Clothing serves many purposes. At its base form, it’s one protection from our environment. Yet it can also provide comfort, or even be used as an expression of our personalities. Unfortunately, sometimes fashion can also have a severely negative impact. Simply: fashion can kill.
Maybe this sounds extreme, but authors Alison Matthews David and Serah-Marie McMahon have combed through fashion history to find a sometimes amusing, mostly horrifying series of deadly fashion vignettes. Their work is broken up into sections based on the human body. It starts with an exploration of head-based fashion like hats and hair, tumbles down the trunk, and ends on some killer shoes, pants, and skirts. The result feels all-encompassing for a short volume while showcasing that all articles of clothing and embellishments can be dangerous.
Radium poisoning from watches. Flaming tutus. Near decapitation by scarf. It’s all here, and Matthews David and McMahon deserve high praise for their sensitivity to the subject. The stories are sensational, but the authors push past the obvious and overused vanity tropes. They successfully humanize these fashion victims by rightfully placing their injuries or deaths in context—most died without realizing the inherent dangers of their clothes. Or, in many cases, it’s death by socioeconomic status, with the cheaper, more readily available product proving unsafe. This is most effective when they examine recent deaths, particularly sandblasting jeans in underregulated factories.
Gillian Wilson’s illustrations are another highlight. The subject matter is morbid, but her amazing work keeps the packaging attractive. Her graphics are dark, but beautifully playful.
This is a wonderfully macabre look into fashion history, packed with solid research, a plethora of pictures, and, well, death.
Title: Killer Style: How Fashion Has Injured, Maimed, and Murdered Through History
Authors: Alison Matthews David, Serah-Marie McMahon
Illustrator: Gillian Wilson
Publisher: Owlkids Books
Publication Date: April 15, 2019
Classification: Nonfiction, History
Note: I received a free ARC of this book through NetGalley.