Oops! Sorry! I’m sure many of you woke up this morning and went to check on the Rate the Dress, and there was nothing there. The sad truth is that I was so tired last night that I got confused and thought Rate the Dress wasn’t until tomorrow.
Last week I posted a simple 1860s gown, and the initial consensus was that it was so boring that it was neither wonderful nor dreadful. But then Tenshi pointed out “It’s not a ballgown, so it shouldn’t be judged like one” and a rather interesting conversation about ordinary clothing developed. The eventual rating acknowledged, that yes, it was the simple, practical dress of its time, but a reasonably good one at that, and it rated a 7.4 out of 10
This week I’m playing with the idea of not every dress being made for a pretty young thing on her way to a ball, but taking the concept almost as far as it can go in the opposite direction. I’d like to present an outfit that very clearly demonstrates that it is NOT a simple work dress, nor simply a pretty dress for a wealthy woman.
Maria Christina of the Two Sicilies outfit clearly demonstrates her wealth, status, and position in every detail. It starts with the evening gown of rich silk brocades with silver thread, over which is layered a diamond encrusted or silver embroidered belt, and a silk ribbon sash. Over this goes a diamond necklace that would make the infamous ‘Affair of the Diamond Necklace’ necklace (which Marie Antoinette thought tacky) pale in comparison, and earrings dripping with enormous pearls. On her beautifully styled hair is a lace mantua of such fine lace that you can almost touch its lush delicacy in the painting, topped with a collection of rare feathers (ostrich feathers being so last century), and surmounted by a diamond headpiece of such enormousity that I get a headache just looking at it. And she has a diamond encrusted fan, and kid gloves, and lace on her sleeves, just for good measure.
Maria Christina was never a particularly beautiful woman, but her portraits and clothes had to convey something more than just physical attractiveness. She was the forth wife of her uncle (I know, blech), who he married out of a desperate need for an heir. When this portrait was painted she was pregnant with their first child (one of two daughters, to the disappointment of the King).
Maria Christina is playing sweet and demure in this portrait, but when her husband died in 1833 she revealed that she had a bit more backbone and character than anyone had given her credit for, holding the regency for her daughter against a rebellion led by another uncle, and secretly marrying the man she actually loved, a palace guard, less than four months after her husband died.
I sometimes wonder if Maria is pulling our leg in this portrait – taking Marie Antoinette’s practice of hiding a less than satisfactory life under frocks and jewels so far that it becomes a parody. I hope the rest of her life was actually more satisfactory, and I’m fascinated to hear what all of you have to say about her ensemble.
Clearly, it’s too much, but is there such a thing when you are an unloved fourth wife of a rich and powerful king? Does it convey her status, and the hope of her pregnancy? Do you like it?
Rate the Dress on a Scale of 1 to 10.