Alison Matthews David

Associate Professor

BA Joint Honours Classics and Art History, McGill University

MA Art History, Stanford University

PhD Art History, Stanford University

Phone: 416-979-5000

Ex. 4696


KHS 159 D


After being awarded my PhD in Art History from Stanford University for a thesis on tailoring and technology in nineteenth-century Paris, I started teaching at the Winchester School of Art/University of Southampton in the UK and came to Ryerson in 2006. I work on dress and fashion because it opens so many different windows on the world, both past and present, and it touches everyone physically and emotionally. One of the most interesting parts of my job is working with Ryerson researchers in areas as diverse as Physics, Disability Studies, and English, and sharing my research through the written word, public lectures, and museum exhibitions.

Recent Professional Projects

I co-edit a new open-access journal called Fashion Studies with Dr. Ben Barry, which launches in May 2018 Fashion Victims, my last major research project, looked at how clothing physically harmed the health of its makers and wearers in the long nineteenth century by transmitting contagious disease, leaching chemical toxins, and causing accidents, including entanglement and fire. The book was published by Bloomsbury in 2015, came out in paperback in 2017, and has been translated into Russian and Mandarin. Fashion Victims also takes the form of a major four-year exhibition co-curated with Elizabeth Semmelhack at the Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto (June 2014-April 2018). That research led me to continue my historical sleuthing and my current SSHRC-funded book and exhibition project, Unravelling Crime: A Forensic History of Fashion, investigates the theme of crime and clothing as forensic evidence, disguise, and murder weapon.

Publications & Exhibitions

Matthews David, Alison. “Bare Bones: Surveillance, Exposure and the Skeleton in Fashion,” in Decadence and Fashion Special Issue of Russian Fashion Theory, Spring 2018.

Matthews David, Alison. “The Pleasures and Perils of Collaboration: Researching and Curating the Fashion Victims Exhibition at the Bata Shoe Museum,” with Elizabeth Semmelhack, in Musealizing Fashion, eds. Gabriele Mentges, Jella Fink and Johanna Korbik. Munich and New York: Waxmann, (forthcoming 2018).

Matthews David, Alison. “Criminal Fronts and Undercover Cops: Fashioning Deception Through Dress” in Fashion and Lies Special Issue of Russian Fashion Theory: The JOurnal of Dress, Body, and Culture, 43 (Spring 2017) 213-228.

Matthews David, Alison. “Tainted Love: Oscar Wilde’s Toxic Green Carnation, Queerness, and Chromophobia” in Colors in Fashion, eds. Jonathan Faiers and Mary Westerman Bulgarella, London: Bloomsbury, 2016: 127-142.

Matthews David, Alison. “Blazing Ballet Girls and Flannelette Shrouds: Fabric, Fire, and Fear in the Long Nineteenth Century.” In Emotional Objects Special Issue of Textile: The Journal of Cloth and Culture, May 2016, 14:2: 244-267.

Da Silva, E., Matthews David, A. and Pejović-Milić, A. “The quantification of total lead in lipstick specimens by total reflection X-ray fluorescence spectrometry,” X-ray Spectrometry, 44, (2015): 451-457.

Matthews David, Alison. Fashion Victims: The Dangers of Dress Past and Present, London: Bloomsbury, 2015. (paperback 2017, translated into Russian and Mandarin)

Matthews David, Alison and Elizabeth Semmelhack. Fashion Victims: The Pleasures and Perils of Dress in the 19th Century, exhibition catalogue, Toronto: Bata Shoe Museum, 2014. Exhibition June 21014-April 2018.

Matthews David, Alison. “Mercurial Styles, Persistent Toxins: Materiality, “Mad” Hatters, and Mercury Poisoning in the Felt Hatting Trade” Russian Fashion Theory: The Journal of Dress, Body and Culture, 21: (Autumn 2011): 13-38.

Matthews David, Alison and Kimberly Wahl. “Matthew Insists on Puffed Sleeves: Ambivalence Towards Fashion in Anne of Green Gables.” with Kimberly Wahl, in Anne’s World: A New Century of Anne of Green Gables, eds. Irene Gammel and Benjamin Lefebvre, (Toronto: U of T Press, 2010): 35-49

Matthews David, Alison. “Fashion’s Chameleons: Camouflage, “Conspicuousness,” and Gendered Display during WWI,” in The Spaces and Places of Fashion, ed. John Potvin, (Routledge, 2009), 89-107.

Matthews David, Alison. “Made to Measure? Tailoring and the ‘Normal’ Body in Nineteenth-century France”, in Histories of the Normal and the Abnormal: Social and Cultural Histories of Norms and Normativity, Routledge Studies in the Social History of Medicine, ed. Waltraud Ernst (London: Routledge, 2007), 142-164.

Previous MRPs Supervised

PhD Alanna McKnight: "Shaping Toronto: Female Economy and Agency in the Corset Industry, 1871-1914" completed February 2018.

PhD Myriam Couturier: "Bringing fashion home: the collection and communication of dress in twentieth-century Toronto" (in progress) MA

"Clothing and Consumption in Upper Canada, 1790-1840," Hannah Milliken, (in progress)

"From Fashionable Frivolity to ‘Addicted Abandon’: The Changing Moral Discourse on Fashion’s Excess from the Middle Ages to Today" by Pamela Johnson. 2017.

"Business model: Consumers’ needs and environmental practices" by Léonie Daignault-Leclerc. 2016.

“Professional Glamour and Feminine Mystique: Barbara Moon’s Style in Words and Wardrobe” by Myriam Couturier. 2015.

“Uncovering Dress Policy in Québec” by Krista Rayner. 2014.

“The ‘Style Rookie’ Becomes the ‘Style Expert”: How Tavi Gevinson’s Success Calls for a Reassessment of Fashion Diffusion” by Ashley Sivil, 2013.

“Through the Lens of Fashion: An Analysis of Clothing Styles of Women in Early Victorian Ontario” by M.Elaine Mackay. 2012.

Program Streams: 

Fashion Communication

Fashion Design

MA Fashion