In this article, you’ll read about 70 lovely ensembles worn by Marie Antoinette in a cognominal movie. Some of their features (like the cut, style, and decorations) are rather accurate reconstructions of the original Marie’s 18th-century garments, others (for example, colors of the fabric) aren’t as accurate. That’s because the makers of this film wanted to modernize Marie Antoinette, the queen of France, a little. Anyway, it’s really fun to look at the variety of Marie’s costumes, their beauty and charm, and to learn more about the fashion trends of the late 1700s.
This article is based on the video from YouTube channel “Costume CO”.
Marie Antoinette is a 2006 historical drama film written and directed by Sofia Coppola and starring Kirsten Dunst. The movie is based upon the book “Marie Antoinette: The Journey” by Antonia Fraser.
In this article, we'll look at approximately 70 of Marie Antoinette's costumes worn by Kirsten Dunst against a backdrop of the Palace of Versailles, where the production was given unprecedented access.
The costumes were designed by Italian costume designer and four-time Oscar winner Milena Canonero. She won both an Oscar and a BAFTA for best costume design for Marie Antoinette.
In creating the costumes for Marie Antoinette, Milena Canonero and 6 assistant designers created the gowns, hats, suits, and prop costume pieces. Ten rental houses were also employed, and the wardrobe unit had several transport drivers. The wardrobe department worked 24-hour shifts just to keep up with production demands.
The shoes were made by Manolo Blahnik and Pompeii. And hundreds of wigs and hairpieces were made by Rocchetti & Rocchetti. The jewelry in Marie Antoinette was not to be outdone by the costumes, wigs, and shoes. French jewelry house Fred Leighton exclusively provided nearly $4 million worth of gems. A Fred Leighton rep stated that “This was very much what women of the court would have worn”.
Sofia Coppola added, “We took certain licenses. I wanted to capture the palette of a teenager – bright turquoise and pink candy colors”.
According to the London Times Magazine, at the start of pre-production, Sofia Coppola handed Milena Canonero a box of pastel-colored macaroons from the luxury pastry house. Milena Canonero said, “She told me, these are the colors I loved, so I used them as a palette”.
She added, “I simplified the very heavy look of the 18th century. I wanted it to be believable but more stylized”.
Though the costumes in this movie aren’t simply reproductions of real Marie Antoinette’s outfits but stylized garments made for the stage, the cut of the clothes was perfectly correct.
Also, the costume designer chose the colors and textures that suited the actor Kirsten Dunst best. She said, “I hardly used wigs because they weren't right for her. We thought that maybe we could have gone more crazy, but there was just no time”.
Kirsten Dunst said of the process, “My hair took two and a half hours with makeup, all of it together. They curled my hair every day and then just stocked, basically, different wigs and pieces onto my head, and then glazed it with a nice powdery finish”.
70 Marie Antoinette’s outfits
The next approximately 70 costumes we’ll show you are grouped by the basic silhouette.
While not the first look we see, it is the first outfit worn in the chronology of the story. A 14-year-old Maria Antonia's first traveling outfit is a sort of caraco with a contrasting quilted petticoat.
According to American Duchess, “A caraco is a long-length jacket with a fitted back, like a robe a l'Anglaise. The length of the skirt of these jackets seems to be about mid-thigh”.
The costume is possibly influenced by this portrait depicting a riding habit.
Portrait of Sophie Marie Gräfin Voss, between 1746 -1751, Antoine Pesne
Along the journey, Maria transitions into this sweet two-piece outfit. Again, a fitted jacket and petticoat.
The outfit is trimmed with accents of white fur.
Under the suit, she wears underpinnings that include a shift, stays, panniers, and a crinoline. This creates the correct silhouette.
When she arrives in France, she is completely stripped out of her Austrian clothes and into her new French wardrobe, including these fancy new stays and panniers.
She then dons her first French outfit – a blue silk caraco and petticoat with a matching tricorn hat.
Blue seems like an obvious choice for Marie, since not only is blue “de France” – a color traditionally used to represent France, but blue is also the color favored by royalty.
Marie has another caraco and petticoat with a matching tricorn hat. This time in bubble gum pink.
While the pinks would likely have not been this vivid, it was a very popular color. It was not until the latter half of the 18th century that pink truly became a fashion statement.
According to This is Versailles, from this period on, pastel tones became more in vogue compared to stronger colors that had previously dominated. Consequently, pink took over where a deeper red had previously been preferred.
