Helen Louise Cowie

Dec 21, 2023

Victims of Fashion

Animal Commodities in Victorian Britain

Cambridge University Press 2021

Animal products were used extensively in nineteenth-century Britain. A middle-class Victorian woman might wear a dress made of alpaca wool, drape herself in a sealskin jacket, brush her hair with a tortoiseshell comb, and sport feathers in her hat. She might entertain her friends by playing a piano with ivory keys or own a parrot or monkey as a living fashion accessory.

In Victims of Fashion: Animal Commodities in Victorian Britain (Cambridge University Press, 2021), Dr. Helen Cowie examines the role of these animal-based commodities in Britain in the long nineteenth century and traces their rise and fall in popularity in response to changing tastes, availability, and ethical concerns. Focusing on six popular animal products – feathers, sealskin, ivory, alpaca wool, perfumes, and exotic pets – she considers how animal commodities were sourced and processed, how they were marketed and how they were consumed. Dr. Cowie also assesses the ecological impact of nineteenth-century fashion.

This interview was conducted by Dr. Miranda Melcher whose forthcoming book focuses on post-conflict military integration, understanding treaty negotiation and implementation in civil war contexts, with qualitative analysis of the Angolan and Mozambican civil wars.

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Miranda Melcher

Miranda Melcher (Ph.D., Defense Studies, Kings College, London) studies post-conflict military integration, understanding treaty negotiation and implementation in civil war contexts, with deep analysis of the Angolan and Mozambican civil wars.

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