Frocks & ‘Farewell my Queen’

Faced with the lack of costuming events in Wellington, one of the things we costume enthusiasts like to do is dress up in full frockery to see period movies.  I noticed that the French film ‘Farewell, My Queen‘ (Les Adieux à  la Reine) was playing at one of Wellington’s fabulous little boutique theatres, so off we went to see it.

On Saturday I mentioned to Mr D that the girls and I were going to watch a film on Sunday afternoon.  We had this conversation:

Mr D: “What movie?  Why didn’t you ask me”

Me: “It’s called Farewell, My Queen”

Mr D: (dubiously) “Oh”

Me: “It’s about Marie Antoinette”

Mr D: (with disgust) “Oh”.

Me: “It’s a costume movie.”

Mr D: (slight horror) “Oh”

Me: “It’s in French”

Mr D: (with fervent gratitude) “Thank you for not asking me!”

Alas, most of us who weren’t scared by costume movies in French were too worn out to dress up, but I put on my pet, and the Sewphist borrowed my chemise a la reine, and the whole group had lovely time.

Frocks at Farewell, My Queen thedreamstress.com

Thanks to Sarah the Photographer for being camera guru with my camera

Double alas, the movie wasn’t that good.  It’s yet another take on Marie Antoinette’s story.  Based on Chantal Thomas’ novel of the same name, it’s a look at four days at Versaille from the storming of the Bastille from the perspective of a servant who reads to the queen.  The back-stairs perspective is novel, but I doubt the accuracy of a very lowly servant, one who wears the same dress for four days, reading, much less being able to get within wiff distance of Marie Antoinette on a daily basis.

The film wasn’t strong on history either: it revolves around Marie Antoinette’s ‘crush’ on the Duchess de Polignac, and the film, while not explicitly claiming a lesbian relationship between the two, definitely describes a friendship (at least on the queen’s side) that is significantly more…ummm…devoted than the usual close female friendship.  I have to wonder how closely the film adheres to Thomas’ novel, as Thomas is supposed to be a reasonable historian, and the rumorous of lesbian relationships been pretty clearly proven to existing only in anti-monarchist propaganda based on everything recent I’ve read.  Resurrecting that dreadful old chestnut does nobody any favours.

And the costumes?  Oh dear

I was a bit dubious based on the poster, but all the reviews described it as a visual triumph.  Clearly the reviews weren’t written by anyone with any background in historical costuming.  Tons and tons of embroidered dupion.  Lots and lots of dresses criss-cross laced down the back with great honking metal eyelets.  Acid green.  Jackets worn fully buttoned over full dresses.  Servants with lace trimmed chemises.  Rose Bertin wearing the exact same outfit three days in a row.  And a ‘chemise a la reine’ inspired thing that is just…just…just oh dear.

Finally, the costume designer  was inexplicably attached to 1980s organza roses stuck to the wearers upper right bodice.  Here is Marie Antoinette with some.  And de Polignac with some.  And Rose Bertin with some.  And oh look, de Polignac with more of them  (and more of that embroidered dupion)!

Frocks at Farewell, My Queen thedreamstress.com

The best part of the film came when an upper servant informs our reader heroine that she is wanted by the Queen and hurries her along with an urgent ‘Allons-y’.  Our whole row burst into giggles, and as Madame O said later “a Tardis showing up at that point could only have improved the movie!”  It was definitely a little slow in places.

Frocks at Farewell, My Queen thedreamstress.com


  1. Lynne says

    I did enjoy your blog! Good to know I can safely avoid the film.

  2. Love it! I wish I knew someone who would dress up with me here in Tennessee 🙁
    Love your blog, too!

  3. Elizabeth says

    I think it’s awesome you dressed up for it. You seem so awesomely well-informed about historical fashion – could you suggest a good starting point for me? I’m a Classical/Ancient historian but I’m in love with clothing from the Renaissance on through the 1920’s! I also sew some, but mostly quilts and super easy dresses for my little one – I’d love to be able to do what you do. I also heard the movie was a bit on the ‘meh’ side, oh well.. we can always wait for that special one sometime!

  4. …I kinda want to see the film now while wearing a clockwork mask…

    And bring a randomly ticking clock to hide beneath people’s seats. I’m sure I have the Tardis sound on my phone…

    • Hehe! You’re my kind of girl! I don’t think the other people in the theatre got the reference though – they just though we were being annoying when we all giggled 😉

  5. I watched the same movie this past week and had basically the same opinion. How disappointing it is when a historical movie is so un-historical!

  6. Kathryn says

    Well, now I’m curious…how did you feel about Sophia Coppola’s “Marie Antoinette”?

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