We’ve already gushed about the costumes worn in the American Repertory’s world premiere of Marie Antoinette — so much so that we planned a lookbook inspired by the haute couture of the era. On the behalf of all you excitable style enthusiasts, we wanted to peer deeper into the fashion legacy of the Queen, so chatting up the production’s costume designer Gabriel Berry was a must.
I’m Gabriel Berry. I’m the costume designer for Marie Antoinette. The world premiere is going to be taking place here at American Repertory Theater. I’ve been working like a dog for a long time.
Why are you attracted to Marie Antoinette as an individual?
I’m a costume designer and she is a star in the figment of fashion through the ages. She is an endlessly illustrated person. We have a million portraits of her, we have a million broad sides written about her. So we have a lot of information about her clothing and what she wore. She was a creator of fashion in her time and she may have been the ultimate fashion victim.
Where do you do your best creative work?
Basically on the couch, just before I fall asleep in an afternoon nap.
What is your pre-show ritual?
Well costume designers’ work should be done before the performance. But during tech week and during previews, I’m just trying to make sure that all the changes that have been called for during the tech process are done. So I’m running around and giving notes, or shopping for last minute items, or having a drink in order to steel myself for what’s to come.
Favorite kind of cake?
Paris or Versailles?
I think that anybody with any sense would prefer Paris. Versailles is a big honkin’ extreme, alienating, gilded, one shot deal. I mean you can have fun there for three or four hours I think. Walking around the grounds is kind of interesting, but I don’t really care for French garden types. There’s certainly some wonderful things to see in Versailles, but it’s basically a museum. I would rather be in living vital Paris, sitting in a café, having a drink.
What is your favorite element of the Baroque-Rococo style?
Well, I like embroidery. I like extreme textile patterning. I like silk and lace. I like feathers. I like fringe. I like paste jewelry. I like sweet little leather heels. There’s very little to dislike in the terms of fashion items. They’re not necessarily things you want to wear every day, but they’re certainly things you want in your life.
What would the 99% wear in the mid 1700s?
Well, they would be wearing linen and wool. And they would be wearing pretty much the same clothes on a general basis. There’s a lot of fashion changes that take place during the Revolution and cotton is introduced really into mainstream fashion in Europe at the end of the 18th century. I’m not sure if it’s accessible to anyone but the rich at the end of the century. I’d have to go back and look that up.
Which current designers do you see reflecting Marie Antoinette’s fashion legacy today?
I think one always has to reference Alexander McQueen. Which God knows I do. Who has unfortunately left us, but left an amazing legacy of his work. Certainly John Galliano does beautiful lush gowns. I look a lot to the past people like Balenciaga for inspiration for this particular production. I also look to Yohji Yamamoto and some Japanese designers just for their perspective on this period of clothing.
Do you believe in a fashion democracy?
A fashion democracy, I don’t even know what that means. I certainly believe that people should wear what they want and be happy in what they wear. I think there’s a lot of dishonesty about how people speak about themselves and what they wear because any choice is a choice. When you get up in the morning, whatever you put on you put on. So to pretend you don’t care, is I think a little disingenuous. That being said, for God’s sake, wear what makes you happy.
Catch Marie Antoinette at the Loeb Drama Center in Harvard Square, Cambridge MA through the end of September. Tickets here. Images courtesy of the A.R.T.