Alison Matthews David

Associate Professor

BA Joint Honours Classics and Art History, McGill University

MA Art History, Stanford University

PhD Art History, Stanford University

Phone: 416-979-5000

Ex. 4696


KHS 159 D


I started teaching at the Winchester School of Art in the UK and came to Ryerson in 2006. I chose to work on dress and fashion because it opens so many different windows on the world, both past and present, and it touches everyone physically and emotionally. One of the most interesting parts of my job is working with Ryerson researchers in areas as diverse as Physics, Disability Studies, and English, and sharing my research through the written word, public lectures, and museum exhibitions.

Recent Professional Projects

I am just finishing a major SSHRC-funded research project called Fashion Victims, which looks at how clothing has historically harmed and continues to harm the health of its makers and wearers by transmitting contagious disease, leaching chemical toxins, and causing accidents including fire and entanglement. This research had two outcomes: an exhibition co-curated with Elizabeth Semmelhack, which is on display at the Bata Shoe Museum until June 2016 called Fashion Victims: The Pleasures and Perils of Dress in the 19th Century, and a book called Fashion Victims: The Dangers of Dress Past and Present, which comes out with Bloomsbury in September 2015.

Publications & Exhibitions

“Blazing Ballet Girls and Flannelette Shrouds: Fabric, Fire, and Fear in the Long Nineteenth Century.” In Emotional Objects Special Issue of Textile: The Journal of Cloth and Culture, (Bloomsbury) forthcoming 2016

Da Silva, Eric, and Matthews David, Alison, “The Quantification of Total Lead in Lipstick Specimens by Total Reflection X-Ray Fluorescence Spectrometry,” X-Ray Spectrometry (forthcoming, 2015)

Fashion Victims: The Pleasures and Perils of Dress in the 19th Century, exhibition catalogue co-authored with Elizabeth Semmelhack, Senior Curator, Bata Shoe Museum, 2014

Matthews David, Alison. “Mercurial Styles, Persistent Toxins: Materiality, “Mad” Hatters, and Mercury Poisoning in the Felt Hatting Trade” Russian Fashion Theory: The Journal of Dress, Body and Culture, 21: (Autumn 2011): 13-38.

Matthews David, Alison and Kimberly Wahl. “Matthew Insists on Puffed Sleeves: Ambivalence Towards Fashion in Anne of Green Gables.” with Kimberly Wahl, in Anne’s World: A New Century of Anne of Green Gables, eds. Irene Gammel and Benjamin Lefebvre, (Toronto: U of T Press, 2010): 35-49

Matthews David, Alison. “Fashion’s Chameleons: Camouflage, “Conspicuousness,” and Gendered Display during WWI,” in The Spaces and Places of Fashion, ed. John Potvin, (Routledge, 2009), 89-107.

Matthews David, Alison. “Made to Measure? Tailoring and the ‘Normal’ Body in Nineteenth-century France”, in Histories of the Normal and the Abnormal: Social and Cultural Histories of Norms and Normativity, Routledge Studies in the Social History of Medicine, ed. Waltraud Ernst (London: Routledge, 2007), 142-164.

Previous MRPs Supervised

"Business model: Consumers’ needs and environmental practices" by Léonie Daignault-Leclerc. (In Progress).

“Professional Glamour and Feminine Mystique: Barbara Moon’s Style in Words and Wardrobe” by Myriam Couturier. 2015.

“Uncovering Dress Policy in Québec” by Krista Rayner. (2014)

“The ‘Style Rookie’ Becomes the ‘Style Expert”: How Tavi Gevinson’s Success Calls for a Reassessment of Fashion Diffusion” by Ashley Sivil, 2013.

“Through the Lens of Fashion: An Analysis of Clothing Styles of Women in Early Victorian Ontario” by M.Elaine Mackay. 2012.

Program Streams: 

Fashion Communication

Fashion Design

MA Fashion