Last week’s Poiret (?) coat was quite divisive. Most people really liked it, and a few really didn’t (I’m pretty sure 3 counts as really not liking it!). Still, there was a lot of Poiret love and it managed and 8.3 out of 10.
This week I’m mixing things up a bit. A few months ago I did a dress-off, featuring two variants on the same design by one designer. This week is a Princess-Off, featuring two different Princess de Broglies, by two different artists, from two different eras, with two very different frocks. Which will you prefer?
The most notable Princesse de Broglie is probably Josephine Eleonore Marie Pauline de Galard de Brassacede Bearn, painted by Ingres in the early 1850s. Josephine was a noted beauty, and the mid-19th century ideal: refined, reserved, elegant, delicate, pure. She looks out of her portrait directly at us, the viewer, but her gaze is remote and aloof, not an invitation, but a barrier, like the chair she leans against. It separates us, the lowly viewer, from her, the aristocrat and feminine paragon. The blue of her silk-satin evening gown specifically references the Virgin Mary and adds to the impression of remoteness and purity. Josephine was dying of consumption even as this painting was completed, and it foreshadows (probably intentionally) her physical inaccessibility and (presumed) ascension to heaven. Even her headdress forms a halo.
Half a century after later another Princesse de Broglie was depicted by another artist famous for his portrayals of beautiful women. Tissot’s Princesse is as clearly a product of the end of the 19th century as Josephine was a product of the mid-century. Tissot’s Princesse (unfortunately I haven’t been able to identify her full name) perches on a table in a confident, informal pose. She looks away from the viewer, inviting us to consider her at our leisure. Her ivory frock may be subdued in colour, but the yellow corselet belt and vivid green-fur trimmed evening cape are almost ostentatious, especially when paired with her wide purple collar. This Princesse is opinionated rather than reserved, distinctive rather than restrained, sophisticated rather than elegant, confident rather than delicate, earthly rather than heavenly. Sartorially and personality-wise, she is the opposite of the first Princesse, though both would have been clad in the costliest, most fashionable dresses.
What do you think? Do you prefer mid-century elegance and refinement, or late century flair and distinctiveness? Is one tasteful and restrained, the other gaudy and obtrusive? Or is one fussy and conventional, the other sophisticated and witty? (OK, I need to stop before I run out of adjectives).
Rate each dress on a Scale of 1 to 10 (different ratings please! It’s no fun if you say they are both the same thing) and we’ll see which Princesse was the more stylish.