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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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.