Books on Costume, Costuming, and the History of Fashion....
The dress of the 18th Century, especially in France, was characterized in the upper classes by frivolity and excess.  Rose Bertin was the chief perpitrator of this fashion, and may, indeed, be thought of as the first fashion designer, as she went to great lengths to invent delightful things for the ladies of the Court of France.
The dichotomy between the upper and lower classes was never greater than in the 18th Century.  It was impossible for those starving and wearing rags to appreciate the beauty of clothing that was forever out of their reach, financially as well as physically.  Was the fashion of the Court of France partially responsible for the French Revolution?  Well, certainly the fashion for powdering the hair with finely milled wheat flour deprived hungry people of bread...  but that excess may be laid at the door of the hairdressers of France, and not its fashion designers!

More on Costume History coming soon!