Friday, May 4, 2012

Book review: The Essence of Style

If you love fashion and history, then this book is for you.

The Essence of Style by Joan DeJean takes us through how the French invented high fashion, fine food, chic cafes together with style and sophistication. 

Wait there's also covers the history of diamonds (the Hope Diamond), champagne, nightlife, antiques, cosmetics & Versailles. TDF information.

When the reign of Louis XIV began (circa 1660), France had no particular association with elegance, but by the end of his reign, the French had become the arbiters of taste and style, together with a dominance in the luxury trade that continues today.

Did you know that in the beginning, all clothing was haute couture? It was all made to your measurements by tailors and fitters that came to your home. Your hair was done at home too. Wow! I wish I lived amongst the upper classes in the 1660s.

Whilst the nobles had their fashions and accessories made to measure, the vast majority of the population has simple clothes made from coarse homespun fabrics. But as soon as Paris became the centre of style and fashion began to spread through out France, even the lower classes could start to own accessories, stockings and cheaper fabrics, but lovelier than what they had previously from which they could sew at home. 
Louis XIV then brought trendy boutiques, hairdressing stores and cafes into existence which were exquisitely decorated and had stylishly dressed sales women to attend to you. Until that time, there were no communal shopping precincts or shops as we know them today. He also invented the concept of the fashion seasons and the Paris press commenced writing and advertising for them. It was the first time fashion had taken a place in daily newspapers.

Until about 1650, the imbalance between mens and womens clothes was not terribly significant. Since Louis XIV, womens clothes outsell mens clothing by over four to one.

All I can say, is we owe a lot to Louis XIV.

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