Reforming Women's Fashion, 1850-1920: Politics, Health, and Art

Overview

"During the latter half of the nineteenth and the first decade of the twentieth centuries, books, periodicals, and newspapers were rich with discussions about women's roles, health, beauty, and dress. Many believed that restrictive and unwieldy women's fashions compromised health, distorted women's true physical beauty, and curtailed the potential role of women in society. Reforming Women's Fashion focuses on the efforts toward reforming women's dress that took place in Europe and America during this period and on the types of garments adopted by ...
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Overview

"During the latter half of the nineteenth and the first decade of the twentieth centuries, books, periodicals, and newspapers were rich with discussions about women's roles, health, beauty, and dress. Many believed that restrictive and unwieldy women's fashions compromised health, distorted women's true physical beauty, and curtailed the potential role of women in society. Reforming Women's Fashion focuses on the efforts toward reforming women's dress that took place in Europe and America during this period and on the types of garments adopted by women to overcome the challenges posed by fashionable dress." "Patricia Cunningham considers the many advocates for reform and thoroughly examines their motives, their arguments for change, and their ways of promoting improvements in women's fashion. Through there was no single overarching dress-reform movement, Cunningham reveals that there were similarities among the arguments posed by diverse groups of reformers, including especially the equation of reform with an ideal image of improved health." Drawing on a broad variety of primary and secondary sources in the United States and Europe - including the popular press, advice books for women, allopathic and alternative medical literature, and books on aesthetics, art, health, and physical education - Reforming Women's Fashion makes a significant contribution to costume studies, social history, and women's studies. Copiously illustrated with contemporary paintings, drawings, and photographs, presented in large format, this cross-disciplinary volume sheds light on the philosophy supporting dress reform from a variety of perspectives, revealing the universality of reform efforts and offering new insights into the pervasive effects of fashion on women, society, and culture.
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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Changes in dress are often triggered by changes in social attitudes, and here Cunningham (consumer & textile sciences, Ohio State Univ.) illustrates how ideas in health, art, and politics influenced how women dressed between 1850 and 1920. The germ theory of disease gained influence in this period, leading to emphasis on preventive measures: good sanitation, nutrition, exercise, and more comfortable clothing for women and children. Women began to fight for political and social equality as well, and they altered their dress to accommodate a more energetic and public lifestyle. Further, the achievements of the Renaissance, medieval period, and Antiquity were much admired at this time, and women's fashions adopted some of those eras' more relaxed, less voluminous styles. This scholarly but readable book is large format and very well made, with 98 illustrations reproducing fashion magazine drawings and a few photos of clothing items now in museum collections. Unfortunately, the illustrations are all black and white, giving us at best a limited sense of how the clothing itself looked. Nevertheless, this well-researched book will appeal to both scholars and casual readers and is recommended for all libraries.-James F. DeRoche, Alexandria, VA Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780873387422
  • Publisher: Kent State University Press
  • Publication date: 5/19/2003
  • Pages: 264
  • Product dimensions: 8.40 (w) x 11.10 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Table of Contents

Preface
Acknowledgments
1 Introduction: Fashion, Health, and Beauty 1
2 Trousers: The Rational Alternative to Skirts 31
3 The Invisibles: Hygienic Underwear, "Dress Systems," and Making Fashion Rational 75
4 Artistic Dress in England: Visions of Beauty and Health 103
5 Artistic Dress in America 135
6 Artistic Dress and the Modern Design Movement on the Continent 169
7 Fashion, Dress Reform, and the New Woman 203
Notes 223
Bibliography 237
Index 245
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