Ladies and Gentlemen, roll out the red carpet for the ultimately primped and poised. This week we are in the company of two high society ladies, the charming Courtesan and the delightful Duchess. They both define flair in every sense of the word and show us mere mortals how to live the real conte de fées.
Here we have two iconic ladies who use fashion, love of a royal and individuality to bring new light into court life…the only difference: one was a make-over, the other a make-under! From the houpette to dust on some essential white powder to the fascinator (which can’t be pulled off by everyone cough Princess Beatrice cough) we all secretly aspire to the ways of the royals, even if it means being sandwiched in the London Tube for a couple of years until we bump into Prince Harry…
Madame de Pompadour (1721-1764)
Now our first lady caught the eye of Louis XV in more ways than one, and I’m not just talking about ‘courting’: Jeanne-Antoinette Poisson is the one who puts all our efforts at the school May Ball to shame. From a young age she was almost destined for court life as she had the skills of the clavichord, the talent of engraving and the art of…discussion. Yes, that’s right, none of this silly nilly Facebook chat, we’re talking the upper echelons of the Club de L’Enresol (1724) with questions of politics, economics and as a bonus you get to sit next to Voltaire.
So now you ask how would one casually “meet” a King? Well, at a fancy dress ball of course! He was dressed as a tree, she was looking stupendously beautiful and the rest is history. On introduction to the court, this Madame was not a one hit wonder. She brought together the finest troupes of actors and started the trend of domestic sized plays in her own small-yet-enormous-Versailles living room...oh how I would love that to still be in fashion today! A particular revolutionary turn was her invention of the eighteenth century Salon. By using the discourse of discussion she introduced women into a predominantly masculine dialogue (just take a look at the Enlightenment). A lady who nurtured the ideas of crazy bouffons, men in skirts and evening wear for the day (scandalous I know) alas, we must all raise our coupe de champagne to her idiosyncratic ways!
And for those historians among you, here’s a little treat to quench your thirst…
Duchess of Cambridge (1982-present)
Ah yes, the epitome of a princess if you ask me: perfect eyebrows, sleek hair and a good manicure. Kate Middleton met her charming prince yet still remains the modest Leodis of her “commoner” roots. Indeed, the word “commoner” has been buzzing around Middleton like an annoying fly but what you and I know is that the meaning derives far from the colloquial sense. Middleton is a standing symbol for the social mobility express and the good old fashioned merit of working hard. Take for example her (deep breath) great-great-great-great grandfather James Harrison, who worked down in the coal mines during Victorian Britain. Fast forward to the end of World War One where we meet her great grandfather Thomas Harrison who is already a wealthy middle-class man. What I’m trying to say, mes amis, is that the Middleton name represents social progress by ignoring the rigid rules of class. This quintessentially seeps through her fashion sense as Middleton chooses the best of British high-street, not always from the palm of Ma’am. She even broke the classic rule of inviting bad dancers to her wedding.
Both of these ladies are the living proof that etiquette mixed with a bit of individuality works…try it for yourself and see with a little help from our good friend Stéphane Bern.
Farewell for now, I leave you with a tribute to the art of being beautiful. This video combines the classic catwalk meeting point for Wills and Kate and main talent of Madame de Pompadour… (P.S. don’t you think he resembles a touch of J.P. Gautier??)
Next week we celebrate the success of “The Artist” by visiting the world of cinema: a dabble of Chaplin slapstick and a drop of realist Nouvelle Vague…