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Dressed to Rule: Royal and Court Costume from Louis XIV to Elizabeth II Hardcover – July 11, 2005

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this study of official fashion from 1660 onward, Mansel (Prince of Europe: The Life of Charles Joseph de Ligne) elaborates on the saying "clothes make the man" to show that, for centuries, clothes have also made the government. Though it begins with a description of the notorious splendor of Louis XIV's court, this is not really a book about fancy frocks and jewels; instead, Mansel emphasizes the widespread adoption (and imposition) of uniforms, which rulers from England to China have used to demonstrate status and control their subjects. Occasionally, these focal points lead the book off track, as Mansel spends much time describing non-rulers' clothing, but, overall, his tactic makes for a more subtle argument about the rulers' actual influence. He gives excellent consideration throughout to the economic impact of government-dictated style, especially in the areas of military and mourning dress. Though he devotes a number of pages to Turkey, he pays fleeting attention to other regimes outside western Europe. Casual readers may enjoy the intriguing tidbits about emperors as fashion designers or the important role of the royal dresser, but those looking for a general survey will be frustrated by the haphazard structure and the superficial attention given to many periods and places.
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Book Description

Many royal leaders, both past and present, have understood the intimate connection between power and the way it is packaged. This intriguing book explores how European royals, including Louis XIV, Napoleon I, and Princess Diana, have carefully controlled their styles of dress and how the right costume, at the right time, can transform and define a monarch’s reputation.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press; 1st edition (July 11, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300106971
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300106978
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6.2 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,577,646 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Rebecca Huston on February 16, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Call me a costume junkie. While I am certainly not a fashionista, I do love to look at clothing, and especially that of the past and how it played such an important role in the past. Fashion has been used to determine status, flaunt power and general dazzle the lower classes -- even in our modern world with its guise of equality still hankers after snob appeal when it comes to clothing.

Philip Mansel's book, Dressed to Rule: Royal and Court Costume from Louis XIV to Elizabeth II takes a sweeping look at how clothing was used by monarchs to determine who was in, and who was out. In, of course, meant that you had access to the monarch, a neccesity for those who wanted to have power -- and out, was just that -- outside of court culture and power.

Introduction: the Power of Clothes

A very brief essay on how clothing served as both a message of style and education but also of power.


In the past, clothing at a royal court was a clear signal of who you were, and more importantly, how much money and wealth did you have. This chapter was fairly interesting, especially as it showed the links between native industry -- in France it was the silk industry in Lyon -- and a court that was voracious in needing a constant supply of fine fabrics, and how changing tastes in clothing could enhance or ruin the national economy.


Here the emphasis is more on where are you from than anything else. It starts with George IV of England -- otherwise known as the Prince Regent -- and how he made the Scottish kilt and tartan so popular. Then in an about face, the author abruptly switches to national dress in Poland, and how it tried to succeed in the face of upcoming division by its neighboring, stronger empires around it.
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Dressed to Rule: Royal and Court Costume from Louis XIV to Elizabeth II
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