All the Rage

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Author: Virginia Nicholson

Category: Humanities

Book Format: Hardback

Publisher: Virago

ISBN: 9780349014319

RRP: $59.99

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From the popular historian and author of Among the Bohemians and How Was It For You? comes a new offering, unbuttoning the multi-layered, hundred-year-history of women’s lives through fashion and beauty from 1860 to 1960

At the heart of this history is the female body.

The century-span between the crinoline and the bikini witnessed more mutations in the ideal western woman’s body shape than at any other period.

In this richly detailed account, Virginia Nicholson, described as ‘one of the great social historians of our time…’ (Amanda Foreman) takes us to the Frontline of Beauty to reveal the power, the pain and the pleasure involved in adorning the female body.

The Power

Who determines which shape is currently ‘all the rage’? Looking at how custom, colour, class and sex fit into the picture, this book also charts how the advances made by feminism collided with the changing shape of desirability.

The Pain

Here is Gladys, who had botched surgery on her nose; Dorothy, whose skin colour lost her an Oscar; Beccy who took slimming pills and died; and – unbelievably – the radioactive corset.

The Pleasure

Here are the ‘New Women’ who discovered freedom by bobbing their hair; the boyish, athletic ‘Health and Beauty’ ladies in black knickers; and starlets in bohemian beachwear. Among the first to experience true women’s liberation were the early adopters of trousers.

Encompassing two world wars and a revolution in women’s rights, All the Rage tells the story of western female beauty from 1860 to 1960, chronicling its codes, its contradictions, its lies, its highs – and its underlying power struggle.

Virginia Nicholson is one of the great social historians of our time. No one else makes history this fun

Sparklingly readable . . . Having read Nicholson’s magisterial and sensuous overview of the decade, I feel I’m floating above the Sixties (a bit like Lucy in the Sky) and looking down on them with a new understanding – Times, on HOW WAS IT FOR YOU?

Sparkling . . . there is a wonderfully diverse range of voices . . . we have a long way to go, but reading this book made me grateful for how far we have come – Sunday Times, on HOW WAS IT FOR YOU?

The stories are terrific – Financial Times, on HOW WAS IT FOR YOU?

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