Marie Antoinette and the Nipple

It’s easy to imagine that clothing was more conservative in the past.

The twentieth century began with women wearing rigid corsets and blouses tightly buttoned to the neck, but this was not always the case. For much of the 16th – 19th centuries, low cut bodices were in fashion. During the time of Marie Antoinette (1755-1793), and in no small part due to her own fashion preferences, French court was swimming in cleavage. Blouses were cut low enough to hint at the presence of an areola if not completely expose a nipple or two. Décolleté (plunging neckline) dresses were designed so that ‘accidental’ glimpses were inevitable.

Quite the spectacle!

Court women completed their outfits with powdered wigs that rose up to three feet high and were bedecked with everything imaginable.

Gallerie des Modes et Costumes Français Nicolas Dupin (1781)
Marie Antoinette: The Queen of Fashion: Gallerie des Modes et Costumes Français Nicolas Dupin (1781)
Gallerie des Modes et Costumes Français (detail) Nicolas Dupin (1782)
Gallerie des Modes et Costumes Français (detail) anonymous (1178-1780)
Coiffures, Poufs, Hats and Bonnets: Eleven Coiffures and Headdresses Pierre Adrien Le Beau (1781)
Coiffures, Poufs, Hats and Bonnets: Eleven Coiffures and Headdresses Pierre Adrien Le Beau (1781)
Marie-Thérèse Louise de Savoie-Carignan Princess of Lamballe Joseph Duplessis (undated)
Wilhelmine Encke, Countess Lichtenau Anna Dorothea Therbusch (1776)

Bonus trivia: There is a legend that coupe glasses, which today are used for various mixed drinks, were modeled from Marie Antoinette’s (left) breast. It isn’t true however. The coupe glass was designed a hundred years before to serve champagne and sparkling wines.

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