We are extremely excited to celebrate MLC Research Associate and associate professor in the Ryerson School of Fashion Dr. Alison Matthews David and her work Fashion Victims: The Dangers of Dress Past and Present for being chosen as the book of the week at Times Higher Education. A rave review by Shahidha Bari pours closely over the text and concludes that David’s book is an important recapturing of history’s fashion horrors that warns of “a future that remains immensely troubling.”
The shocking description of Isadora Duncan’s trademark red shawl wrapped around her neck and flowing over her shoulder as its fringe suddenly catches the rear axle of an Amilcar automobile driving her away as her neck is fatally pulled in the opposite direction in 1927 is the first of several frightful episodes Bari pulls from David’s book that shows that even the most banal everyday garments can be deadly. It is not surprising then that one, as Bari does, “may well suddenly feel a little suspicious of your own innocently striped nightwear” reading David’s work.
Surrounding the accounts of flammable 19th-century dancers, elegant Victorian gowns dragging in dog faeces, and mercury poisoned French hatters is a realization that fashion’s serious victims were often poor and female. David and Bari point to the persistence of this troubling inequality by remembering the Rana Plaza disaster of 2013 that left more than 1,000 garment workers dead and thousands more injured in Bangladesh—a country where approximately 80 per cent of garment workers are women. In an increasingly globalized world where “disposable fashion” is demanded and exploitative trade practices still remain, David’s history is a key step in addressing the problems fashion poses and halting its dangerous consequences.
You can read the review and a profile of Dr. Alison Matthews David at Times Higher Education here:
See Dr. Alison Matthews David's research in action at Toronto's Bata Shoe Museum in the Fashion Victims: The Pleasures & Perils of Dress in the 19th Century exhibition until July 2016: http://www.batashoemuseum.ca/fashion-victims/