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Dressed to Rule: Royal and Court Costume from Louis XIV to Elizabeth II

New Haven and London, Yale University Press, 2005, 256 pages, ISBN 0300106971

Throughout history rulers have used dress as a form of legitimisation and propaganda. While palaces, pictures, and jewels might reflect the choice of a monarch’s predecessors or advisers, clothes reflected the preferences of the monarch himself.

Being both personal and visible, the right costume at the right time could transform and define a monarch’s reputation. Many royal leaders have used dress as a weapon, from Louis XIV to Catherine the Great and from Napoleon I to Princess Diana.

This intriguing book explores how rulers have sought to control their image through their appearance, showing how individual styles of dress throw light on the personalities of particular monarchs, on their court system, and on their ambitions.

The book looks also at the economics of the costume industry, at patronage, at the etiquette involved in mourning dress, and at the act of dressing itself. Fascinating glimpses into the lives of European monarchs and contemporary potentates reveal the intimate connection between power and the way it is packaged.

‘A magnificent treasure trove of suggestive detail and telling comparisons, hugely impressive in range … His elegantly tailored prose glitters with anecdotal gems … Mansel's study opens up an entirely new perspective on the culture of Europe’s old-time ruling elites.’  John Adamson (Sunday Telegraph)

‘Witty, scholarly and highly readable, this is a book to relish, and one only wishes it was longer.'  Giles Waterfield (Country Life)

‘Should Mansel ever submit to the Mastermind chair on this topic, he would score highly - even if I were setting the questions.  He has written a most enjoyable book.'  Hugo Vickers (Literary Review)

‘Mansel’s book is full of insights based on his extensive knowledge, his remarkable skill at ferreting out information from every type of source material, and his extensive travels to remote places …  A seriously researched, beautifully illustrated and elegantly written book.’ John Rogister (Times Literary Supplement)

‘The complex relationship of dress to power is the topic of Philip Mansel’s quite marvellous book … He has a compulsive tale to tell, one which embraces the whole of western Europe and beyond to the Russian and Turkish empires … This is a hugely readable and important book charting new territory which is only just beginning to be explored.’  Roy Strong (The Spectator)

‘Leroy’s eras, when the wrong choice of clothes could doom the wearer, provide Mansel with great material. He is comfortable with punctilio, exactly specifying the width of embroidery proper to the pocket of a premier officier - 122mm, since you ask - but his sharpest observations are made in the discomfort zones where rules were overruled ... Mansel draws a remarkable global panorama from 1840 to 1914.’ Veronica Horwell (The Guardian)

‘An historian by training, Mansel is careful in his assertions, and his book is not crafted in service of a central argument. Yet, he implicitly builds the case that no political upheaval has ever occurred without an accompanying revolution in dress.’ Christina Larson (Washington Monthly)

‘This is a very well researched and elegantly written book, rich in anecdotes of the vanities of our rulers, and anyone who thinks of him or herself as a dress historian had better go out and buy it.’ Norman Arch (Costume 2006)