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Fashion beyond Versailles

Consumption and Design in Seventeenth-Century France

Donna J. Bohanan

Publication Year: 2012

As the epicenters of style and innovation, the cities of Paris and Versailles dominate studies of consumerism in seventeenth-century France, but little scholarship exists on the material culture, fashion, and consumption patterns in the provinces. Donna J. Bohanan’s Fashion beyond Versailles fills this historiographical gap by examining the household inventories of French nobles and elites in the southern province of Dauphiné. Much more than a simple study of the decorative arts, Fashion beyond Versailles investigates the meaning of material ownership. By examining postmortem registries and archival publications, Bohanan reveals the social imperatives, local politics, and high fashion trends that spurred the consumption patterns of provincial communities. In doing so, she reveals a closer relationship between consumer behavior of Versailles and the provinces than most historians have maintained. Far-reaching in its sociological and psychological implications, Fashion beyond Versailles both makes use of and contributes to the burgeoning literature on material culture, fashion, and consumption.

Published by: Louisiana State University Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. ix-x

This book started years ago in the archives of Grenoble, while I was there to work on a different project. I was examining a series of seventeenth-century household inventories in order to gain a sense of the wealth of noble families. These sorts of inventories, prepared by notaries at the death of a testator, have become the stock of material culture...

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pp. 1-6

This is a book about things. By things, I mean the possessions that accumulate during a lifetime and, at death, are inventoried and dispersed to heirs. In a sense it is a book about material culture, but it is not about the actual things themselves. This is not a study of the objects; it is not a history of the decorative arts. It is social history, a book about what...

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1. Le Pays: Nobles, Taste, Fashion, and Politics

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pp. 7-29

In the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, the nobility of Dauphiné, a province located at the periphery of the realm, and one traditionally sheltered from the grasping fiscal reach of central government, became deeply embroiled in a great conflict over taxation and aristocratic privilege. Dauphiné was a...

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2. Le Luxe: Splendor and Luxury

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pp. 30-55

How exactly did material culture define elite society at the frontier of France? Interior decoration had played a major role in defining European elites since the period of the Renaissance. This was nothing new. Interiors provided a medium for conspicuous consumption as elites filled their households with...

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3. Regularité: Color Schemes and Matched Sets

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pp. 56-73

One hallmark of the French style of interior decoration was the concept of regularité, the harmonious, unified effect found in a room, indeed within a residence, and achieved by a deliberate use of color and matched sets of furnishings. By the eighteenth century, this philosophy directed interior decoration in Paris and the...

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4. Commodité: Comfort, Convenience, and Innovation in Furniture and Lighting

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pp. 74-90

The relatively brief period 1680–1720 was crucial in the history of French household furnishings because it witnessed the growing popularity and wider distribution of furniture designed for comfort and convenience. This is the period in which consumers began to acquire furniture not just meant to be sat upon...

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5. A Table: Dining and Sociability

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pp. 91-113

Nothing is more closely associated with the rise of la grande nation than its cuisine. France acquired its reputation as a nation of gastronomes and gourmands during the reigns of Louis XIV and Louis XV, when several legendary French authors published recipes that altered the way in which food was prepared and...

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pp. 114-118

This book has examined the inventories of elite households and identified some important aspects of their owners’ daily lives and social world, not the least significant of which was a gradual shift in lifestyle. What their consumer purchases verify was a passage from the medieval/Renaissance household, furnished austerely in an unstudied...


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pp. 119-132


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pp. 133-146


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pp. 147-154

E-ISBN-13: 9780807145227
Print-ISBN-13: 9780807145210

Page Count: 168
Publication Year: 2012