V56: 18th Century Costumes from “Versailles: Countdown to Revolution”

I watched a documentary series recently called “Versailles,” covering, in three installments, the history of the palace and its monarchs, Louis XIV, Louis XV, and Louis XVI.

I was really impressed with the production values for this series.  They were all shot on location, with French actors portraying each of the historical figures, but most importantly… the costumes were magnifique!
Documentaries are usually on the bottom rung when it comes to funding for costuming, but not this one.  I can’t find any information on this production, but it seems to me that whoever the costume designer was must have raided all the best costume houses in England and France.
It’s a good series, and I highly recommend it, although it’s a little depressing (historically accurate depression!).  Here are some screen grabs from Episode 3, with a rather pretty Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette:
(lots and lots and lots of images under the cut…)

This lady has the cuuuutest shoes
Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette
I liked the actress playing Marie Antoinette.  She was quite pretty and, of course, well-dressed.

A good view of the back of this wig in the foreground

This is on of MA’s gowns I didn’t quite get, with the drapery of her skirt – I guess some sort of polonaise.  The yellow gown to her right is lovely, and the one in back too
Another view of the gowns from above.
Great hats, colors, everything.  I appreciate that the documentary accurately portrayed the large changes in fashion through the 1780s.

I think she is supposed to be Adelaide – love her wig!
One of my faves, and Louis looks superfly too

Look at her perfect little shooooes!

Ok, maybe this one is my favorite….
A very sharp riding habit seen on MA, 3rd from the left.  The pink one on the right is also stunning

The only chemise a la reine that appears in the film, and only for a second.  It’s gorgeous.  It has bows. 🙂
This scene was great – three women laughing maniacally and observing their pretty shoes.   The red ones in the background are my faves, and very similar to Pemberley 

I had to include this shot – a perfect little 1780s shoe with little ribbon trim – looks just like the Pemberlies, with the little heel and all.  And how awesome is it that this production even got the shoes for 1780 exactly right!  


  • Sam Miller

    February 25, 2012 at 8:54 PM

    I am sure most stuff is reproduction. As a little girl visiting France from UK, I was dissapointed by how empty the Palais du Papes was in Avgnon compared to stately homes in UK. My dad pointed out that France lost a lot of historical artifacts, furniture and art in the Revolution and again during WWII.

  • Laura

    February 25, 2012 at 9:00 PM

    Perhaps she is wearing a francaise with the fabric tucked in her pockets? I have seen this before somewhere – I think it is called "dans les pouches" or something similar.

    • Lauren R

      February 26, 2012 at 8:06 AM

      I was not as impressed with the costumes for the second episode on Louis XV, although they were still beautiful. The first episode on Louis XIV had lovely attire, especially wigs. It's also nice that all three Louis' are quite handsome…don't mind watching them 🙂

  • Rowenna

    February 26, 2012 at 12:59 AM

    Lovely! You're right–documentaries can often be horrifying in the costuming department–ironically, particularly the main players. Often you notice that the folks in the background are much better outfitted…because film crews often raid local reenactment or costuming groups for extras. It always cracks me up to see a bevy of perfectly costumed extras behind a George Washington or whoever wearing a terribly tailored, half-wrong costume and a fright wig!

  • Olympe de la Tour D'Auvergne

    February 26, 2012 at 2:07 AM

    As someone who has costumed documentaries I just have to say that it's true that a lot of documentaries are horribly-costumed. This is because they are terribly underfunded in the costume department, and therefore also understaffed, so even if you get the money to do a few reproductions from fabric, you won't have really good tailors to alter them. Often what you end up doing is making accurate undergarments to create the right shape, and borrowing costumes to go over them that may come from places which aren't interested in accuracy so much as style; and because you've borrowed them you can't do anything irreversible. Oh, and the costume department is just you, and maybe two other people.

    I once worked on a documentary where the producer and director showed me what they wanted the costumes to look like, and when I pointed out that they weren't accurate for the time or place, was told to "make it work". I'm not permitted to say what organization this was for, but let me just say that you've seen their productions.

    • Lauren R

      February 26, 2012 at 8:09 AM

      uh oh, now I'm going to be guessing all night which productions you are eluding to! I guess that's the film industry, though. I'm so pleased that it's getting better, even if "make it work" still happens – I watched "Braveheart" a few weeks ago and was appalled to see CRUSHED VELVET had been used for one of the gown. Oh it was atrocious!! At least the movies have mostly come away from that…mostly…I hope…

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