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Caroline Weber – Queen of Fashion, Essay Example

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Essay

Although new media has increased our access to images, videos, and information about celebrities, the public was no less fascinated by the allure that surrounds celebrity in the 1800s, when Marie Antoinette was a popular figure. The celebrity’s body remains available for public consumption: our celebrities influence our choices in everything from clothing to politics.  However, this relationship is a tenuous one; as the public once turned on Marie Antoinette, so too are today’s celebrities at the mercy of the public’s whims–as much as we like to emulate popular figures, we also relish the public spectacle of their failings and failures.

Caroline Weber’s depiction of Marie Antoinette illustrates both Antoinette’s power and her powerlessness.  As a popular celebrity, she influenced artists and citizens alike with her fashion sense, beauty, and vibrant personality.  Indeed, the very frivolity and excess which she initially represented with such power and success came to symbolize both the doomed French aristocracy and her own personal loss of celebrity.  The very things that the public adored about her, were also those things which they came to despise.  The manner in which her public persona changed depending on the social and political climate of the times is not dissimilar to the ways in which modern political figures such as Jackie Kennedy, Hilary Rodham Clinton, and Michelle Obama have been simultaneously canonized and demonized.  Such iconic and powerful women are viewed as positive celebrities who serve as role models for legion of young women as long as their advice and public persona are confined to fashion tips, glamor, and political topics which are neither too sensational or controversial.

The manner in which Marie Antoinette presented her body to her ravenous public–both through the clothes she wore and the way in which she carried herself–allowed her to test the boundaries of what was socially acceptable for women of her time and station.  The celebrity body is still viewed as something which the public ‘owns’, thus allowing pundits and the public alike to comment on the hem lengths of Mrs. Obama’s skirts or Hilary Rodham Clinton’s choice to wear slacks instead of skirts.  However, like Marie Antoinette, these powerful women recognize that celebrity carries great influence that can be channelled into popular support for the issues and causes which most interest them, thereby allowing these celebrity figures to consume the public as much as they themselves are consumed.

Works Cited

Edwards, Stassa. “Celebrity” Prezi, 21 Nov. 2011. Web. 22 Nov. 2011.

Weber, Caroline. “Introduction.” Queen of Fashion: What Marie Antoinette Wore to the   Revolution. 1-9. New York: Henry Holt & Co., 2007.

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