna Gottliebe von Trotta genannt Treyden (1703-1782), Duchess of Courland, 1730s, National History Museum of Latvia

Louis Caravaque, Benigna Gottliebe von Trotta genannt Treyden (1703-1782), Duchess of Courland, 1730s, National History Museum of Latvia

After Antoine Pesne, Portrait of Wilhelmine of Prussia, Margravine of Brandenburg-Bayreuth (1709-1758), c. 1734, via Wikimedia Commons

After Antoine Pesne, Portrait of Wilhelmine of Prussia, Margravine of Brandenburg-Bayreuth (1709-1758), c. 1734, via Wikimedia Commons

Gabriello Mattei, Portrait of Empress Maria Theresa of Austria (1717-1780), c. 1736-40, Uffizi Gallery

Gabriello Mattei, Portrait of Empress Maria Theresa of Austria (1717-1780), c. 1736-40, Uffizi Gallery

Maria Theresa as Queen of Hungary, 1740-41, Hungarian National Gallery

Maria Theresa as Queen of Hungary, 1740-41, Hungarian National Gallery

Now, let’s look at some of the court style-dresses in Maria Theresia and get more specific. One problem is that I’m not entirely sure WHEN they meant something to be a court dress and when they didn’t, so in some ways this is going to be “times Maria Theresia got the court dress right”:

2017 Maria Theresia ep1

Unfortunately this is all we see of this court dress, but the neckline and its lace trim, as well as the lace sleeves, look good.

After Jean-Étienne Liotard, Portrait of Empress Maria Theresa, 1743-45, National Museum in Warsaw

After Jean-Étienne Liotard, Portrait of Empress Maria Theresa, 1743-45, National Museum in Warsaw

2017 Maria Theresa wedding gown

Maria Theresa’s wedding gown is pretty spot on, except the bodice should have tabs, there should be a separate trained overskirt, and the lacing should be more hidden.

Attributed to Martin van Meytens, Portrait of Maria Theresa of Austria (1717-1780) or her sister Maria Anna (1718-1744), c. 1741, Hungarian National Museum

I’m betting large sums of money they were inspired by this portrait … and in there defense, I don’t see the train/overskirt here | Attributed to Martin van Meytens, Portrait of Maria Theresa of Austria (1717-1780) or her sister Maria Anna (1718-1744), c. 1741, Hungarian National Museum

2017 Maria Theresia ep1

Maria Anna’s dress gets a similar pass to MT’s wedding dress, although ditto the trained overskirt, I’ve never seen the fabric mixing like they do here, and I’d expect wider hoops for such a formal occasion.

2017 Maria Theresa - moms wed

I’m also giving mom’s wedding dress a pass (note it has what is presumably the train/overskirt!), although you don’t normally see the center front made of a different fabric like that…

Johann Gottfried Auerbach, Portrait of Elisabeth Christine, Empress of Austria and Queen of Bohemia and Hungary (1691-1750), 1735, Christie's

What you usually get is what you see here on the REAL MT’s mom, which is lace, embroidery, jewels, or other trim laid on top of the dress fabric | Johann Gottfried Auerbach, Portrait of Elisabeth Christine, Empress of Austria and Queen of Bohemia and Hungary (1691-1750), 1735, Christie’s

2017 Maria Theresa

Another dress I’m giving an okay to is this lace-trimmed dress…

Martin van Meytens, Portrait of Maria Theresia (1717-1780), 1747-49, Deutsches Historisches Museum

Because you see similar trim application in portraits, although I’m thinking that’s embroidery | Martin van Meytens, Portrait of Maria Theresia (1717-1780), 1747-49, Deutsches Historisches Museum

The one dress with the main problem is mom’s court-dress, which has a high-low overskirt, which 1. didn’t exist and 2. would make it a jacket, not a dress:

2017 Maria Theresia ep1

The short overskirt length would only be seen on a jacket, which this is not.

2017 Maria Theresia ep1

And high-low hems didn’t exist.

With the switch (to more money? more time?) in episodes 3 and 4, the main court dress passes the “okay given they had a budget” test:

2019 Maria Theresia ep4

This is probably the best official court dress in the production… except the bodice trim is of questionable quality, and it’s missing the train (overskirt).

