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Dress Codes


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About the Author

Richard Thompson Ford is a Professor at Stanford Law School. He has written about law, social and cultural issues and race relations for The New York Times, The Washington Post, San Francisco Chronicle, and Slate, and has appeared on The Colbert Report and The Rachel Maddow Show. He is the author of the New York Times notable books The Race Card and Rights Gone Wrong: How Law Corrupts the Struggle for Equality. He lives in San Francisco.


"Dress Codes: How the Laws of Fashion Made History is a forensic examination of what we wear and how that has evolved in tandem with political control and social change...Piercing."-- "China Post Magazine"
"Dress Codes: How the Laws of Fashion Made History is a new book by Richard Thompson Ford, a Stanford Law School professor who has terrific personal style...The joy of Ford's book comes from learning about all the things people have historically been banned from doing to or with clothes."-- "NYMAG's The Cut"
"You will probably never think of fashion as something trivial again....the greatest strength of this book (on fashion!) is its intellectual depth. Ford asks us to question unconscious beliefs, to realize that we almost never do so, to understand that the simplest choices are fraught with meaning, and yet that meaning can and does change all the time."-- "The Free Lance-Star"
"An entertaining read, Dress Codes shows how fashion can both reflect and shape society."-- "The Economist"
"In Dress Codes, Ford has created a thorough and well-thought-out history of fashion from a legal and societal perspective...Readers will come away with a new understanding of--and critical eye for--what we wear and why."-- "BookPage"
"[Ford] reflects on how fashion choices can reaffirm identity, assert individuality, and camouflage intent.... His engaging text provides ample historical and social context, and is sprinkled with period quotes, cartoons, photos, and advertisements. Whether addressing codpieces, Ruth Bader Ginsberg's lace collars, dreadlocks in the workplace, or pandemic curbside cocktail party attire, Ford's writing is fresh, informative, and thoroughly enjoyable."
-- "Booklist"
"Dress Codes explores how for centuries fashion has marked a pathway for personal liberation and social critique even when it sought to reinforce class, race, and gender hierarchies. From nuns' habits to flappers' fringe to burkinis and hijabs, from Joan of Arc's armor to Martin Luther King's Sunday best, Richard Thompson Ford reveals a history of individual imagination capable of outwitting and recasting even the strictest rules. Ford's writing is sharp, witty, and brilliant, with the elegance and craft of a bespoke suit."--Daniel Sharfstein, Professor at Vanderbilt University and author of Thunder in the Mountains: Chief Joseph, Oliver Otis Howard, and the Nez Perce War
"I think that Dress Codes is long overdue. Clothing is at the heart of culture, indeed it is almost a definition of what we mean by the term culture, a constructed but ever changing expression of social relationships, beliefs and ideologies. We should all, as Richard Thompson Ford does so magnificently within this book, be taking fashion much more seriously."

--Ruth Goodman, author of How to be a Victorian and The Domestic Revolution

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