January 18, 2016

Book Review and Giveaway: Fashion Victims: The Dangers of Dress Past and Present from Bloomsbury


With an attention grabbing name like "Fashion Victims" one might expect a book boasting such a moniker to perhaps be a snarky take on street style, haute couture show addicts, or current day wardrobe "fails". Alas, I'm pleased to say, it very little to do directly with any of those things - at least not as we might picture them in the 21st century.

Allow me to explain. You see, Fashion Victims: The Dangers of Dress Past and Present - a 256 page volume by author Alison Matthews David, that was published by Bloomsbury last year - is a detailed, intelligently written look at some of the most perilous aspects of clothing over the past three centuries (plus the occasional mention of an earlier period), with a particular emphasis on wearables from the Victorian and Edwardian eras.

Most of us are familiar with the risks that such garments as corsets and extremely wide hoop skirts posed to their wearers (and in the case of the latter, sometimes, tragically those around them, too), but the hazards of fashion in decades and centuries past goes far, far deeper. In this fascinating book, Ms. Matthews David does an excellent job of exploring seven such wardrobe risk in particular, as well as the roles they played on mainstream culture and the collective psyche at the time that they were most prevelantly a very real problem/risk.

After an engaging introduction, the author jumps straight into exploring the hand that diseased/germ infested materials, toxic (manufacturing) techniques, poisonous pigments, dangerous dyes, potentially deadly clothes (as in those that could easy strange and entangle their wearers), inflammatory fabrics, and explosive fakes (think early plastics and faux silks such as rayon) each played in the lives of everyday people and the well-to-do alike.

Each topic is articulately presented, with no shortage of photos and/or illustrations, and one instantly senses that the author - herself an Associate Professor at the School of Fashion Ryerson University in Toronto, Ontario - not only knows the subject matter well, but that she spent a good deal of time researching and really getting to the material she was covering.

Despite the very somber nature of the topics explored within, I didn't find Fashion Victims to be an overly heavy or grisly read. That isn't to say of course that the facts and (in some cases) theories put forth aren't gruesome at times, for they certainly are, but rather that that tone and pace of the book was such that it was an enjoyable read that I got through quickly. In fact, I fully expect I will reread this book multiple times over the years.




Whether one is a passionate historian, collector of yesteryear garb, vintage fan, and/or avid historical costumer, there is a great deal of information to be gleaned and taken to heart in this book. Case in point, and without spilling the beans too much on one chapter, I will never look at – or touch - early fur hats the same way again!

Frequently when we hear about the risks involved in many areas of clothing production and wear in centuries past, we then proceed to think, often erroneously, that we're beyond such dangers nowadays. And while it is true, thankfully, that we now know of the often catastrophic risks posed by certain chemicals, dyes, materials, germs, and even garment styles themselves, as the author astutely touches (including in her final summary chapter), we are by no means immune to hazards and life threatening problems in today's fashion world either.

Each year I read a substantial number of fashion related books, most of which are historically centered, and I can honestly tell you that this one had me on the edge of my seat. While I was already familiar with much of the subject matter, in nearly every instance, I learned more about a particular topic than I was aware of prior to picking up this book and I walked away feeling both well informed and like I'd just had a very eye-opening read.

Quick in tone, lively in spirit (again, relative to the subject matter), and well laid out, Fashion Victims: The Dangers of Dress Past and Present is a book that I wholeheartedly believe deserves a place on the bookshelf of anyone with even so much as a passing interest in the history of clothing.

As such, I'm delighted to let you know that Bloomsbury - who very kindly furnished me with my own copy (thank you so much!) - has offered one lucky Chronically Vintage reader a chance to win their very own copy of Fashion Victims by Alison Matthews David.


Giveaway details:

This giveaway, which is open to readers worldwide, is for one copy of the book Fashion Victims: The Dangers of Dress Past and Present, which will be provided to the winner directly from its publisher, Bloomsbury .

The giveaway will run from today's date (Monday January 18th) until 11:59 PST on Monday January 25, 2016, with the winner being drawn and contacted via email (as well as possibly announced on social media) shortly thereafter.

If you've like to enter, please feel free to do with as many of the following Rafflecopter options as you desire.

The only one that is mandatory for entry is that you leave a comment on this post, the rest are entirely optional. The more that you enter, the greater your odds of winning.

Should you happen to have any questions about this giveaway, drop me an email and I'll be happy to answer them as best I can for you.



a Rafflecopter giveaway


♥ ♥ ♥


Fashion Victims: The Dangers of Dress Past and Present is not only a smartly written, in-depth and deeply interesting book, it is also an important work of historical research and sobering account of some of the very real, very deadly dangers that have lurked - and continue, in certain cases, to reside - in our closets and places of clothing manufacturing alike.
 
I hope that the winner of this giveaway enjoys, and learns from, their copy as much as I did and want to sincerely thank the good people at Bloomsbury for sponsoring this wonderful book giveaway.
 
Best of luck to all those who enter!




59 comments:

  1. Yup, even nowadays clothes are a deadly business - I try to avoid stuff made in sweatshops, but it's hard to be 100% sure.

