Book review | The absurdity of fashion history | Books

If a picture is worth 1,000 word, surely an outfitIt is worth 1,001

Richard Thompson Ford tells us this in his latest history book. “Dress Codes: How the Laws of Fashion Made History.”

Ford is a lawyer and scholar. He is also a Stanford Law School professor. Ford spent much of his career researching and teaching civil rights. This is an area in which disputes over attire are common.

Its core is “Dress Codes”This book is about the history and relationship between civil rights and attire.

Ford’s nearly-400-page tome covers an impressive scope of legal history related to the design, production, interpretation and use of clothing and dress.

“Dress Codes”This section is divided into five parts.

The first two are about Western Civilization from the Renaissance through the beginning of the 20th Century.

The last three will examine and interpret the history behind dress in African American culture and American women’s culture.

Each section is filled full of fascinating examples of dress codes set by different governments and institutions.

Many of these dress codes were created to preserve the status quo by delegating fashionable and finer attire (and the power and ability to design it) to higher classes, specific groups of people and men.

It also identified fashions that could only be used by certain classes or groups.

Ford claims that “clothing is a status symbol, and the history is replete with rules and laws designed to ensure that the social status of individuals is reflected in what they wear.”

He identifies four main concerns which underlie all major historical or modern developments. fashion: Status, sex and power.

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Different societies tried (and continue to use legal means) to control the four main concerns. fashionThrough different dress codes

Since the 14th Century, sumptuary laws have outlawed clothing that is too outrageous or offensive. This was because it was either distracting from piety or worse. “corrupting pleasure of the flesh.”

Sumptuary laws were not only restricted in personal expression, but also reflected the power and status that clothing had.

Ford claims that “conspicuous dress was seen as a kind of counterfeit, which threatened to undermine an economy of aristocratic and noble prerogative by cheapening its sartorial currency.”

In other cases, people were also arrested or fined for wearing inappropriate clothing, as was the case of Allegra, an Italian woman in the early 15th century.

10 ducats for public appearances without earrings

This would seem to be a transgression of the gender, but it was actually something religious.

Allegra was Jewish and local laws required that Jewish women wear it. “rings hanging from both ears … uncovered and visible to all.”

The earrings are a symbol for status, sex, power, or lack thereof.

Ford’s style of writing is stuck in a liminal space between academic and popular history; thus, it reaches a wider audience than a traditional academic or popular history.

Some might find some of his interpretive sections a bit too long-winded. Others might be disappointed in the sheer number of examples and anecdotes that he uses to support his arguments. However, those who are interested in legal history and law history will not be disappointed. fashionYou will find much to love about the general area. “Dress Codes.”

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His examples are many, but they are endlessly fascinating in modern eyes because of their extremeness and absurdity.

Like many historical records, readers will also find much in common with the absurdity.

Perhaps not with the fashionThese faux pas are not the issue, but the reasons why they were considered important.

Tom Kuipers is an archive assistant at Champaign County Historical Archive at the Urbana Free Library, and the museum manager for the Champaign County History Museum.

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