The Essence of Style

By Joan DeJean,

Book cover of The Essence of Style: How the French Invented High Fashion, Fine Food, Chic Cafes, Style, Sophistication, and Glamour

Book description

What makes fashionistas willing to pay a small fortune for a particular designer accessory? Why does a special occasion only become really special when a champagne cork pops? Why are diamonds the status symbol gemstone, instantly signifying wealth, power, and even emotional commitment? Writing with great elan, one of the…

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Why read it?

2 authors picked The Essence of Style as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

This is cultural history with a difference and of a difference. It teaches you a lot about the reputation for fashionable culture that France enjoyed for centuries all over the world and continues to enjoy to this day. How much of all that is already packed into the book’s subtitle! The rest of the book is just as accessible and lively and unwilling ever to take itself too seriously. 

From Richard's list on just how much English owes French.

DeJean is a master storyteller, and in Essence of Style, she shows how many fashionable aspects of the modern world came into being during the reign of the French King Louis XIV. For Louis XIV, power, glitter, and glamour were synonymous, and he was a trendsetter par excellence. (After all, if his nobles were spending all their money on clothes and diamonds, they couldn’t muster the funds to rebel against the king.)  Mirrors, champagne, diamonds, hairdressers, haute cuisine, perfume, and folding umbrellas all gained traction within Louis XIV’s court, and DeJean traces the emergence of each new luxury in…

From Carolyn's list on everyday things we take for granted.

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