 

Fashionable Dress in Maria Theresia

Alright, this is where things get a lot harder … back again to the issue of limited documentation. Here’s a brief rundown of fashionable dress options in the 1730s-40s, from least cutting-edge to most:

The “Robe”

Okay, it was called the “robe” in France, I’m not sure what they called it in German-speaking areas. It’s a cone-shaped bodice, generally with support built-in like the court bodice, but comes up higher on the shoulder. It can be worn with one or two skirts (if two, the overskirt would be split in front). Sleeves are elbow-length, initially cut into shape, then later with a pleated cuff. Some closed in front, especially when they were worn over a stomacher, and some closed in back with the same hidden lacing you see in court gowns.

Joseph Anton Fischer, portrait of Empress Maria Theresa (1717-1780), when Archduchess, and her sister, Archduchess Maria Anna of Austria (1718-1744), 18th century, Sotheby's

Back-opening | Joseph Anton Fischer, portrait of Empress Maria Theresa (1717-1780), when Archduchess, and her sister, Archduchess Maria Anna of Austria (1718-1744), 18th century, Sotheby’s

Francesco Carlo Rusca, Herzogin Philippine Charlotte von Braunschweig (1716-1801), 1735-37, Stiftung Preußische Schlösser und Gärten

Front-opening | Francesco Carlo Rusca, Herzogin Philippine Charlotte von Braunschweig (1716-1801), 1735-37, Stiftung Preußische Schlösser und Gärten

Antoine Pesne, Sophie Dorothea von Preußen, née von Hannover (1687-1757), 1737, Charlottenburg Palace

Back-opening with overskirt | Antoine Pesne, Sophie Dorothea von Preußen, née von Hannover (1687-1757), 1737, Charlottenburg Palace

Joachim Martin Falbe, Henriette Amalie of Anhalt-Dessau, 1740-45, Schloss Mosigkau

Front-opening | Joachim Martin Falbe, Henriette Amalie of Anhalt-Dessau, 1740-45, Schloss Mosigkau

Johann Ulrich Schellenberg, Portrait of a Woman, 1745, via Wikimedia Commons

Front-opening with stomacher | Johann Ulrich Schellenberg, Portrait of a Woman, 1745, via Wikimedia Commons

English gown, 1760, Victoria & Albert Museum

This is a young girl’s style, hence the later date, but notice the back opening | English gown, 1760, Victoria & Albert Museum

2017 Maria Theresia

This is what this blue gown is supposed to be.

2017 Maria Theresia ep1

Although note no hidden back-lacing…

Andreas Møller, Erzherzogin Maria Theresia (1717-1780) im Alter von elf Jahren, Kniestück, c. 1727, Kunsthistorisches Museum

This is what they’re drawing on. I questioned the sleeves and waistline pearls; I stand corrected on the sleeves, but I’d still argue those pearls are supposed to make this look mythological or allegorical | Andreas Møller, Erzherzogin Maria Theresia (1717-1780) im Alter von elf Jahren, Kniestück, c. 1727, Kunsthistorisches Museum

There’s a lot more of these:

2017 Maria Theresia ep1
2017 Maria Theresia ep1

I complained about the execution of the cross-over bodice here.

Johann Friedrich Schmidt, Countess Sophia Albertine of Erbach-Erbach, Duchess of Saxe-Hildburghausen (1683-1742), 1740, Seitenroda, Museum Leuchtenburg, Gemäldesammlung

This is what that kind of cross-over bodice SHOULD look like | Johann Friedrich Schmidt, Countess Sophia Albertine of Erbach-Erbach, Duchess of Saxe-Hildburghausen (1683-1742), 1740, Seitenroda, Museum Leuchtenburg, Gemäldesammlung

2017 Maria Theresia ep1 2017 Maria Theresia ep2 2019 Maria Theresia ep3

 

Fitted Jacket-Style Bodices

Cut similarly to the robe, but with a short skirting attached to the bodice hem.

Antoine Pesne, Prinzessin Luise Ulrike von Preußen als Schäferin, 1738, Stiftung Preußische Schlösser und Gärten

Antoine Pesne, Prinzessin Luise Ulrike von Preußen als Schäferin, 1738, Stiftung Preußische Schlösser und Gärten

Dance in a Pavilion by Nicolas Lancret, 1730-5, Charlottenburg Palace

These are basically missing from Maria Theresia.