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  2. Sounds like a really interesting book.

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  3. Maybe high heels. People seem to know they're not a great thing to wear (me included) but so many people still wear them

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  4. What a neat book! I think that one of the dangers in modern clothes is the lure of warmth - those expensive jackets might be fine for cooler weather, but the sub-zero windchills are not kept at bay by high dollar fleece.

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  5. I have always been fascinated by strange fashion trends of the past. This sounds like a very interesting read!

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  6. This book sounds fantastic! And its topic is particularly interesting from a vintage enthusiast's perspective, since you can quite literally look at the items people (mostly women) wore just in the 20th Century to try to mold their bodies into whatever shape was in vogue at the time (with the corset being the most extreme and harmful example). And many of those devices are quite tame compared to some of the other hazards, like leaded silk, etc.!

    For me, the most obvious danger of modern-day fashion is the way in which cheap clothing is produced: the environmental and human impacts are staggering. I am also disturbed by the chatter about "waist training" which, although usually portrayed incorrectly or by people who do not know what they're talking about, is ultimately very bad for the body long-term. And heels! Cute flats have had a resurgence lately, but high, thin heels are still very much in fashion--ouch!

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  7. Sounds like a great book! (not to mention another great giveaway!)

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  8. I've been meaning to purchase this book and read it! HUZZAH for holding this give-away! Thanks, Jess!

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  9. What an intriguing idea for a book. It sounds refreshingly different from the "wardrobe fails" that are popular today.

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  10. Definitely high heels! I used to wear them all the time, but somehow now at 30, I am terrified of them! I can wear a low heel okay, but no more tottering and wobbling around on sky-high heels for me these days.. And those waist trainer things that are all the rage give me dangerous vibes. When did I turn into such an old fuddy duddy??

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  11. I was reading a blog post recently (So sorry I can't remember which lovely blog it was on!) about all the deadly things that used to go into clothes/accessories in the past. It must have been from this same book. It was fascinating!!! Deadly green dyes were what stuck to mind most and the fact that green has long been considered an unlucky colour by seamstresses-probably by association.
    Nowadays, aside from the constant push to be younger and thinner and the havoc it plays on normal young girls and women as well as the models themselves, I'd say that probably all the unnatural, synthetic fibres used to clothe us are a hidden danger, leading to all sorts of allergies and health problems.

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  12. I'd like to enter! This book looks like a nice read!

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  13. I was unable to go to your twitter account through the rafflecopter link. I don't know if it was just me or if there is a general problem but I'm letting you know so you can check it.

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  14. Wow! This book looks really interesting! I think one of the dangers hidden in the modern fashion world may be the illusion of individuality, which may lead to a lose in community.

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  15. Oh this looks like a read I'd take on the plane with me :)

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  16. OOO all the chemicals we apply maybe? There's so much that we apply in one way or another

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  17. Wow, this sounds awesome! Thanks for the opportunity to enter, dear :)

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  18. Sounds like a great book! I think today we might worry about the transportation of pests/bugs imported with clothing that could negatively impact our environment.

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  19. Sounds like my kind of read! Today's fast fashion scares me. Chemicals on our cotton, unsafe working conditions... I bet not much has changed!

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  20. This book sounds like a fabulous read. It's so interesting to learn about the things women went through for the sake of fashion. I personally think a modern fashion pitfall could be freezing to death. So often I see women and men wandering about in skimpy clothing. Plunging necklines and short hemlines and no coats or outerwear at all. My own country just isn't meant for that kind of attire, not when for 10 months of the year it's generally overcast and damp. I must point out I don't see many men in plunging necklines and short hemlines, but you get my drift. I will be reading this book for definite. Wishing you well my dear xx

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  21. Lovely book! Recently I saw a BBC show about the subject, but expect the book gives so many more details. And to think we still gladly suffer while wearing high heels...
    Mirta, Croatia

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  22. Great review! Now I want to read it.

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  23. Wow this seems like an awesome book! Thank you for sharing it!!

    xx Belle

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  24. What a fabulous sounding book! Does it have many more illustrations like the cover? It's wonderful!

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  25. The book sounds fascinating!

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  26. OOH OOH. I've been meaning to read this, being someone who was obsessed with both fashion history and bog bodies/mummies/etc as a child.

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  27. Now this sounds like a fun read - of sorts - the "fails" reminds me of a certain young actress who's career was cut short by a carelessly tossed cigarette during a break in filming a period piece during the silent era of films...of COURSE her name eludes me right now *lol* but I'm sure Googling this will call up any information anyone would want...Brrr! :(
    On a lighter note...this looks like a terrific book, and I shall look up your (always) fascinating blog when I'm NOT on my "stupidphone" (aka cell phone or so-called "smartphone" *lol* ) to find more entry information. Best of luck to all entrants!! :)

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  28. Sounds fascinating! Adding it to my wishlist . . .

