In Dress Codes, law professor and cultural critic Richard Thompson Ford presents a history of the laws of fashion from the middle ages to the present day, a walk down history's red carpet to uncover and examine the canons, mores, and customs of clothing—rules that we often take for granted.
...provide[s] a long-overdue course correction...on the rules, both written and unwritten, that govern what people put on their bodies and so much more ... Dress Codes focuses an even wider lens on what we wear, and on what influences those choices. Taking readers around the world from the 1200s to today, Ford embarks on an ambitious and comprehensive exploration of how fashion has been used by people both with and without money and power ... Moving closer to the present, a chapter on resistance provides an in-depth analysis of the clothes worn during the civil rights movement of the 1960s ... 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.
In Dress Codes, Richard Thompson Ford’s history of the laws of fashion, we read most of what we need to know about a society through its clothes ... Race, gender and fashion are also pivotal in Dress Codes. Ford has several chapters that chart the evolution of African-American style, and the way in which it was employed in the struggle for equality ... There is still a fertile friction in this topic.
Dress Codes traces nearly 600 years of fashion law and social norms, detailing how style and attempts to control it have shaped history. Perhaps nowhere is the boundary between the personal and the political, the individual and the state, more blurred than in the clothes that we put on our bodies. Ford argues persuasively that fashion as we know it is largely the result of the Enlightenment-era school of thought ... Changes in dress codes and fashion law tend to emerge during periods of intense social change. It makes sense, then, that these dress codes often police expressions of sexuality or attempt to create visual boundaries between racial, religious, class, and gender categories ... Ford is an apt cultural historian, and he’s at his strongest when tracing the changing winds that produced modern dress codes ... He pays deft attention to the ways marginalized people use fashion either to assimilate or to repudiate the dominant culture, touching on everything from the use of respectability politics in the civil rights movement to the reclamation of the hijab ... Dress Codes feels rushed at times; squeezing six centuries’ worth of history into one book is a massive undertaking ... Still, Dress Codes largely manages what it sets out to do.