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Carolyn A. Day authors new book about tuberculosis and fashion

Furman History professor Carolyn A. Day has published a new book about the idealization of one of the worst diseases in history—tuberculosis.

Her book, Consumptive Chic: A History of Beauty, Fashion, and Disease, is published by Bloomsbury, which offers this description:

“Consumptive Chic: A History of Beauty, Fashion, and Disease” by Carolyn A. Day

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’.

Among other accolades, Day’s Consumptive Chic was reviewed by senior lecturer in Romanticism at Queen Mary University of London, and contributor for Times Higher Education Shahidha Bari who calls the book a “well-researched and diligently compiled cultural history of tuberculosis.”

Day, who joined the Furman faculty in 2012, teaches courses in British and European History as well as the History of Medicine. She received her Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science from Louisiana State University, a master’s from the University of Cambridge, and a doctorate from Tulane University.

Day’s dissertation, “Drop Dead Gorgeous: The Idealization and Feminization of Tuberculosis in England, 1780-1850,” was a forerunner to her book. It analyzes the social space occupied by tuberculosis during the late 18th and first half of the 19th century.

Day will be featured in a book signing event at M. Judson Booksellers and Storytellers Monday, Oct. 23 at 7 p.m. The book is available through M. Judson, Amazon or Bloomsbury.

For more information, contact Furman’s News and Media Relations office at 864-294-3107. Or contact Carolyn Day at 864-294-2419,

Last updated September 27, 2017
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Clinton Colmenares
News & Media Relations Director