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Dressed to Rule


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Table of Contents

Introduction; Creating Manchu Identity; Designing Imperial Identity; Imperial Symbols & Dragon-Patterned Robes; Dragon Robes in Chinese Society; Works in the Exhibition; Notes.

About the Author

John E. Vollmer is an internationally recognized curator and scholar in the fields of Asian art, textiles, costumes, decorative arts, and design. He is author of 30 museum exhibition catalogues and many academic and popular books and articles.


"'Universities use the "world class" term frequently,' Vollmer contends, 'but this collection is-there isn't one better. The Palace Museum in Beijing and the Met in New York are not even better. There are paintings and costumes that only exist here.' Dressed To Rule deals with messages of power, loyalty, kinship, authority and hierarchy at the apex of sophistication in a rigidly stylized court with great political intrigue underpinning the lavish displays. The Manchu Qing dynasty was the final ruling clan of the Chinese empire. Ethnically, they were a minority in the diverse multicultural population they ruled. Their robes are cut in the nomadic Manchurian style, but decoration was Chinese, and the iconography even more reaching. Vollmer explains, 'These garments are 'perfection'-they had to be. There's an extravagant luxury here we don't have a sense of today in fashion. The nearest thing would be couture, but this is so much more. These robes communicate status, rank and ability.'" Mary Christa O'Keefe, Vue Weekly, October 2007 "'They were truly made with the most brilliant and illustrious fabric and workmanship that could be mustered at the time they were created,' Vollmer says. If they passed a rigorous inspection, the robes were taken to court, where they were cared for by a contingent of servants hired just to look after the royal wardrobe. Because such exacting care went into preserving them, the robes in the Mactaggart collection are in excellent shape." Joelle Tomek, Edmonton Examiner, October 2007 "[John Vollmer] accomplishes something truly remarkable here: he leaves the reader wanting more. Vollmer, who is an internationally recognized scholar in the field of Asian art, textiles, decorative arts and design, provides an accessibly written text to accompany the photographs in this beautifully designed book. There are more than 50 full-colour photographs here, and the robes displayed on these pages are stunning. The text also puts the costumes in their historical context as Vollmer discusses the political, social and cultural developments that had an impact on fashion and image." Nicholas Spillios, The Edmonton Journal, November 28, 2007 ".small but stunning selection of lushly decorated Chinese court attire from the last century of the Qing dynasty's reign." Gilbert A. Bouchard, Edmonton Journal, October 23, 2007. "Enhanced with more than fifty color photographs showcasing the garments provided as examples, period portraits, and details from a rare hand scroll illustrating the Chinese emperor's tour of cities along the Grand Canal, Dressed To Rule provides interested readers with an informed and informative overview of the importance, relevance, and utilization of clothing to represent imperial status, prestige, and position. A seminal contribution, Dressed To Rule is a strongly recommended addition to personal, professional, and academic library Chinese Culture, Chinese History, and Textile History reference collections and supplemental reading lists." Midwest Book Review, January 2008 Dressed to Rule was a pictorial highlight in The Times Literary Supplement, September 12, 2008 "This coffee-table book is comprised of colour photographs and contemporary illustrations of the robes of the Emperor and his family and officials, with commentary on each plate and short chapters describing the Manchu philosophy of rule and how sartorial regulations reflected it." Lisa Arsenault, Canadian Book Review Annual 2008

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