Riding Habits

Styled like men’s suits on top, but worn with skirts:

Louis de Silvestre, Anna Orzelska in riding habit, 1730, Łazienki Palace

Louis de Silvestre, Anna Orzelska in riding habit, 1730, Łazienki Palace

Georg Desmarées, Portrait of Theresa Benedicta of Bavaria (1725-1743), 1740, Schloss Hämelschenburg

Georg Desmarées, Portrait of Theresa Benedicta of Bavaria (1725-1743), 1740, Schloss Hämelschenburg

Antoine Pesne, Portrait of Sophie Marie Gräfin Voss (1729-1814), 1746-51, Charlottenburg Palace

Antoine Pesne, Portrait of Sophie Marie Gräfin Voss (1729-1814), 1746-51, Charlottenburg Palace

Portrait of Elisabeth Christine of Braunschweig-Wolfenbuettel (1691-1750), spouse of Holy Roman Emperor Charles VI, Schönbrunn Palace

Portrait of Elisabeth Christine of Braunschweig-Wolfenbuettel (1691-1750), spouse of Holy Roman Emperor Charles VI, Schönbrunn Palace

The show has a number of these, although their’s are usually proper riding habit jackets worn over other styles of gowns instead of with their own matching petticoat:

2017 Maria Theresia ep1 2017 Maria Theresia ep2 2017 Maria Theresia ep2 2019 Maria Theresia ep3
2019 Maria Theresia ep4

This is probably the best of the bunch.

Robert Harvie, Portrait of a lady, 1747, Christie's

It’s a ringer for this portrait | Robert Harvie, Portrait of a lady, 1747, Christie’s

The Contouche

Called the robe à la française in France and the sacque or sack in England, this was open in front over a stomacher, with vertical pleats along the front edges; in back, it had structured pleats that went from neck to hem:

Robe à la Française, 1765-70, French, Metropolitan Museum of Art

Antoine Pesne, Portrait of Elisabeth Christine von Braunschweig-Bevern, Prussian queen, c. 1739, Prussian Palaces and Gardens Foundation Berlin-Brandenburg

Antoine Pesne, Portrait of Elisabeth Christine von Braunschweig-Bevern, Prussian queen, c. 1739, Prussian Palaces and Gardens Foundation Berlin-Brandenburg

Tibout Regters, Portrait einer adeligen Dame, 1743, via Wikimedia Commons

Tibout Regters, Portrait einer adeligen Dame, 1743, via Wikimedia Commons

Antoine Pesne, Portrait of Luise Ulrike Prinzessin von Preußen (1720-1782) mit Maske in der Hand, c. 1744, Prussian Palaces and Gardens Foundation Berlin-Brandenburg

Antoine Pesne, Portrait of Luise Ulrike Prinzessin von Preußen (1720-1782) mit Maske in der Hand, c. 1744, Prussian Palaces and Gardens Foundation Berlin-Brandenburg

Johann Georg Ziesenis, Portrait of Christiane of Zweibrücken, wife of Karl August, Prince of Waldeck and Pyrmont, 1748, Schloss Arolsen, Stiftung des Fürstlichen Hauses Waldeck und Pyrmont

Johann Georg Ziesenis, Portrait of Christiane of Zweibrücken, wife of Karl August, Prince of Waldeck and Pyrmont, 1748, Schloss Arolsen, Stiftung des Fürstlichen Hauses Waldeck und Pyrmont

There’s a lot of these in Maria Theresia:

2017 Maria Theresia ep1

This is good from the back.

2017 Maria Theresia

In front, it’s missing its robings (the pleats that should follow the gown line from shoulder to hem), plus it’s too long-waisted.

2017 Maria Theresia ep2

This is supposed to be a contouche, but as I outlined in that recap, it’s missing its side and side front skirts.

2017 Maria Theresia ep2

It’s also missing its center-front opening in favor of some serious weirdness (read the recap for my attempt to figure it out).

2019 Maria Theresia ep3

This one looks great.

2019 Maria Theresia ep3

Ditto, except that purple is WAY too bright for the 18th century.

2019 Maria Theresia ep3

Another great contouche.

2019 Maria Theresia ep3

 

Specific Nitpicks in Maria Theresia

Now, let’s do what Snark Week does best!

