The Merovingian queen Frédégonde (545-597 AD) is one of many possible sources for the folk tale alternatively known as Cinderella, Aschenputtel, Cennerenolla or Cendrillion. Originally a servant to the king’s first wife, she is said to have caused the king to divorce his first wife and to murder his second wife so that Frédégonde became consort. On Frédégonde’s path from rags to riches, she left a bloody trail in her conflicts with rivals, during a period when the Frankish kings were engaged in bitter struggle. The bloodshed is reflected in the dramatic red fall of her dress, created of a cotton jersey that was specially dyed for the Nike apparel house’s sweatshirts, but once having being rejected it became available to Lamyne M. and his collaborators. The fabric certainly would have been unique in Frédégonde’s time, even out-of-this-world, because it literally is from the future. So we might view her elegant sheath as like the magical clothing of Cinderella.
Frédégonde is reputed to have been one of the most elegant of the French queens. So conscious was she of dress that she even had architectural features designed to set off her costumes, such as staircases that emphasized her train. With this penchant for stage-setting and for making grand entrances—always late—we might associate her with star performers in our contemporary world of global performance, whose stage costumes feature expensive labels.
This “power dressing” carries through into several aspects of Frédégonde’s blue wool cloak. Wool was so expensive in the sixth century that few people could afford even short woolen garments, so her floor-length blue cloak would have been breathtakingly expensive and ostentatious in her time. To underscore the cloak’s value and importance, Lamyne and his collaborators in Saint-Denis have lined it with bomber-jacket fabric that references the gear of hiphop “royalty”, and they have edged the cloak with fragments of T-shirts by the premium fashion label Zadig & Voltaire. The hem of the dress, too, is created from expensive T-shirt fabric. To top it off, the shoulders sport royal ermine ornaments.
Frédégonde’s knitted pendant belt reaches almost to the floor, signaling her high rank and fashionability. The precise position of her bodice button and the buckle of her dress would also have indexed her status.
Frédégonde’s age evidently was obsessed with multiplying references within references, and this costume reflects a similar function, with every element pointing toward deeper references.