The Dress of the People Everyday Fashion in Eighteenth-Century England John Styles

Publication date:
24 Jan 2008
Yale University Press
448 pages: 241 x 165mm
50 b-w + 50 color illus.
Sales territories:


This inventive and lucid book sheds new light on topics as diverse as crime, authority, and retailing in eighteenth-century Britain, and makes a major contribution to broader debates around consumerism, popular culture, and material life.

The material lives of ordinary English men and women were transformed in the years following the restoration of Charles II in 1660. Tea and sugar, the fruits of British mercantile and colonial expansion, altered their diets. Pendulum clocks and Staffordshire pottery, the products of British manufacturing ingenuity, enriched their homes. But it was in their clothing that ordinary people enjoyed the greatest change in their material lives. This book retrieves the unknown story of ordinary consumers in eighteenth-century England and provides a wealth of information about what they wore.

John Styles reveals that ownership of new fabrics and new fashions was not confined to the rich but extended far down the social scale to the small farmers, day laborers, and petty tradespeople who formed a majority of the population. The author focuses on the clothes ordinary people wore, the ways they acquired them, and the meanings they attached to them, shedding new light on all types of attire and the occasions on which they were worn.

John Styles is research professor in history, University of Hertfordshire, and coeditor (with Amanda Vickery) of Gender, Taste and Material Culture in Britain and North America, 1700–1830, published by Yale University Press.

"This book is a fascinating riposte to politically correct historians who write of the exploding material abundance of Georgian England from a perspective of exclusion." David Blayney Brown, World of Interiors

"Illustrated with paintings, cartoons and photographs of swatches of textiles, this scholarly, but fascinating, book charts what could be construed as the birh and infancy of modern consumerism." Lindsay Fulcher, The Lady

"He [Styles] has attached his patiently gathered shreds and patches to the documentary evidence as painstakingly and unforgettably as the foundlings' swatches were pinned to their entry papers. The book is also for its size one of the most abundantly illustrated that even Yale has ever produced." Ferdinand Mount, Times Litereary Supplement