The author of the bouncy Warwyck family romances has researched (with considerable exuberance) the dizzy women's fashion developments in mid-19th-century France and England to tell the tale of Louise Vernet, a couturier artiste, and her rags-to-blue-ribbons career: throughout, Louise's miserable and magnificent amours are amiably subordinate to the rustle of satin and the swirl of hooped crinolines. At the start orphan Louise is rescued from the streets by poor, kindly seamstress Caroline--to whom Louise, from childhood a whiz with the needle, will be a supportive little sister. And when Louise needs to rent a section of their tiny apartment, she meets Charles Worth, a young English draper with designs on Paris fashion: Charles will rise swiftly to chief of the august draper and clothier shop Maison Gagelin. . . while Louise stitches her way through exploitative Mme. Camille's dressmaking establishment, where she meets likable Welsh cutter Will Russell. Louise will eventually catch up with Charles, however, becoming premiere fitter at his own shop on the Rue de la Paix. And though both Charles and Will will marry other women, Louise has a grand affair with aristocrat Pierre de Gand, who would marry her were it not for the opposition of his godfather--Emperor Louis-Napoleon: Pierre is forced to marry adoring Stephanie; poor Louise bears Pierre's child, nobly withdrawing from his life when Stephanie becomes pregnant; and she makes the dreadful mistake of marrying sneaky Englishman Robert Prestbury--who takes her to England to toil in his father's shop (which caters to those in mourning). Louise is plucky, however, so she makes a killing on classy weeds at the demise of the Prince Consort and Finally sloughs off Robert (who conveniently dies). Finally, then, a happy ending: Pierre gives their son his name and inheritance, and Louise, with loving backward glances at Pierre, will stay in England with widowed Will Russell, now a factory owner. With clips of Paris in turmoil (uprisings and Prussian occupation), parades of royalty, and the ""spectacular peaks"" of new modes of fashion--lively, incidentally informative, and busy as a bustle on a promenade.