The Dress of the People

Everyday Fashion in Eighteenth-Century England

John Styles

View Inside Price: $55.00


February 26, 2008
448 pages, 6 1/2 x 9 1/2
50 b/w + 50 color illus.
ISBN: 9780300121193
Cloth

This inventive and lucid book sheds new light on topics as diverse as crime, authority, and retailing in eighteenth-century Britain, and makes a major contribution to broader debates around consumerism, popular culture, and material life.

The material lives of ordinary English men and women were transformed in the years following the restoration of Charles II in 1660. Tea and sugar, the fruits of British mercantile and colonial expansion, altered their diets. Pendulum clocks and Staffordshire pottery, the products of British manufacturing ingenuity, enriched their homes. But it was in their clothing that ordinary people enjoyed the greatest change in their material lives. This book retrieves the unknown story of ordinary consumers in eighteenth-century England and provides a wealth of information about what they wore.

John Styles reveals that ownership of new fabrics and new fashions was not confined to the rich but extended far down the social scale to the small farmers, day laborers, and petty tradespeople who formed a majority of the population. The author focuses on the clothes ordinary people wore, the ways they acquired them, and the meanings they attached to them, shedding new light on all types of attire and the occasions on which they were worn.

John Styles is research professor in history, University of Hertfordshire, and coeditor (with Amanda Vickery) of Gender, Taste and Material Culture in Britain and North America, 1700–1830, published by Yale University Press.

"The aptly named John Styles has written an outstanding and fascinating history of eighteenth-century dressing using material culture to its fullest. . . . Yale University Press deserves praise, too, for the quality of the printing and commitment to over 100 color illustrations. The Dress of the People should be read by literary scholars, historians, and art historians. . . . A rich and enduring tapestry."—Beverly Schneller, Eighteenth-Century Intelligencer

"An exciting and rare exploration of the dress of English laborers during the 18th century. . . . Styles has skillfully uncovered and thoroughly pieced together a story that has been overlooked for nearly two centuries. It is a text that should be of great benefit to any scholar interested in learning more about the material acquisitions of English working-class people during a time of industrial prosperity."—Patricia L. Hilliard, Journal of Family & Consumer Sciences

"A delightful and important book. It is full of new research, is imaginative in its use of sources, poses major challenges to the historiography, and is lavishly produced. . . . Styles has lived up to his surname in all possible respects."—A.L. Beier, American Historical Review

"The Dress of the People is a fascinating study that once again casts our gaze on the importance of consumer practices in the eighteenth century and is a must read for anyone interested in social, economic, or gender history since that period." —Erika Rappaport, Journal of Social History
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