Femme of the Week: Rose Bertin

September 26, 2008

Femme of the Week: Rose Bertin

Many have said that Rose Bertin, born Marie-Jeanne Bertin, was not a dress maker at all, merely a dress 'decorator'. Rose Bertin was the famous milliner to Marie Antoinette's court. I had to throw in this image of Cagliostro, because apparently *waves fan* Rose Bertin contacted a psychic to learn about her future when she was a young inexperienced girl. She found out that she would be very successful, and according to legend, things picked up quickly for her.

She began working for Mlle. Pagelle at the Trait Galant. Another rumor had it that one of the costumers was the mistress of the Comte de Charolais. (I will cover that story later) She had two illegitimate daughters. Long story short, when these lovely ladies were to be married off their wedding gowns were ordered from the Trait Galant. Rose was chosen to deliver them and when she arrived at the home she ran into an older woman, a chambermaid. Rose and the woman started talking about the gowns and when the woman asked to see them Rose showed her. It was a total du Barry moment, because Rose found out she was actually speaking with the princesse de Conti! After begging for forgiveness of her informal behavior the princesse promised her 'protection' and 'good will' for the future. A star was born!

She set up shop soon after, Au Grand Mogol, on the Rue de St. Honoré. She had the shop painted yellow with purple accents, and kept pretty shop girls to help costumers. She also hung portraits of her most well to do and popular clients on the walls. Rose was a true business woman and knew how to make it work!

She made hoop skirts that would reach 18 feet in circumference, and decorated them with brocades, silks and rich velvets. She knew how to apply spangles in pleasing arrangements that would highlight ladies in just the right way. She, like Rami, could create elegant flounces of fabric and lace. She knew how to take an ordinary dress and leave it dripping with garlands and flower blooms. The designs were not always symmetrical and were all unique.

Rose Bertin met Marie Antoinette and knew that this was the business relationship she needed- had to have (of course what business man would not think that!) The date for this introduction is set at 1772. According to the Souvenirs de Leonard, which should be taken with a grain of salt, he was the first to introduce the two. On meeting (as this story goes) Marie placed an order of 20,000 livres.*

Does anyone know about or been to her house? Just found this...

Two times a month Rose would put her strongest desgins on a doll / mannequin and send it to the courts of Europe. Two times a week she would bring orders and designs to Versailles to show Marie and her favorites. If you wanted to purchase an item from the Grand Mogol you might have been looking at:

Decorated Silk Hats : 60 livres
Plain Straw Hats (only a few feathers or blooms) : 20-40 livres
Court Dress: 1,900 - 2,800 livres ... no real equivalent maybe around $8,400

*Gossip. Sheer gossip!


  1. When I try to figure out how money has changed, I frst take the amount of money that is cost for a loaf of bread, and how much it costs today and extrapolate the increase.


  2. oh! that is a good suggestion, I will look into this!

  3. Always tricky, those conversions of ancient money into modern dollars. Anyway, great post on Rose!
    I have never been to that house in Epinay. Working-class suburb nowadays, but must have the countryside at the time.

  4. Oh dear!! try it now.... or try these this is the link to the article and this is the image of the house. I do not understand the internet sometimes but I hope these work for you.


    Catherine, you should try and visit it next time you are in France :)

  5. I've just been to her shop, it now hosts the restaurant "L'incroyable" - a very charming spot :-)

  6. Oh really!! How great, I am going to force my travel partner there next time we are in France! (I am sure she wont mind) Did you eat there? It sounds quite fab...

  7. Rose Bertin was not merely a dress 'decorator.' In 1776 Marchandes de Modes gained the right not only to trim dresses but to sew the entire dress. Rose Bertin created all manners of dresses and would often sew the entire garment for her most illustrious clients, including Marie Antoinette and the queens of Portugal, Spain, Sweden and Naples.

  8. Great post! Rose Bertin was quite the character! I've read that she actually turned customers away if they were not of superior lineage. She had her shop girl return money back to a Lawyer's wife who ordered a hat to be made, with a note saying the equivalent of " Do you know who I am? ". Rose did the same to a Dutchess who was previously an actress before marrying her Duke by refusing to meet her due to her backround! When she was forced by apologize by Antoinette, she did but then refused to get out of bed for a week! The drama!