A wonderful exhibit is opened March 31st at Versailles in Paris. Titled “Fastes de Cour & Cérémonies Royales” – “Court Pomp & Royal Ceremony” – the exhibit, sponsored by Chanel, retraces European court costumes from 1650 to 1800. This runs through June 28th.

Karl Lagerfeld is the voice of the exhibition catalogue’s forward and he remarks that the French court – the most brilliant and imitated in the world – went into debt to retain universal admiration because  “nothing was too beautiful, or too expensive… One had to dazzle to impose [one’s presence].” 


The show’s head curator, Pierre Arizzoli-Clementel, has said that it took 14 years to put this landmark exhibit together because while France has extensive archives, they had no clothing artifacts. When discussing the exhibit, Clementel notes that at the time of the French court everything was done to “impress upon the people, from the commoner to the nobility, that the king belonged to a superior majesty, namely that of God. Everything was done to illustrate that fact through the creation of exceptional splendor.” 


Given the opulence of the French court it’s little surprise that its influence spread throughout Europe to other countries – Germany, Russia, Vienna, Denmark and Sweden — all of which preserved the clothing, furniture, and accessories with the utmost care. The pieces from those countries are displayed at Versailles alongside official portraits of their original owners and drawings. Most of the pieces have never been transported.  Given their age, they are very fragile and this is likely to be the last time that they’re transported.

Images courtesy of the Fashion Spot forums.