This is the book based on the hugely successful exhibition Fashions of the Hapsburg Era: Austria-Hungary, held at The Metropolitan Museum of Art from December 1979 through August 1980. The show presented more than 150 costumes, uniforms, and military and equestrian trappings dating from the eighteenth century in Austria and Hungary to the collapse of the Hapsburg Empire in 1918. But at the heart of the exhibition were the costumes and liveries worn at court in the late nineteenth century, during the reign of Emperor Franz Joseph I and Empress Elisabeth—one of the most highly romantic periods in European history. At mid-century the power of the empire was already waning, but the grandeur of the costumes, the vestments of the civil orders, and the gala gowns of the ladies of the court belied the aura of impending ruin.
The subdued glamour of the Austrian clothes contrasts sharply with the oriental richness of the Hungarian costumes, which show the degree to which the Magyars bore the weight and the cultural influence of the Turks, who besieged their borders for centuries. The Hungarian court costumes are resplendent with fur and encrusted with jewels; the women's court trains are heavy with embroidered gold.
All the pomp and ostentation of the era are conveyed in the present book, which also contains much more than a record of the exhibition. Ten esteemed authors, experts in their fields, trace the evolution of style in Vienna and Budapest—from the long reign of Empress Maria Theresa, who worked tirelessly to promote a stable fashion industry in Vienna, to the Congress of Vienna and the elegant simplicity of the Biedermeier period and then the climactic reign of Franz Joseph I, which culminated in his coronation as king of Hungary in 1867. The book is a splendid document of a time much misunderstood and never matched for sheer dizzying romanticism.
Each essay is lavishly illustrated in color and black and white, with eighteen specially commissioned color plates of costumes and accouterments in the exhibition. A detailed chronology of the years between 1699 and 1918 and a selected bibliography are included.