The Dangers of Dress Past and Present
by Alison Matthews David
Hardcover: 256 pages
Publisher: Bloomsbury Academic
Released: Sept. 24, 2015
Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through Netgalley.
Book Description, Modified from Back Cover:
Clothing is designed to protect, shield and comfort us, yet lurking amongst seemingly innocuous garments we find hats laced with mercury, frocks laden with arsenic and literally 'drop-dead gorgeous' gowns.
Fashion Victims takes the reader on a fascinating journey through the lethal history of women's, men's and children's dress. Drawing upon surviving fashion objects and numerous visual and textual sources, encompassing louse-ridden military uniforms, accounts of the fiery deaths of Oscar Wilde's half-sisters and dancer Isadora Duncan's accidental strangulation by entangled scarf; the book explores how garments have tormented those who made and wore them, and harmed animals and the environment in the process.
Fashion Victims is lavishly illustrated with over 125 images and is a remarkable resource for everyone from scholars and students to fashion enthusiasts.
Fashion Victims is a fashion history about some health dangers associated with clothing. It mainly focused on the 1800's to early 1900's, but it also talked about some older and some current dangers. The book was full of interesting photographs of the clothing under discussion. It also had drawings from the time showing the work conditions of those making the items and illustrating the dangers to the wearer.
The author discussed how clothing could pass diseases between people, the toxic process of making men's rabbit-fur felt hats, deadly chemical dyes like arsenic green used in dresses and hair wreaths or shoe blacking that could kill, and long silk scarves that strangled and hobble skirts that tripped wearers. Some fabrics were especially prone to catching fire like tulle in tutus, cotton muslin, and flanette cotton. She also talked about how crinolines increased danger of the wearer catching fire or getting entangled in machinery. She described the efforts to come up with an acceptable fire retardant, the use of highly flammable celluloid in combs and other accessories, and various dangers from artificial silks. She also briefly discussed modern dangers from things like chemical dyes, sand-basting denim, strangulation, flame retardants, and chemicals used in screen-printed garments.
I found the book to be easy to follow and very interesting (though a little depressing). I'd recommend this book to those who are interested in the details of fashion dangers of the last 200 years.
If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.