*** Fashion Victims by Kimberly Grisham-Campbell


I care little about fashion, and not much about history, but I highly recommend Fashion Victims: Dress at the Court of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette, a gorgeously illustrated book about what rich and less rich French people wore, and also how they lived, at the end of the 18th century. Using invoices, paintings, and early fashion magazines, the author shows us a small fraction of the 100 (!) gowns Marie Antoinette bought each year, and the eye-popping sums she paid to her favorite fashion provider. But she also describes the complex system of trade guilds that governed the fabric and fashion industry, the Byzantine etiquette rules at the court, which,  unlike Marie Antoinette, surprisingly survived the French Revolution, and the strange tradition of parading in one’s finery, in public, at the end of Lent. She also includes an entertaining chapter about fashion inspired by the American Revolution, which resulted in any amusing additions to the already ridiculously large coiffures and hats in vogue at the time

A few nits: there are some misspellings in the French text, and some of the reproductions are strangely repeated, without explanation or apparent need, in various chapters. Still, a highly enjoyable book, even for non-fashionistas.

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