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What makes fashionistas willing to pay a small fortune for a particular designer accessory – a luxe handbag, for example? The author provides the answer to these and other fascinating questions in her account of how, at one glittering moment in history, the French under Louis XIV set the standards of sophistication, style, and glamour that still rule our lives today. Joan DeJean explains how a handsome and charismatic young king with a great sense of style and an even greater sense of history decided to make both himself and his country legendary. DeJean takes us back to the birth of haute cuisine, the first appearance of celebrity hairdressers, chic cafes, nightlife, and fashion in elegant dress that extended well beyond the limited confines of court circles. Written with wit, dash, and élan by an author who knows this astonishing true story better than virtually anyone, The Essence of Style will delight fans of history and everybody who wonders about the elusive definition of good taste.