A History of Beauty, Fashion, and Disease
New Books in Arts & LettersNew Books in British StudiesNew Books in HistoryNew Books in MedicineNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books in Popular CultureNew Books in Science & TechnologyNew Books Network April 10, 2018 Jess Clark
In her new book, Consumptive Chic: A History of Beauty, Fashion, and Disease (Bloomsbury, 2017), Carolyn Day tracks the relationship between dress, appearance, and tuberculosis in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Blending the histories of medicine and fashion, she charts multiple and often contested understandings of consumption and its socio-cultural significance.
Day’s focus on experiences of upper- and middle-class women highlights gendered critiques of fashionable activities that allegedly led to the disease: riding, dancing, “impractical” dress. Emerging alongside these criticisms was the belief that some sufferers acquired desirable characteristics of feminine beauty—what Day terms an “aesthetics of consumption”—via the incurable illness. Complemented by rich case studies and illustrations, Consumptive Chic reveals the entangled history of ill health and beauty, as eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century aesthetics took an especially lethal turn.
Carolyn Day is an Associate Professor of History at Furman University, where she teaches courses on modern European history, modern British history, and the history of medicine.
Jess Clark is an Assistant Professor of History at Brock University (St. Catharines, Ontario). She is currently writing a history of the beauty business in Victorian London.