This white robe a l'Anglaise or English gown is the first costume we see Marie Antoinette wearing in what appears to be in Versailles.
The little shock of pink in the net, a crinoline coordinates with offerings of sweets around her. It looks as though the sleeves are detachable or perhaps a decision was made not to use them.
The robe a l'Anglaise, as described by The Metropolitan Museum in New York, was developed with a fitted back after the style of dress worn in England. The silhouette, composed of a funnel-shaped bust feeding into wide rectangular skirts, were often open at the front to expose a highly decorated underskirt and were supported by panniers created from padding and hoops of different materials, such as cane, baleen, or metal.
This silk peach English gown, again, coordinating with Marie's apartment, is thought to have been inspired by this painting of Marie Antoinette.
Maria Antonia of Austria, 1762, by Jean-Etienne Liotard
In this portrait, Maria Antonia is only 7 years old.
Marie's flower church dress is worn with these gorgeous embroidered fingerless gloves.
The Fibre2Fashion blogger determined that the fabric used in this gown is made by Rubelli, a Venetian company whose history spans more than 150 years.
Milena Canonero said in a behind-the-scenes video about this costume worn while Marie is playing cards that probably they never would have used this color – it's a bit too lilacy. And definitely would never have put the black on the ribbon.
Marie dons many pastel-blue dresses. Including this sweet one that she wears on the balcony at Versailles.
And this other silk gown, when she wakes up after a night of drinking. The aptly named “hangover dress”.
This is Versaille blog stated that Marie Antoinette particularly adored pastel blue. In fact, her fondness for blue was such that several portraits of her depict her in this very shade.
During the “I want candy” montage, we see Marie being fitted in this exquisite blue number with silver accents.
She wears it during the coronation celebrations with this awesome boat headpiece.
Here's another peach number that she wears while walking through the gardens of Versailles with her ladies in waiting.
And this white silk party dress that she wears for her 18th birthday, with the accent of silk flowers along the collar.
And she adds this fur-trimmed silk cloak to watch the sun come up.
While the previous dress is worn with a turquoise petticoat, The Costumer's Guide states on their blog that one of their colleagues believes that this is the same dress that Marie wears for her daughter's Christening.
And while we're on costumes that are used more than once, The Costumer's Guide also states that the yellow dress on the left is made of the same fabric as the one on the right. Although she says that it's possible it's just the same dress re-trimmed.
And finally, this is the last English gown that Marie wears.
As the story progresses and as the tone of the story shifts, her color palette becomes more muted and darker.
Marie Antoinette introduced a new color to the fashion stage in 1775, according to This is Versailles. They say that the color varied from a reddish tan brown to grayish purple. It is called “puce color”. However when Louis XVI saw it, he jokingly remarked that it looked like the color of a flea. Thus the name was born since “puce” is “flea” in French.
The next one is Marie's wedding gown.
One of the most commonly worn gowns by Marie Antoinette in the movie are robe a la Francaise, also called a sack or sack-back gown.
This was a fitted bodice gown, which opens to show the stomacher. It has two large double pleats that hang down the back from shoulder to hemline.
Two great examples of sack-back gowns in the movie are Marie's wedding gown and coronation gown, although they aren't nearly as elaborate as they would have been. In real life, Marie Antoinette's wedding gown was made from silver cloth, bedecked in diamonds and other jewels.
According to The Met, “robe a la Francaise was derived from the loose negligee sacque dress of the earlier part of the century, which was pleated from the shoulders at the front at the back”. The wide skirts, which were often open at the front to expose a highly decorated underskirt, were supported by panniers created from padding and hoops of different materials, such as cane, baleen, or metal.
And this is the mentioned coronation gown.
Next to Marie's wedding gown, her coronation gown is heavily decorated with beading and lace and bows on the stomacher and overskirt.
Milena Canonero said, “For Marie Antoinette, I used original lace from the 18th century. In those days, all of the ladies in the court would be covered in lace because it was a way to show how rich you were. They had much more jewelry than I used. I prefer the decorations of the dresses to be more graphic than lacy, even though I use beautiful period lace sometimes”.
Here's another pale blue silk dress with contrasting pink bows and a matching hat that Marie wears to church, featuring a sack-back.
It's thought that the dress might have been inspired by this other youthful portrait of Maria Antonia, again when she was just 7 years old.
