This is a flash-back........... Marie Antoinette wearing Christian Dior, on show in Le XXVIII au gout du jour, Château de Versailles, France.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Sofia Coppola's Marie Antoinette has made trecking out to the Château de Versailles a pop-culture pilgrimage. Therefore when I first marched towards this infamous city of luxury a few years back, I blasted the sound track curated for the film. Siouxsie and the Banshees's Hong Kong Garden rang in my head phones as I set out to see this historical site through the eye's of the director. But on this track and just as the palace gates came into view, the song cut out as my phone batteries died. 

"You needed to have your own experience there", a dear Parisian friend told me later. And he was more than right. Although the film does justice to this marvellous place, it wasn't a period drama I was stepping into, rather I was coming face to face with a living legend. 

Once passed the epic queues, I took the long way around to the Grand Trianon. This route takes you past gigantic man-made lakes and through gardens that break down into natural forests. While walking here you could imagine time turning back; the crowds disappeared, there were no souvenirs, no signage and no cake shops. Nothing modern was in sight and everything seemed in the style of the 18th Century. And it is this sense of time over lapping that brings me to what was inside the Grand Trianon; Olivier Saillard's wonder-lust exhibition Le XXVIII au gout du jour. 

Among the opulent rooms and corridors of the Grand Trianon, the curator mixed chronology by displaying works of contemporary Haute Couture with the period garbs of the courtiers.  Surviving garments of the 18th Century shared space with the works of Christian Dior, Vivienne Westwood, Olivier Theyskens, Mugler, Comme des Garçons and Alexander McQueen. 

Saillard's curatorial eye illuminated the Grand Trianon as well as expressing the direct link between the legends of the past and the magnificent work of contemporary Haute Couture. The exhibition like Versailles made time almost irrelevant, and you could feel the world of Marie Antoinette creep around you. A place where every room was like a jewellery box, every ceiling iced like a birthday cake, and perhaps to this ill fated Queen; all gilded like a bird cage. 

Headless mannequins gave some life by filling the garments with form. But as they missed a body part so important, I couldn't help thinking about the guillotine. In reporting from this exhibition I imagined Marie Antoinette back in one piece, and showing off in Christian Dior. This idea inspired a full suite of drawings that capture my vision of the Château de Versailles and this exhibition which ran in 2012, to see the full set please visit the site The Frockwriter where they where published by Patty Huntington.