 

Sewn-In Stomachers (and Petticoats)

I complained a lot about sewn-in stomachers, and got a few questions about them. Let me break it down:

The way one wears a stomacher-ed gown is to first put on your stays (corset), hoops or hip/bum pads (if worn), underpetticoat, and petticoat. Then, the stomacher is pinned or basted to the stays (in the 1770s-80s, there was a style where the stomacher could be sewn to the gown, in which case it split center front). THEN the gown is put on, and pinned or basted to the stomacher/stays at the front edges. Check out this video from the National Museums Liverpool for a live demo; scroll back if you want to see the stomacher being pinned into place:

Antoine Pesne, Portrait of Elisabeth Christine von Braunschweig-Bevern, Prussian queen, c. 1739, Prussian Palaces and Gardens Foundation Berlin-Brandenburg

Look again at Elisabeth Christine von Braunschweig-Bevern. Can you see how the gown (which ends at the side front) is clearly laid OVER the stomacher? This stomacher actually has a center front seam, so it could be sewn into place and opened at its CF.

The problem with the costumes in this production is the stomachers are often sewn into place, with the gown opening in back, which is ridiculous. As I outlined in my back-lacing rant, there’s no need to open a gown in back if it already opens in front, as it would to show the stomacher. It also just LOOKS clunky, as there’s clearly no overlay of the gown. Why would they do this? It’s probably easier for the dressers to have everything sewn together, there’s less margin for error or continuity problems.

This “stomacher” is clearly a sheer black fabric sewn on top of the dress.

2017 Maria Theresia ep1

Same fabric, sewn to the bodice.

2017 Maria Theresia ep1

Lace applied on top of the bodice.

2017 Maria Theresia ep1

Patterned fabric sewn to the bodice.

2017 Maria Theresa - moms wed

Embellished contrasting fabric sewn in as the center front panel.

Things got a lot better in episodes 3 and 4, except I want to know why this black contouche’s stomacher looks laid on top of the gown rather than vice versa:

2019 Maria Theresia ep3

Not Enough Corsets

Stays (the 18th-century term; “corset” is 19th century, but it’s a shorthand more people understand) seem to come and go in this production. Particularly in episodes 3 and 4, you get some lovely bodice silhouettes like this one:

2019 Maria Theresia ep4

See how smooth the front of that bodice is? There’s no individual, defined breasts. And then the shape curves away to the sides.

I’ve pretty much never seen actual boob shapes under a gown/corset in the 18th century, except for some outliers in the very late century. Yes, especially in the first half of the century, support for the breasts and torso could be build into the gown, like in the court gown and robe. But the resulting silhouette should looked “corseted” and smooth; and if support isn’t build into the gown, separate stays should be worn.

Francesco Carlo Rusca, Herzogin Philippine Charlotte von Braunschweig (1716-1801), 1735-37, Stiftung Preußische Schlösser und Gärten

Look at Philippine Charlotte von Braunschweig’s smooth silhouette.

That’s why all these boobs annoyed me:

2017 Maria Theresia ep1

We should not be seeing that dent below her bust.

2017 Maria Theresia ep1

Ditto.

2019 Maria Theresia ep3

Tripled!

Weird Trimming

Okay, so they did generally PLACE the trim in the right spot — center front of the bodice or occasionally along the side fronts of a contouche/française. But the aesthetic just SO wasn’t 18th century. I get it, they’re trying to do a lot without a lot of money or time, so these modern equivalents save both.

Gabriello Mattei, Portrait of Empress Maria Theresa of Austria (1717-1780), c. 1736-40, Uffizi Gallery

Court gowns often featured embroidery along the front in a stomacher-esque, upside-down triangle pattern.

Antoine Pesne, Portrait of the Queen of Prussia Elisabeth Christine of Brunswick-Bevern (1715 to 1797), c. 1735, via Wikimedia Commons

Or across the front of the gown | Antoine Pesne, Portrait of the Queen of Prussia Elisabeth Christine of Brunswick-Bevern (1715 to 1797), c. 1735, via Wikimedia Commons

Louis Caravaque, Benigna Gottliebe von Trotta genannt Treyden (1703-1782), Duchess of Courland, 1730s, National History Museum of Latvia

And there were often jewels worn at the bodice center front.

Antoine Pesne, Portrait of Elisabeth Christine von Braunschweig-Bevern, Prussian queen, c. 1739, Prussian Palaces and Gardens Foundation Berlin-Brandenburg

Gowns like the contouche usually had trim down the side fronts of the gown, and on the stomacher.

