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This work focuses on the efforts toward reforming women's dress that took place in Europe and America in the latter half of the 18th century and the first decade of the 20th century, and the types of garments adopted by women to overcome the challenges posed by fashionable dress. It considers the many advocates for reform and examines their motives, their arguments for change, and how they promoted improvements in women's fashion. Though there was no single overarching dress reform movement, it reveals 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 variety of primary and secondary sources in the USA and Europe - including the popular press, advice books for women, allopathic and alternative medical literature, and books on aesthetics, art, health, and physical education - the text makes a significant contribution to costume studies, social history, and women's studies.
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Patricia A. Cunningham is Associate Professor in the Department of Consumer and Textile Sciences, Ohio State University.
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