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.
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
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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!