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Herstory – Royal Fashions of the 1820s

Queen Ranavalona had a preference for only one thing western: fashion. Unfortunately very few portraits survive of her. In order to get an idea of what fashions she favored at the time of her coronation, let’s take a look at some of the other royal women of the time.

In general, European women’s fashion changed considerably during the 1820s. By 1829, when Ranavalona became Queen, the empire style, with its high waistline, had slowly faded. Waistlines dropped throughout the decade until they were at their natural level, hems became focal points of embellishment and sleeves first became puffier and then – well, exploded is the only term.

Marie-Caroline, Duchess de Berry

It’s said Ranavalona turned to Paris for fashion inspiration. During the Bourbon restoration the most fashionable of all the women in France was Marie-Caroline, the duchesse de Berry. The duchesse was the mother of the heir to the Bourbon monarchy, and her story is worthy of Pocket Profile of her own. She was a great style setter with a love of Romanticism and an idealization of the past. She often wore dresses with a callback to previous eras, particularly the Renaissance.

Désirée Clary

Désirée was also known as Desideria of Sweden and Norway. She born in France, and was at one time engaged to marry Napoleon Bonaparte. Her sister Julie did marry Napoleon’s brother and eventually became Queen of Spain and Naples. Désirée eventually married King Charles XIV John, the founder of the House of Bernadotte. The Queen was not fond of Sweden, and spent much of her time back in her native France. Her style remained quintessentially French, favoring fashionable fabrics and elaborate detailing in the bodice and sleeves.

Princess Victoria, Duchess of Kent and Strathearn

The Duchess was born a German princess, but is best known as the mother of Queen Victoria. She was a great lover of status, dressing up and fashion. During this era, hairstyles became more elaborate, as did headgear. The hats of the Duchess were “creations of marvel” and she used them to great effect, particularly in portraiture.

The Queen of Madagascar was probably similarly attired, particularly for her public outings. It was said all her appearances were well curated with an eye to projecting power and authority. The silhouette of the era was well suited for crafting such an image.

If you want to take a deep dive on this fascinating era of fashion, from undergarments to accessories, take a look at this informative article.