By Clarissa Cruz
Updated March 17, 2020 at 02:48 AM EDT

The Essence of Style

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Okay, so not only do the French not get fat, they invented high fashion, fine food, chic cafés, and overall style, sophistication, and glamour, too? C’est un peu arrogant, non? But get past the initial snobbishness of Joan DeJean’s thesis in The Essence of Style and you’ll find that the University of Pennsylvania French professor has a point. She argues that luxury as we know it today would not have been possible if not for Louis XIV, who poured endless resources into ”making formerly everyday experiences” — eating, shopping, even primping — ”into performance art.” But while fabulous bonbons of information are strewn throughout — like a profile of Nicolas Lestage, the 17th-century Jimmy Choo — we could have done without the snoozy umbrella chapter.

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The Essence of Style

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