Portrait of Archduchess Maria Antonia of Austria, circa 1762, by Jean-Etienne Liotard
Note that in this portrait, like with the blue church outfit, Maria is wearing a neck ruffle with a bow.
The next two gowns are made from what looks like a diaphanous silk.
While it's hard to tell from watching the movie, this dress is also a sack-back gown.
Now, this gown, only worn for this very short scene, is unique in that it's printed in the same motif, albeit in a much softer hue, as the wallpaper in Marie Antoinette's bedroom.
This outfit is interesting. Marie wears a pet-en-l’air. It is a jacket that is, basically, just a short version of the sack dress and an informal article of clothing worn inside the home, but presentable enough to wear entertaining.
In the movie, we see a buttercream jacket with a pink skirt.
According to blogger Brocadegoddess, pet-en-l’airs and other jackets would be worn with either a matching petticoat or a quilted one in a solid contrasting coordinating color.
Along with all the wigs, gowns, shoes, and jewelry, Marie has an incredible wardrobe of nightgowns, robes, and shifts.
Here’s one of them.
And another cute one.
All of her nightgowns are white or off-white.
And trimmed with ribbons and lace and bows.
She even bathes in a chemise.
Although they are very thin and gauzy.
She has some gorgeous dressing gowns, something that she wears in her apartment when she doesn't feel up to dressing for the day.
This spa day number is especially fantastic.
She also wears this wrap dressing gown when her and her bffs go on a shopping and pastry eating spree.
And she wears this peignoir-style robe over a sky-blue colored stays, while having her height-defined wig attended to.
And this is possibly the same robe but with a bit of pink ruching trim added.
This brocade robe she wears when attending to her new babe.
And upon receiving the sad news that the king has died.
And then there are times when just stockings and a fan will do.
And finally, this cotton or maybe linen robe with a wide blue ribbon accent.
It's hard to see it in these screen grabs, but this is, essentially, the same silhouette as an English gown.
Marie is pictured here picnicking with her hunting party. Her costume looks like a redingote.
According to The Met, a redingote is a dress inspired by English men's riding coats and was one of many new, informal styles fashionable for women in the 1780s.
This pale green silk dress is worn with a bergere hat, a flat-brim straw hat with a shallow crown.
Marie's roses gown is an example of robes a la polonaise.
According to The Met, the robe a la polonaise is a style of gown with a close-fitting bodice and the back of the skirt gathered up into three separate puff sections to reveal the petticoat below. The bodice and skirt of the robe are cut in one with no waist seam. The polonaise gown first came into fashion in the 1770s, the same year Marie got married.
In this picture, you can see that the overgown is a separate piece from the petticoat.
Marie also wears this yellow silk gown. Unfortunately, we can’t see the back of the dress. But based upon the swooped up petticoat front, it is probably a robe a la polonaise as well.
According to the Versailles blog, yellow was one of those colors that survived throughout the 18th century due to its innumerable shades – everything from the palest yellow to primrose to a deep saffron yellow could be found in the milliner's shops.
This soft blue dress is an example of a robe a l'Anglaise retroussée.
There is a subtle but important difference between the polonaise and retroussée. The robe a l'Anglaise retroussée, where the bodice and skirt are not cut as one, is the French term for any dress with skirts looped up. Retroussée means looped or pulled up.
And this soft pink gown, worn when Marie greets the American soldiers, is another example of this.
In these two portraits, Marie Antoinette is wearing zone front gowns.
Queen Marie Antoinette of France and two of her Children Walking in The Park of Trianon, 1785, by Adolf Ulrik Wertmüller
Marie Antoinette and her Children, 1787, by Elisabeth Louise Vigee Le Brun
According to the 18th-century notebook, the zone front is a modern term for a late-18th-century style of gown bodice that appears to be cut away, often at an angle from the neckline, sometimes from slightly lower on the bodice, revealing a zone, a sort of false waistcoat front.
During a dress fitting, Marie is trying on a zone front candy-floss pink gown.
Once again, we get to see her stays.
Here’s a pink roses opera gown of Marie Antoinette.
This zone front piano gown is also a robe a la polonaise, with its swept-up skirts and festooned with ribbon embellishments.
It has beautiful wide inverted box-pleated trim that edges the zone front and the skirt opening with a subtle touch of aqua.