Antoine Pesne, Portrait of Luise Ulrike Prinzessin von Preußen (1720-1782) mit Maske in der Hand, c. 1744, Prussian Palaces and Gardens Foundation Berlin-Brandenburg

And along the side fronts of the overskirt.

2017 Maria Theresa

This blue gown is one of the more successfully trimmed gowns.

2019 Maria Theresia ep3

This one is acceptable.

2019 Maria Theresia ep3

Nicely done!

2019 Maria Theresia ep3

The scattered pearls are weird. It’s too abstract for 18th century!

2019 Maria Theresia ep3

I have never seen faceted beads as gown trim in this period.

2017 Maria Theresa plastic trim

I may never recover from the iridescent plastic sequin applique debacle of 2020, although I know suspect they may be plastic pearls instead of sequins.

2017 Maria Theresa wedding gown trim

Comparing the original portrait with the finished gown I can see where they were going here … but this just DID NOT read well on film.

2019 Maria Theresia ep4

I have never seen a contouche/française with vertical trim in back.

2019 Maria Theresia ep4

This was just SO modern bridal, plus the white lace at the neckline and cream lace on the bodice front are jarring.

Shitty Wigs

Okay, so yes, as everyone knows, white hair was super popular throughout the 18th century. What is frequently misunderstood is the fact that this was done by applying powder — lots and lots of powder — to the hair. Yes, white and grey WIGS existed, but these were primarily worn by men and still had powder applied. Unless a woman was losing her hair, they nearly always wore their own hair, and most often it was powdered within an inch of its life.

Tibout Regters, Portrait einer adeligen Dame, 1743, via Wikimedia Commons

Can you see the powder along her hairline?

So I could have accepted the shitty white wigs in episodes 1 and 2 IF I were supposed to believe it was the woman’s own hair. But given how MT kept switching between white and blond, and the fact that we see her natural brown hair on her wedding night, this was a big no for me.

2017 Maria Theresia ep1

Sometimes white!

2017 Maria Theresia ep1

Sometimes blonde!

2017 Maria Theresia ep1

Wait there’s her own hair!

Things got better in episodes 3 and 4 when they started using the actress’s own hair. But the problem is the hairstyles they used — while actually quite pretty — were more late 1750s through 1770s than 1730s-40s. Don’t believe me?

1730s hair

1730’s hairstyles

1740s hair

1740’s hairstyles

Instead, in episodes 3 and 4, we get hair more like this 1772 style:

Augustin Pajou/Sèvres Manufactory, Madame du Barry (1746–1793), 1772, Metropolitan Museum of Art

Augustin Pajou/Sèvres Manufactory, Madame du Barry (1746–1793), 1772, Metropolitan Museum of Art

2019 Maria Theresia ep3

It’s pretty! But it’s not 1740s.

2019 Maria Theresia ep3

MAYBE 1750s?

And, to say for the thousandth time, 18th-century women did not wear full wigs IF they could avoid it. They wore hairpieces, sure, which they worked their own hair into for a natural look. So every time you see a scene like this, join me in scoffing:

2019 Maria Theresia ep3

Nope!

Anachronistic Gown Styles

And finally, there were a number of gown styles worn that were decades too early:

2019 Maria Theresia ep3

“Zone” front gowns, with the overdress cut with an inverted V shape opening in front, were fashionable in the 1770s-80s.

Dresses and jackets with cutaway overbodices. Family group by James Millar, 1774-80, Yale Center for British Art The Oliver and Ward Families by Francis Wheatley, c. 1778, Yale Center for British Art The Sharp Family by Johann Zoffany, 1779-81, National Portrait Gallery Harriet Milles by John Downman, 1780 Jacket (“pierrot”), c. 1790, France, Kyoto Costume Institute

Dresses and jackets with cutaway overbodices: Family group by James Millar, 1774-80, Yale Center for British Art / The Oliver and Ward Families by Francis Wheatley, c. 1778, Yale Center for British Art / The Sharp Family by Johann Zoffany, 1779-81, National Portrait Gallery/ Harriet Milles by John Downman, 1780 / Jacket (“pierrot”), c. 1790, France, Kyoto Costume Institute

2019 Maria Theresia ep3

This kind of fitted back gown, with the skirt cut separately, is 1770s at the earliest.

Robe à l’Anglaise, British, 1776 / Robe à l’Anglaise, American, 1785-95

Robe à l’Anglaise, British, 1776 / Robe à l’Anglaise, American, 1785-95

2019 Maria Theresia ep3

Ditto.

