Credit, Fashion, Sex

Economies of Regard in Old Regime France

Credit, Fashion, Sex

Book Pages: 448 Illustrations: 23 illustrations, 3 figures Published: October 2013

Gender and Sexuality > Feminism and Women’s Studies, History > European History, Pre-Modern Studies > Medieval and Early Modern Studies

In Old Regime France credit was both a central part of economic exchange and a crucial concept for explaining dynamics of influence and power in all spheres of life. Contemporaries used the term credit to describe reputation and the currency it provided in court politics, literary production, religion, and commerce. Moving beyond Pierre Bourdieu's theorization of capital, this book establishes credit as a key matrix through which French men and women perceived their world. As Clare Haru Crowston demonstrates, credit unveils the personal character of market transactions, the unequal yet reciprocal ties binding society, and the hidden mechanisms of political power.

Credit economies constituted "economies of regard" in which reputation depended on embodied performances of credibility. Crowston explores the role of fashionable appearances and sexual desire in leveraging credit and reconstructs women's vigorous participation in its gray markets. The scandalous relationship between Queen Marie Antoinette and fashion merchant Rose Bertin epitomizes the vertical loyalties and deep social divides of the credit regime and its increasingly urgent political stakes.


"This is a book teeming with insights about the economy and culture of the Old Regime. The twinning of credit and fashion in Crowston’s analysis offers a refreshing new perspective on the history of fashion. . . . This is an important book that many early modern French historians will want to read and debate.” — Jennifer M. Jones, H-France, H-Net Reviews

"After reading this book, I cannot imagine lecturing on the old regime without devoting attention to the theme of credit."  — Charles Walton, H-France, H-Net Reviews

"Expands our understanding of the role of women in old regime credit markets, even as she transforms our understanding of the credit markets themselves." — Thomas Luckett, Journal of Economic History

“As illuminating as the book is for historians of eighteenth-century France, its most important contribution may be the innovative methodology by which it integrates economic, social, cultural, and political history. In this respect, the book serves as a model for all scholars interested in cutting-edge research that combines the best of the humanities and social sciences.” — Michael Kwass, Journal of Social History

"Crowston’s second book is a strong follow-up to the impressive Fabricating Women (2001), and, like her first, cleverly combines economic, social and gender history to provide innovative new insights into Old Regime France, in particular Paris. …  [A]n excellent monograph and substantial contribution to the field." — Anna Jenkin, French History

"The elasticity and evolution of the notion [of credit] are the springboards for a well-argued investigation into how it underpinned the Ancien Régime. And like a blemish on a painting, once this is pointed out, it is impossible to ignore and one is left wondering how it was ever overlooked." — Paul Scott, History

"Crowston models an approach that should inspire a new generation of historians to work seriously and fruitfully on this kind of source material and use it to explore many themes.... Credit, Fashion, Sex brilliantly makes the case for why centralizing credit in all its complexity and multiple registers as an analytical category transforms our understanding of early modern French society in important ways that have often eluded us." — Julie Hardwick, History Workshop Journal

"This is important, detailed research that demonstrates how the credit system and network worked rather than falling back on existing assumptions.... The book is a reminder of how many questions remain to ask and answer. It also shows what a fine scholar can do when given the time and physical space (i.e., a book’s length) to explore analytical issues in depth. This is a tour de force in many respects." — Deborah Simonton, Business History Review

"[A] bold, powerfully argued, and innovative work, which will compel broad rethinking in the way that historians conceptualize relationships between the ancien régime society and economy." — John Borgonovo, Journal of Modern History

"If you want to understand how things really worked in the world of French Queen Marie-Antoinette, then read this book. Behind the glitter and the glowing beauty stood the fashion designer who provided style and most important, credit, for the rich rarely settled their debts. With this masterful and fascinating study, Clare Haru Crowston lays bare a whole cultural system in which economics, fashion, marriage, and social distinction were intertwined in brilliant and ultimately fatal ways." — Lynn Hunt, author of Inventing Human Rights: A History

"Credit, Fashion, Sex is one of the most remarkable books that I have read in the past decade. It is a virtuoso performance that marshals interest in a staggering array of interconnected themes, among them gender and sex, capitalism and nonmaterial levers of power, the role of information and the pretensions of absolutism, the consumer revolution and stark inequality, fashion and anxiety, confidence and deceit. It shows us how understanding credit systems inflects the way we fathom everything else." — Steven L. Kaplan, author of Le pain maudit: Retour sur la France des années oubliées, 1945–1958


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Price: $30.95

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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Clare Haru Crowston is Associate Professor of History at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. She is the author of Fabricating Women: The Seamstresses of Old Regime France, 1675–1791, also published by Duke University Press.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Illustrations and Tables ix

Money and Measurements xi

Acknowledgments xiii

Introduction 1

1. Credit and Old Regime Economies of Regard 21

2. Critiques and Crises of the Credit System 56

3. Incredible Style: Intertwined Circuits of Credit, Fashion, and Sex 96

4. Credit in the Fashion Trades of Eighteenth-Century Paris 139

5. Fashion Merchants: Managing Credit, Narrating Collapse 195

6. Madame Déficit and Her Minister of Fashion: Self-Fashioning and the Politics of Credit 246

7. Family Affairs: Consumption, Credit, and the Marriage Bond 283

Conclusion. Credit is Dead. Long Live Credit! 316

Notes 329

Bibliography 383

Index 407
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-5528-1 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-5513-7
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