Saturday, March 12, 2016

Review: Fashion Victims by Alison Matthews David

I admit, I don't get much leisurely reading done lately. When you have 500 pages to read per week, along with everything else that happens when you're working and in your senior year of college, it's hard to find the time. Still, every once in a while you stumble upon a book that's absolutely worth it to read on top of everything else. The book I'm talking about is called Fashion Victims: The Dangers of Dress Past and Present by Alison Matthews David. The book was sent to me a few months ago by Bloomsbury publications and I'm so thrilled to finally be able to review it for you all.

The book is about nineteenth and twentieth century fashion and about the various ways that it could be dangerous. Clothing is supposed to shield us from the elements, but when your dress is dyed with arsenic and you're wearing layers of wool on hot summer days, they can be more dangerous than protective.

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?


  1. That book sounds so interesting! Lately I have been reading just loads of marketing stuff, not so goth :D

  2. Sounds great! I must read it! I just finished reading The Bird's Nest by Shirley Jackson. It's not goth per se, but it's mysterious and a little spooky and classified as psychological horror. I highly recommend it! Plus, the cover is pretty :)

  3. This looks like a book I'd like to own in print! Can you tell the font size? Where is it sold?

  4. Reading A Blink of The Screen by Terry Pratchett. This book sounds right up my alley though!!!!

  5. Ooh! I'm *dying* to read that.

    Just came across your blog after following your Tumblr & I'm enjoying it very much. Thank you for your posts.

  6. This dress is looking so beautiful. And also very gorgeous. You can also get more information about divorce from my site. denver divorce lawyer