Fashion and social order: the early modern world

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The Fashion History Reader: Global Perspectives, 2010, 1, pp. 85 - 92
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The infiuential scholar Daniel Roche wrote of seventeenth-century clothing that it 'was at the centre of debates about wealth and poverty, excess and necessity, superfluity and sufficiency, luxury and adequacy' (Roche 1994: 5). Fashion also mattered a great deal to the cultural mind-set of early modern society as its meanings contained a paradoxical ftip-side. Fashion in the early modern period might, Roche argues, be seen as a very dignified aspect of the notion of civility, restraint, manners and codes of conduct, or clothes might become \weapons' in a game of swiftly moving and seductive appearances (ibid.: 5-·6). So clothes and grooming were described in conduct books and instruction manuals as something that had to be carefully managed depending on social needs and settings. Many of these detailed directives were written for young men, the most famous of the texts being Castiglione's The Book of the Courtier, whose form came from a classical model by Cicero and which was widely copied and modified for the following three centuries, forming the basis of the 'etiquette' manual.
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