07 March 2013


I'm lucky enough to  be able to hand pick some of the newest books to introduce readers to this Spring. Of course books are a premiere subject here and I am always excited to get my hands on these exquisite books.

 Power & Style A World History of Politics & Dress  published by Flammarion & written by Dominique Gaulme & François Gaulme delves deeply into the history of power and the use of garments-or lack of -to establish and wield the ultimate aphrodisiac. Dominique is a former journalist for Figaro Magazine, founder & editor of the online magazine Le monde comme il va, and François Gaulme is an anthropologist and historian & served at the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He specializes in international affairs and development in Africa.

© Power and Style: A World History of Politics and Dress by François and Dominique
Gaulme, Flammarion, 2013.

The book is full of grand pages of portraits, photographs of the famous and infamous at the height of their powers. “Tell me what you wear, and I’ll tell you who you are,” and the authors assert  it's true to add “I’ll tell you what kind of society you live in.” From exotically tattooed bodies to the elaborate regalia of Napoleon Bonaparte both have meaning beyond just being a substitute for the simple fig leaf.

at left, Jacques Louis David, Emperor Napoleon in His Study, 1812. Oil on canvas, 80¼ x 49¼ in. (203.8 x 125 cm). Samuel H. Kress Collection, Washington D. C.© Wallace Collection, London, UK / The Bridgeman Art Library and at right, Man with traditional tattoos (irezumi), Japan, circa 1880. Private collection.© Private Collection / The Bridgeman Art Library

The authors ransack the wardrobes of the most powerful Men in history. Philip the Good-who wore black and set it as a precedence for centuries as a colour of power. Initially a symbol of deep mourning for his murdered father-it became de rigeur for him and his court as a symbol of power- was taken up by his great great grandson Holy Roman Emperor Charles V and in turn his son Philip II. Black became them all-& spoke of Power & Piety.

The courts of Louis XIV and the court of George IV are judged for their sartorial significance-doublet to vest, bows to buckles & heels to boots. My favourite piece of historical clothing from a Man's wardrobe is the cravat. It's interesting to note that the dictator of Regency dress was Beau Brummel- son of a civil servant. Beau set the strictest rules for dressing and had the Prince of Wales dancing in his corsets-put pressure on fellows to dress severely, impeccably and  to "Dress so that people will never say of you what a well-dressed man but what a gentlemanlike man!" 
Hard Work!

Anne-Louis Girodet de Roucy Trioson, Portrait of Jean-Baptiste Belley, Representative from Santo-Domingo, 1797. Oil on canvas, 62¼ x 43¾ in. (158 x 111 cm). Châteaux de Versailles et de Trianon, Versailles.© Giraudon / The Bridgeman Art Library


Another English Prince to don the sartorial mantle was Bertie-Prince Albert. While biding his time to be KING he was a man possessed of style. Dressing in the tartan- Glen Urquhart or as it became know the Prince of Wales check- he set fashion-or when wearing a red cravat-or navy with light trousers in hot weather. For Bertie it was natural and the populace followed suit. Princes-David, exiled King & the current Prince Charles are both noted as great men of style and power.

Prince Albert and His Sons: Albert, Prince of Wales, Arthur, Duke of Connaught, and Leopold, Duke of Albany, 19th century. Private collection. © Private Collection / Ken Welsh / The Bridgeman Art Library

As Power and Style moves into current day affairs of dress-it is a more subtle touch that drives the power brokers of the moment. Fifteen chapters-288 pages with 170 illustrations is a fully attired book that draws the reader in historically and fashionably. It's a book that covers Man from the head to toe ancients into the 21st century. Today-one hesitates to overplay the importance of how one is dressed and its power.  Power & Style understands how important it is historically & in today's world order. The book is beautifully stylish-but beyond that-its real power is the expertise of the authors Gaulme.


  1. Interesting, the Japanese man is holding a horse's halter.

    1. I noticed that too, I wonder what the story is behind that accessory? It looks European, or did the Japanese construct halters the same way?

  2. What a topic. Although I hate the current fade for tattoos, the Japanese tattoos are beautiful, like the traditional textiles. Thanks.

  3. I always thought it was interesting — and clever — for Benjamin Franklin to have attended the royal courts of Europe wearing the plainest of clothes. His lack of pretension made a very powerful statement in a sea of gold and diamonds.

  4. PGT, the Gaulme team's Power and Style: A World History of Politics and Dress looks like a wonderful read and thank you for bringing it to our attention. Great portrait of Jean-Baptiste Belley - so striking. At his waist, the multi-layered and multi-colored sashes are rather kimono obi-like... very lovely.

    As you are, I am fascinated by the cravat! One odd thing I noted when reading fashion history, the cravat seemed to become all the rage after the guillotine had its horrid way with so many people... and it was perhaps from a feeling of protection that wrapping the neck became fashionable. That is just one observation one sees when studying fashion history.

    Glad to see Gaulme and Gaulme dicuss the significance of court dress - also an area fertile for psychological analysis. Sometimes wigs were proclaimed fashionable when people of power experienced thinning hair. Heels sometimes became the trend when people of power felt short (but felt they had nice calves). The beauty patch, or mouche, became trendy for covering blemishes (often a result of questionable cosmetics). Sometimes the clergy, sometimes members of court - banned the common person from wearing fancy goods - because looking stylish lent too much authority. All interesting - and even more reason I look forward to reading your pick: Power and Style.

  5. There seems not to be a connection between the garments and any politics -- but rather between garments and supremacy, the usual preoccupation of "style." I marvel at the current Tea Party/radical Republican mode of the tropical tie, and I sense a society yearning for Harriman's muted madders, and Franklin's jaunty bow. Of course it will happen, and a merchant will be thought witty for "conceiving" it.

  6. the book is impressive-what every book should give forth- substance and art. so few do that today



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