“Dress Codes explores how for centuries fashion has marked a pathway for personal liberation and social critique even when it sought to reinforce class, race, and gender hierarchies. From nuns’ habits to flappers’ fringe to burkinis and hijabs, from Joan of Arc’s armor to Martin Luther King’s Sunday best, Richard Thompson Ford reveals a history of individual imagination capable of outwitting and recasting even the strictest rules. Ford’s writing is sharp, witty, and brilliant, with the elegance and craft of a bespoke suit."
– Daniel Sharfstein, Professor at Vanderbilt University and author of Thunder in the Mountains: Chief Joseph, Oliver Otis Howard, and the Nez Perce War
“I think that Dress Codes is long overdue. Clothing is at the heart of culture, indeed it is almost a definition of what we mean by the term culture, a constructed but ever changing expression of social relationships, beliefs and ideologies. We should all, as Richard Thompson Ford does so magnificently within this book, be taking fashion much more seriously.”
– Ruth Goodman, author of How to be a Victorian and The Domestic Revolution
"We all abide by dress codes, whether required to do so or not. The author’s discussion embraces a vast body of knowledge, from what might be called fashion anthropology to a philosophy of sartorial splendor, and he’s an assured, genial narrator. He has an acute eye for detail, too...For the clotheshorse and the jeans-clad alike, a lucid, entertaining exploration of how and why we dress as we do."
– Kirkus (Starred)
“An intriguing history of formal and informal rules governing what people wear…. [Ford] makes a convincing case that dress codes reveal much about the social order and the pursuit of individual liberty. This jam-packed history casts its subject in a new light."
– Publishers Weekly
"[Ford] reflects on how fashion choices can reaffirm identity, assert individuality, and camouflage intent…. His engaging text provides ample historical and social context, and is sprinkled with period quotes, cartoons, photos, and advertisements. Whether addressing codpieces, Ruth Bader Ginsberg's lace collars, dreadlocks in the workplace, or pandemic curbside cocktail party attire, Ford's writing is fresh, informative, and thoroughly enjoyable.”
"In Dress Codes, Ford has created a thorough and well-thought-out history of fashion from a legal and societal perspective...Readers will come away with a new understanding of—and critical eye for—what we wear and why."
“An entertaining read, Dress Codes shows how fashion can both reflect and shape society.”
– The Economist
"Essential reading whether you dress to the nines or prefer sweats...Ford’s writing is steeped in extensive research and makes what could be a dull history lesson about fashion a deeply informative and entertaining study of why we dress the way we do, and what that tells us about class, sexuality and power."
– The New York Times Book Review
"A sharp and entertaining history of the rules of fashion. Mr. Ford skillfully examines how fashion, far from being mere frivolity, has shaped people’s lives from the 14th century to the present."
– Wall Street Journal