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Consumptive Chic: A History of Beauty, Fashion, and Disease

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During the late 18th and early 19th centuries, there was a tubercular 'moment' in which perceptions of the consumptive disease became inextricably tied to contemporary concepts of beauty, playing out in the clothing fashions of the day. With the ravages of the illness widely regarded as conferring beauty on the sufferer, it became commonplace to regard tuberculosis as a positive affliction, one to be emulated in both beauty practices and dress. While medical writers of the time believed that the fashionable way of life of many women actually rendered them susceptible to the disease, Carolyn A. Day investigates the deliberate and widespread flouting of admonitions against these fashion practices in the pursuit of beauty.

Through an exploration of contemporary social trends and medical advice revealed in medical writing, literature and personal papers, Consumptive Chic uncovers the intimate relationship between fashionable women's clothing, and medical understandings of the illness. Illustrated with over 40 full color fashion plates, caricatures, medical images, and photographs of original garments, this is a compelling story of the intimate relationship between the body, beauty, and disease - and the rise of 'tubercular chic'.

186 pages, Kindle Edition

Published October 5, 2017

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Carolyn A. Day

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5 stars
11 (12%)
4 stars
34 (39%)
3 stars
36 (41%)
2 stars
5 (5%)
1 star
1 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 12 of 12 reviews
Profile Image for Kathleen.
1,321 reviews18 followers
August 8, 2020
I'm reasonably sure this is Day's thesis: it's formatted like one, and has the same sort of repetitive, redundant proofs that you find in every thesis because if you don't put them in, your advisor is going to ask why not and then it's a whole thing. Anyway, this one is about consumption, aka tuberculosis, its prevalence in the nineteenth century, and the effect that prevalence had on fashion, romanticism, and beauty ideals. It's very academic and it can get repetitive, but if you're interested in the subject, it's worth a read.
Profile Image for Evelyn.
140 reviews5 followers
December 30, 2017
More like 2.5. Subject is interesting but the book was very repetitive and strangely laid out. It could have used better editing and 50 less or better organised pages.
Profile Image for Shea.
75 reviews1 follower
March 22, 2022
I am thrilled to have discovered what is quite possibly the earliest known usage of “take her swimming on the first date.”
Profile Image for Jess Fowler.
27 reviews
May 13, 2020
This was the level of nerd I was more or less expecting. This is an essay so if you’re looking for something breezy it might not be for you, unless like me, it’s a whole mood.

In terms of the writing, I would say the author could have potentially taken the time to condense some points, or use a more formal structure to keep ideas together. Many single points were backed up with multiple references that added little new light to the argument and then the point was summarised again but bringing in nothing new. I just felt like there were some points that weren’t fully developed and others that were overdone.

However, this was an interesting read and probably one not many people sit and read cover to cover in a hammock for fun. My main criticism could be the awkward size of the book. It was a struggle to hold open with one hand while holding a drink in the other - but again, if you’re using as a reference book or for academic research, this is unlikely to be a problem.

Profile Image for Sasha.
53 reviews3 followers
June 23, 2019
Repetitive, oddly laid out. It's hard to make an argument about a progressing idea when you jump between time periods so frequently. Didn't seem the author had much to say on this otherwise interesting topic. Could've been 60 pages lighter.
Profile Image for Ry .
155 reviews7 followers
June 16, 2018
3.5 stars rounded up. The writing isn't too bad and it's an interesting read but I think in my case it suffers from a conflict between what I wanted/expected and the book Day was actually writing. For me, this just didn't delve deep enough, the conclusions weren't taken as far as I wanted, and the scope of the topic wasn't covered widely enough. But I think that's not what Day was meaning to write?

All in all, this is a short, fairly interesting read and I recommend it overall. Glad I finally managed to get ahold of a copy after finding it impossible to do so when I'd heard about it on NPR when it'd first come out.
5 reviews
December 26, 2021
I read this book because I needed to find information on the importance of beauty in 19th century England. I give this book a 3.5/4 for the following reasons:
+It is well researched and there's an extensive bibliography
+The author has an easy to understand academic writing style
+Interesting topic and raised some good questions
-The author does tend to repeat herself in multiple chapters
-Some of the conclusions were a bit too shallow

All in all it's a good book to read if you are researching this topic, it will give you some good starting points but the book needs some editing.
170 reviews
April 3, 2019
Well researched/footnoted. The author's conclusions are well laid out with liberal amounts of supporting qoutes included. I found this to be a relatively short and informative read.
Profile Image for Stephanie Molnar.
282 reviews8 followers
July 21, 2020
Good, informative book. Ended up being more a social history of TB and less about fashion (only last two chapters), but I'm still good I read it.
Profile Image for Sydni.
88 reviews1 follower
October 23, 2020
great concept and an interesting thesis, but needed an editor SO badly!!! missing full stops, weirdly placed commas, sentence fragments all over the place. really took away from the overall appeal.
October 4, 2022
Oof. This book suffered greatly for lack of an editor. The typos, odd layout, and constant repetitiveness made an otherwise fascinating topic into a godawful slog.
Displaying 1 - 12 of 12 reviews

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