Here is an assortment of silk gowns that Marie wears. All with zone fronts. Like this soft blue serenade gown.
This blue striped gown.
And this striped gown.
As we move into the second act of the film, Marie wears this incredible zone front mourning gown on the balcony at Versailles.
The gown appears to be more of a midnight blue than black, and it's decorated with swirls of ruched trimmings for a hint of sparkle.
Marie wears his final zone front dress while posing for her portrait with, presumably, madame Le Brun. She painted more than 30 portraits of the queen and her family.
This final gown, without the belt, might be inspired by this attire pictured here.
Robe a l’Anglaise, 1780. The Kyoto Costume Institute
Attempting to reject the vast array of commitments expected of a young queen, Marie retreats to the petite trianon, a neoclassical-style chateau located on the grounds of the Palace of Versailles. Soon after Louis XVI's coronation, fashion designer Rose Bertin would present her newest creations to the queen and spend hours discussing them.
Portrait of Marie Antoinette, Queen of France in crimson dress holding a book, 1785, by Elisabeth Louise Vigee Le Brun.
This two-piece costume is made in the fashionable manner of the time.
All of the dresses, many unstructured and worn without stays, are created from non-silk fabrics, such as cotton and muslin.
Like this one.
In real life, the French silk industry suffered greatly because of this.
These costumes are in the style of a zone front but worn over a neoclassical-style chemise.
Same as this one.
This costume differs and that Marie is playing the character of a milkmaid.
Here, she's wearing stays covered in French toile.
Fashion historian Katy Werlin writes on her blog that “The gaulle, or chemise a la reine, was made infamous by Marie Antoinette in the early 1780s… The gaulle consists of layers of thin muslin, loosely draped around the body and belted around the waist with a sash”.
Katy Werlin writes, “In contrast to the highly structured garments worn by the French court and society at large, the gaulle was incredibly light and simple… It was the perfect garment for lounging in the country in the spring, and the fashionable ladies of France and England quickly took up the trend”.
Here’s another gaulle.
This soft pink gown in really nice. Sadly, we only see the top of it.
The This is Versailles blog stated that when Marie Antoinette reached her 30th birthday, she ceased wearing the delicate pinks of her youth.
This gown is trimmed on the collar and cuffs with what looks like a faux ermine. The black flecks appear to be feathers.
Marie's masquerade ball gown, and the first time you see her in black outside of her mourning gowns, appears to have the characteristics of a robe a la Turque, with the distinguishing feature being, according to American Duchess, the short sleeves worn over longer undersleeves.
Here’s a gorgeous cloak.
This light blue open gown has a faux zone front, and it's worn with this lovely contrasting velvet belt with a rhinestone buckle. The color of the gown is fitting, as it seems to match Marie's melancholy state.
Adding to the darker tone of the final act, Marie wears this black silk mourning gown for her daughter Sophie's funeral, who in real life died of fever as an infant.
She wears it with another cloak, a hat, and sheer veil.
This appears to be a round gown, which was a fitted-back gown with a skirt and petticoat sewn as one.
According to American Duchess, round gowns existed through the 18th century but became extremely common from the 1770s through the 1790s.
Marie wears it with a contrasting sash.
This soft pink gown also appears to be cut in the same way as her mourning gown.
The overgown of this ensemble is probably made from the silk taffeta. Not the best option.
It's possible that they were trying to age up Kirsten Dunst a bit. Kirsten was in her mid-20s at the time of shooting, while Marie was 37 at the time of her execution.
Marie Antoinette’s shoes
Spanish fashion designer Manolo Blahnik, who created Marie Antoinette's 18th-century-inspired shoes said, “When Milena Canonero called me, I put everything else to the side”. To make them, he found documentation in books and closely studied collections of 18th-century shoes in museums in Paris and London. He also spent hours researching the works of French and English painters. This helped Manolo Blahnik bring to his designs a refined elegance, pastel colors, love for unusual lines, and use of luxurious fabrics, including embroidered silk.
Of this notable scene during the “I want candy” montage, Milena Canonero says of the placement of Converse, “Some things in the movie were a bit tongue-in-cheek, it was to make a link with today's life”.
The way Sophia Coppola saw Marie Antoinette is a very modern, feminine, and intelligent way to see the journey into womanhood of a young girl who's been sent away from home to a totally unknown place, where they speak a different language and where the modes and manners are quite different from the way she was brought up.