Marie Antoinette found a way to become famous without social media.
Seems impossible in today’s time right? Though her time was not without vicious gossip, (She did not tell French peasants to eat cake…sorry) Marie gained “followers” in-person with her charm and charisma. She managed to influence French fashion and lifestyle without a Twitter mention or hashtag. I see her as the 18th century equivalent of Kylie Jenner. Both learned how to take control of the limelight and use it to their advantage and develop their brand.
However, the only images created of Marie Antoinette during her lifetime were highly formalized portraits. Though they make great #OOTD’s, do these oil paintings represent the true teenage queen? What are the aspects of Marie’s brand that made her followers love her….before they hated her?
The Brand Comes Alive With Coppola
Though it has been critiqued for its “historical inaccuracies,” I believe Sofia Capolla’s 2006 film Marie Antoinette encapsulates Marie’s brand. I have been in love with this movie since my 8th grade influencer days, even asking for the CD soundtrack for Christmas. (Hint…it is amazing.)
As a response to critics, Sofia claimed she wanted to show “the real human being behind the myths.”
“My goal was to capture in the design the way in which I imagined the essence of Marie Antoinette’s spirit…so the film’s candy colors, its atmosphere and teenaged music all reflect and are meant to evoke how I saw that world from Marie Antoinette’s perspective.”
Indeed, any still frame from this film would serve as a perfect Instagram post. The palace of Versailles and its gardens have a permanent filter reminiscent of Clarendon. This filtered existence gives rise to the notion of Marie’s desire for hiding the flaws of her life with a vivid public image.
The queen takes a strategy from Taylor Swift’s branding playbook with this one. With her arranged marriage failing and no family in Versailles, Marie gravitated towards her new French friends for emotional support. This is especially prevalent in Coppola’s film, with Marie appearing with her ladies-in-waiting more than her husband. The trio is seen escaping to Paris for some fun at a masked ball, gambling for Marie’s 18th birthday, popping champagne in the gardens while watching the sunrise, or relaxing by the river at Petite Trianon.
Coppola makes Marie and her bff’s the girls you want to hang out with. During 18th century France, such heavy female camaraderie spawned rumors debating Marie’s sexuality, but her friends helped define her brand as independent from her husband and genuinely charismatic.
And the Fashion, Of Course
I left the best part for last. At the center of Marie’s branding is her clothing. The film won an Academy Award for Best Costume Design, and it is easy to see why. Each dress, hairstyle and accessory represents a gradual step in the evolution of her brand, and she never repeated an outfit. She begins her time in France as a naive young princess, awkward in the wardrobe of a different culture, and transforms into a fashion icon that recognizes her own keen sense of style.
Though it takes time, Marie is able to shed the identity France forced upon her and master her own brand. In the beginning of Coppola’s film, Marie is seen in heavy makeup and wide hoopskirts. While she is under pressure to conceive a child, she finds solace in frivolous dresses and over the top hair. But by the end of the movie, Marie has developed a much more simple style reminiscent of her Austrian roots. This hybrid of old and new gave Marie icon status, which I believe to be the pinnacle of a brand. Pictures speak so much louder than words.
What Do You Think?