2019 Maria Theresia ep3

Tripled.

There’s tons more I could say, but I’m about to keel over from Snark Week exhaustion, so I admit defeat and won’t be discussing the coronation gown. I’m sorry!!

 

What questions do you have, and information can you share, about women’s fashions in the 1730s-40s and the costumes of Maria Theresa? Weigh in in the comments!

 

 

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About the author

Kendra

Website

Kendra has been a fixture in the online costuming world since the late 1990s. Her website, Démodé Couture, is one of the most well-known online resources for historical costumers. In the summer of 2014, she published a book on 18th-century wig and hair styling. Kendra is a librarian at a university, specializing in history and fashion. She’s also an academic, with several articles on fashion history published in research journals.

12 Responses

  1. Susan Pola Staples

    Under the picture of Sofia Magdelena it says Coronation Gown and under your Detail pics it says Wedding Gown. I believe both are in existence, so I’m going to believe it’s a typo due to extreme weariness. So far I’m enjoying the comparison.

    Reply
  2. Nzie

    Thanks for doing this, Kendra! I feel like I learn so much both in snarky and more serious takes. :-) I really want to read about the construction of these things now. Thinking of going mid-18th C for a cosplay next fall so I’m all eyes! Kudos!

    Reply
  3. MrsC (Maryanne)

    Wow what a marathon! And so interesting to read your analysis of why one’s reaction to these things is almost visceral. I see something else that’s more of an overall approach issue including and beyond the specifics here. The colour palette is wrong. The pink wedding dress is a cool based modern pink, not the rich warm, soft pink of a naturally dyed colour, and the constant use of 80s electric blue hurts my brain. The difference between this and the deep greeny navy in portraits is just..ungh. So this gives the whole thing a 1980s school production vibe. And then as well as the hidjus sewn in stomachers, all the sewing and cutting has a pedestrian quality to it that just feels like costume hire dresses made from a simplicity costume pattern. The Grandma’s living room curtain brocades are everywhere. They don’t sit right, don’t read anything like silk. They lack silk’s vibrant personality in the way it moves. I understand budget constraints as it is a huge productiom and I imagine not much is for hire from this era, hence the zone front invasion, but so much could have been done to improve things – spraying the white nylon laces with cream or gold spraypaint gives them a rigidity and robustness that looks far more authentic. Doing this to all that white bridal trim on the blue gown would have helped. Obvs before it was put on.
    Well as always could hav been worse, could have been MQODenim.

    Reply
  4. Roxana

    Will you look at the panniers on that coronation/wedding gown! Good thing the ceremony, whichever it was, took place in a cathedral with BIG doors!

    Reply
  5. susan l eiffert

    Fantastic rant! I learned sooooo much. Appreciate the video very much. Now get some rest.

    Reply
  6. Shashwat

    It doesn’t seem that the costumes were made to appeal to modern aesthetics,and it is easy to find referenced portraits which makes it crystal clear that the designers tried,though the results are not that good.The fabrics and lace were horrible,and budget for those things could have made it much better as in the latter episodes.

    Reply
  7. Faye

    Thank you so much! See, I had no idea what a stomacher even was, or how you were meant to put it on, until you linked that video. I may be a mad history enthusiast but like I said, mostly in the ancient world and not really a clothing expert, so you need to explain these things like I’m five. Greatly enjoying snark week!

    Reply
  8. Aleko

    Re the shape of the boobs not being visible: I’ve had to read a fair amount of 17th- and 18th-century porn (you KNOW you’re a costume geek if you read an account of the Marquis de Sade’s trial for hiring a clutch of prostitutes and accidentally poisoning one with Spanish fly, and all you can remember is what he and his manservant were wearing), and it’s noticeable that it’s quite rare for the writer to refer to ‘breasts’ or any plural slang term; instead you get ‘her bosom’, singular. It really seems almost as though the randy male of the era thought of the bust as a single phenomenon, since that how he normally got to see it.

    Reply
    • jeanie jay

      Everything about this comment is glorious, and I would like to thank you for it. :D :D :D

      Reply
  9. Suzanne Benning

    On the subject of stomachers, shouldn’t they also be wearing jewelry stomachers (devant de corsage) on grand occasions? Those brooches they used seem awfully small and every day for an empress.

    Reply

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