A 14-mile train ride from Paris in a magical European town surrounded by golden gates and encircled by luxurious groves of gardens is a fortress of French history, my favorite castle, Le Chateau de Versailles! Opulence and elegance, a national monument and world heritage site, Versailles has a reputation for being one of the grandest palaces in the world. Built like an elaborate daydream, over 350 years old, The Chateau (meaning “palace” in French) was built in the 17th century and is filled with a rich history of art, architecture, dance, and fashion!
A place to take inspiration from for almost everything, Versailles is filled with works of art. Formerly used as a royal residence until the French Revolution, the palace was restored and became a museum. Now, the 2,000 rooms (bursting with more than 60,000 art pieces) are available to marvel at. The Queen’s Apartments, the historic galleries, the Coronation Room, the Apollo Drawing Room, and every available corner of Le Chateau de Versailles carry a sense of wonder.
Architect Jules Hardouin-Mansart added the design of the palace’s north and south wings as well as the iconic Hall of Mirrors. Waltzing into this strikingly beautiful French hall with bronze, marble, and chandeliers is a real-life vision of glamor. Take in the details, arching pillars, glass from Venice, gilded accents, and ceilings painted by Le Brun. This is a hallway that goes beyond fairy tales.
Versailles Fashion Through the Ages
Stepping into the palace of King Louis XIV, I imagine the days of the boldest and most gorgeous of formal court dresses, dancing under the crystal chandeliers, detailed skirts, gracing the marble floors. A palace perfect for any princess. Fashion has always been an important part of life in Versailles ever since this monumental Chateau was built in the 1600s. Versailles dress codes have changed with every era. Shifting trends of fashion creations. From shining silk to noble-symbolizing velvet to the formation of unique fabrics. Skirts, dresses, wigs, collars, sashes, fleur-de-lis, beads, ribbons, diamond necklaces, pearls, and garlands of flowers, I love every detail of the Versailles fashion story through the years.
It is wonderful to see how Versailles’ fashion has evolved over time. Court costumes with elaborate designs, detailed bodices, grand hoop skirts, and dramatic fabric trains moved fabulously into 18th-century icons like “a Robe à la Française” featuring a coordinating dress jacket and skirt with lovely sleeve details. I adore the elegance and fashionable flair of these styles. As time went on, the “Empire” dress silhouette made its way into fashion. This look is stunning, a high waistline skirt with a long, flowy dress structure and detailed embroidery.
In the 1800s, interchangeable dresses became popular in fashion for ladies, perfectly called in French “Robe á Transformation” So cool! The Chateau Versailles website describes this trend. “Society life was very important and each ‘key’ moment of the day required a different outfit.” At this time in fashion, there were versatile skirts with the ability to match varying designs of bodices in the same fabric! As a fashionista, this is an idea perfect for all of those quick changes. (Dancers know this best!)
In the 1900s, the Palace of Versailles held an iconic fashion show. A huge moment in style history, this exhibition was called the “Battle of Versailles” and featured five French designers and five designers from the United States. This fashion show also had an elite guest list including Grace Kelly and Princess Grace of Monaco. C’est super!
Along the walls of the Chateau, there are dozens of detailed potraits to admire. Framed in gold, they show the women of Versailles in their fashion, crown jewels, and complex hairstyles. The Chateau Versailles explains these looks, “As in the case of the styles of dress people wore, it was often the Queens who set the tones in terms of hairstyles.” Hello, hair! From curls to updos to intricate buns and even wigs, the hairstyles throughout history have been a wow-factor element to inspire our own styles.
Dance also played a major role in the history of Versailles! “Belle Danse” was the name of the Baroque dance regarded as a very important art form. Ballet de Cour = a ballet spectacle of court in France. Centre de Musique Baroque describes these events as “elaborate spectacles [that] combined poetry, the visual arts, music, and dance, and mirrored the passions…” What a remarkable combination of art forms in one spectacular place!
Several spectacular performances were put on at Versailles. Stages were even set up in the gardens for great celebrations. King Louis XIV even performed as Apollo the sun god in Le Ballet de la Nuit as a young age. Bravo!
Versailles still hosts its spectacles. The Royal Opera House was inaugurated in 1770. A grand stage that is home to operas, concerts, galas, and ballets, dance at Versailles is a centuries long history that continues on that stage.
Strolling the grounds at Versailles is a surreal and dreamlike experience. The extravagance, allure, and glamor captured are an unbelieveable inspiration for creativity. There is magic around every corner!