Although she was trained as an Art Historian at Stanford University, Dr. Alison Matthews David has found her true calling as a scholar of the History of Textiles and Dress. Her current work examines the dress, gender, material culture, medicine, occupational health, technology, and the democratization of elite fashions during the 19th and early 20th centuries. In 2010 she was awarded a Standard Grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Council of Canada (SSHRC) for her book project Fashion Victims: The Dangers of Dress Past and Present (Bloomsbury, 2015.) The book examines the intersections between dress and medical histories and explores the theme of clothing causing bodily harm to both its makers and wearers by leaching chemical toxins, transmitting contagious disease, and causing accidents, including fire and entanglement/
As part of the SSHRC project, she is co-curating an exhibition with Elizabeth Semmelhack, Adjunct Professor in the School of Fashion and Senior Curator at the Bata Shoe Museum. The exhibit, entitled Fashion Victims: The Pleasures and Perils of 19th Century Dress, opens in Spring 2014 and will be on display until 2016. She regularly conducts research in European museums and archives, including the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Wellcome Medical Archives Museum of London, and the Musée de la Mode et du Textile in Paris. In November 2014 she will present a paper ‘Agonies in Red, Livid Horrors in Green:’ Poisonous Colours From Arsenic to Aniline’ at the Costume Colloquium on Colors in Fashion in Florence, Italy.
Forthcoming publications include articles in the Journal of Design History (Oxford University Press) on the origins of the fashion mannequin as dress form and shop window dummy, and a special issue of Textile: The Journal of Cloth and Culture on Emotional Objects, on the “Holocaust of Ballet-Girls” who were burnt when their light, gauze and tulle Romantic tutus were set alight by gas footlamps. She is currently collaborating with colleagues in Ryerson’s Physics Department and the Royal Ontario Museum to use X-Ray Fluorescence Spectroscopy technology (XRF) to scientifically detect toxic elements like arsenic and mercury in historical garments and is excited to add a lab coat to her usual wardrobe.
From insidious murder weapons to blaze-igniting crinolines, clothing has been the cause of death, disease and madness throughout history, by accident and design. Clothing is designed to protect, shield and comfort us, yet lurking amongst seemingly innocuous garments we find hats laced with mercury, frocks laden with arsenic and literally 'drop-dead gorgeous' gowns.
Fabulously gory and gruesome, Fashion Victims takes the reader on a fascinating journey through the lethal history of women's, men's and children's dress, in myth and reality. Drawing upon surviving fashion objects and numerous visual and textual sources, encompassing louse-ridden military uniforms, accounts of the fiery deaths of Oscar Wilde's half-sisters and dancer Isadora Duncan's accidental strangulation by entangled scarf; the book explores how garments have tormented those who made and wore them, and harmed animals and the environment in the process. Vividly chronicling evidence from Greek mythology to the present day, Matthews David puts everyday apparel under the microscope and unpicks the dark side of fashion.
Fashion Victims is lavishly illustrated with over 125 images and is a remarkable resource for everyone from scholars and students to fashion enthusiasts. - See more at: http://www.bloomsbury.com/us/fashion-victims-9781472577733/#sthash.wnMXe...