In the book, the author focuses on dimensions of technology, gender, and social climate to discuss the hows and whys people wore fashion that was slowly killing them.
She also adds in different aspects of the modern world to show us that we haven't exactly escaped either, using the photographs of Kyoichi Tsuzuki and the new google Glass as evidence of the continual presence of dangerous fashion in the modern world.
Consumerism plays a big theme in these, and anyone familiar with the Marxist concept of commodity fetishism will find this eerily familiar. It also brings to mind recent cases of toxic fashion, like those popular phone cases advertised on Instagram that contained acid and could cause serious chemical burns.
The book covers lots of different case studies and is filled with amazing photographs and prints that any Victorian or Edwardian enthusiast will enjoy. I especially love the photographs of the old Victorian dresses from museum collections, which show the different dyes and styles which turned out, in the end, to be pretty deadly.
The scholarship of the book is also pretty great, as far as I'm concerned, with robust bibliographies where you can go for further research if you so choose. It's certainly given me some things to think about, especially in regards to how some of the negative ideas we have about Victorian fashion actually stem from newspapers of the time mocking women. Of course, a lot of it also comes from the Victorian press's fascination with spreading wild rumor and speculation, but Alison Matthews David does a great job of guiding the reader through different stories and parsing which ones might be true and which ones are almost certainly false.
Overall, I would absolutely recommend this book. Not only is it informative and interesting, but it is wonderfully put together and a joy to have on my bookshelf.
What have you all been reading lately?