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  29. Hello Jessica, this book is interesting to me already for the cover! Very gruesome, very Victorian .. it gets along with my mood of the past few weeks! I always thought that fashion is the best friend of the war, unfortunately, throughout history, they have always walked hand in hand ... A few days ago I saw a movie, beautiful and terrible at the same time: "The Revenant" I was sick for the entire duration of the film, in the end all those misfortunes, all the pains were the fashion of the time: the fur! Of course in those days could be a necessity ... but why go and complicate life so !? Why the bearskin was more exotic than others, so the most coveted and expensive ... This is also an example of how fashion is dangerous! Today there is a trend really stupid, in my opinion, do not wear socks in the winter, but come out with bare legs. This also affects the health, I should mind my own business but then ... all this will have an impact on national health expenditure and then ... some aspects of silly fads affect all! Luckily there are books like this that you speak of, they are a source of reflection and study! So, my dear .. thanks for this post, because it deals with a very important issue.

    a hug and a ray of sunshine from Tuscany

    serena

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  30. Oh this looks like a fabulously interesting book! I love things like this when they delve into the dark side of history and as someone who loves fashion history, I think I'd probably love this book. Will definitely add it to my Amazon wish list, just in case I don't win! :)

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  31. Looks like an interesting read! Dangerous? beyond high heels, maybe slippers. They can be a huge trip and fall hazard for the elderly.

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  32. That sounds like a really interesting book and my bookshelf is rather lacking in anything related to fashion history... so I'd love a chance at winning it!

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  33. Now you've made me intrigued about early fur hats...I may have to do my own research on the subject ;)

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  34. This book sounds awesome - and I know you shouldn't judge a book by its cover but I love the marketing of this book! For me the most dangerous fashion item has to be tight jeans! So bad for your tummy and inside bits and pieces!

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  35. Ha!
    There's a thing, so much aligned with this books subject. My college double-room-mate (back then, each entrance had two rooms).. she used to say "We're beauty bastards, and we'll die for it" - it's a silly way of putting together, in one sentence that we KNOW what we're doing to pay the price of today's "beauty" standards.

    (it's my DAY OFF - my Saint Protector, St.John the Baptizer!) :)

    M.

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  36. The 'mad hatter' came about because mercury was used in the brim of hats, slowly poisoning the wearer and sending them mad!

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  37. Hmmmm, that's a hard question. I would say many of the shoe styles. So many of the designs can cause damage to your feet. Comfort vs fashionable are often at offs with each other.
    Digicats {at} Sbcglobal {dot} Net

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  38. Sounds like a great read for my train commute!

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  39. Wonderful! Fingers crossed \o/

    Hugs, Pri
    http://vintagepri.blogspot.com

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  40. Great review. This book was on my Xmas wish list (Sadly Santa did not bring), and featured on my Christmas Wishlist blog post too. I was curious to know a bit more before I shelled out hard cash for it. Looks like a great read, and perhaps I shall invest in it. x

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  41. I sneaky peek at your site from time to time. What an interesting book. Would love to win. :)

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    1. Thank you very much for entering and for paying me a visit from time-to-time. I sincerely appreciate both things.

      Have a fabulous weekend!
      ♥ Jessica

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  42. Looks like such a fascinating book! I'm looking forward to reading it.

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  43. Thanks for brining this book to my attention. It sound fascinating!

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  44. Oh, this sounds fabulous! I will try my luck. And if not, I'll totally put this book on my list. I'm a sucker for anything about history of costume. ❤️

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  45. This sounds really interesting. As you say, it is still a problem with dyes etc. I try to wear vintage to minimise the damage and not buy sweatshop stuff. I was a fashion victim in the 90s, dragging a bin along caught on my skirt and causing me to trip! Thankfully I was more embarrassed than anything.

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  47. I think a hidden fashion danger might be spanx or the high-waisted skin tight jeans that people (like me!) squeeze themselves into - I'm sure that that level of discomfort can't be good for you! I just came across your blog while searching 'vintage blogs' and love it. This book looks really interesting x

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  48. Lovely review. Thanks for the chance to win a copy.

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  49. I think the hidden danger might be the chemicals they use while making vlothes.

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  50. Sounds like a fascinating book. I think the extremely tight jeans that we wear these day are probably on the dangerous side, I know my legs sometime feel sore after wearing tight jeans for a while and it always made my knees hurt even more when I was having knee troubles. They must limit proper circulation, as well as constricting movement.

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  51. i worry about the unsafe and toxic overseas manufacturing. who knows whats lurking in cheap clothing

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  52. High heels are the most dangerous fashion of all time in my opinion - twisted ankles, shortened calf muscles, bunions, aching feet.....need I go on? :)

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  53. I suspect that like the many toxic manufacturing chemicals in the past, we've probably just moved on to newer, equally toxic, although perhaps less-well researched chemicals. Even in the early 1900s, they used radioactive dyes to make things like clock faces glow! I have to be careful with my love of antiques and the color green!

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  54. I'd agree with some of the other comments and say that high heels are the most dangerous for the wearer!

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  55. It sounds really interesting, I imagine that you learnt loads from it.

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  56. I was really interested to read your thoughts because I haven't read too many books of this nature.

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  57. Hi, Jessica! The book you are talking about sounds interesting ... it is surprising to know how many fashion habits can be dangerous...
    p.s.
    It was with great pleasure that I read your comment on my blog, so ... thanks!

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