(b Abbeville, July 2, 1747; d Epinay, Sept 22, 1813).
French marchande de modes (see fig.). Marchandes de modes, literally merchants of fashion, were milliners and stylists. They designed and sold fashion accessories, including hats and headdresses, and helped women style their ensembles. They acted as coordinators among tailors, dressmakers, linen drapers and other trades, operating outside the regulations that governed those guilds. Bertin became the most influential Parisian marchandes de mode thanks to her talents for design and self-promotion and the patronage of Queen Marie-Antoinette, the undisputed leader of fashion in the late 18th century. Bertin helped elevate the status of the marchandes de modes to that of a creative genius who set the standard for what was fashionable.
Marie-Jeanne Bertin was born to working-class parents. As a girl she was apprenticed to a Mme Barbier, a dressmaker in Abbeville. In 1770 she moved to Paris and likely worked for a marchande de modes, as this was the nature of the first shop she opened herself in the same year on the Quai de Gesvres. Within three years, Bertin had established another shop, ‘Au Grand Mogul’, in the more fashionable Rue Saint-Honoré....