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The Essence of Style

How the French Invented High Fashion, Fine Food, Chic Cafes, Style, Sophistication, and Glamour

About The Book

What makes fashionistas willing to pay a small fortune for a particular designer accessory? Why does a special occasion only become really special when a champagne cork pops? Why are diamonds the status symbol gemstone, instantly signifying wealth, power, and even emotional commitment?

Writing with great élan, one of the foremost authorities on seventeenth-century French culture provides the answer to these and other fascinating questions in her account of how, at one glittering moment in history, the French under Louis XIV set the standards of sophistication, style, and glamour that still rule our lives today. Joan DeJean takes us back to the birth of haute cuisine, the first appearance of celebrity hairdressers, chic cafés, nightlife, and fashion in elegant dress that extended well beyond the limited confines of court circles. And Paris was the magical center -- the destination of travelers all across Europe.

Full of wit, dash, and verve, The Essence of Style will delight fans of history and everybody who wonders about the elusive definition of good taste.

About The Author

Photo Credit: Mecki McCarthy

Joan DeJean, author of seven previous books on French literature, history, and culture during the reign of Louis XIV, is Trustee Professor of French at the University of Pennsylvania, where she has taught for the past fifteen years. She has also held positions at both Princeton and Yale. Bicultural, she shuttles regularly between her homes in Philadelphia and Paris, with her finger on the pulse of both venues.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Free Press (June 6, 2006)
  • Length: 320 pages
  • ISBN13: 9780743264143

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Raves and Reviews

"Effervescent . . . sparkling . . . packed with savory tidbits." -- The New York Times

"An enormously readable and civilized book that reveals, in fascinating detail, some of the reasons for the French superiority complex." -- Peter Mayle, author of A Year in Provence

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