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Hardcover / ISBN-13: 9780349014319

Price: £25

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‘No one else makes history this fun’ AMANDA FOREMAN

‘All the Rage sits you at the dressing table of history: a place of dreams, doubts, self-harm and hopes’ SARAH DITUM, SUNDAY TIMES

‘Wonderfully engaging’ HARPER’S BAZAAR

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.


Marvellously readable... Virginia Nicholson gives us an unforgettably rich and varied tapestry of the development of female beauty anxiety
Ysenda Maxtone Graham, Daily Mail
A scintillating survey of the changing face of beauty, examining a century of history that saw women's bodies become a battleground for emancipation. This encompassing account is bold in its scope, yet filled with intriguing details and thoughtful, original analysis of the codes, conventions and contradictions of female fashion and beauty
Justine Picardie
All the Rage is a perfect title for a book about terrible beauty... Beauty, and its attainment, preservation and curse, are all things Virginia Nicholson chronicles and analyses in this compelling history spanning a century and focusing on its western, female manifestation... Nicholson's research, and her talent for shaping her vast material into a compelling, thoughtful tale, are most impressive
[Nicholson's] wonderfully engaging investigation has a feminist quandary at its heart
Harper's Bazaar
Nicholson's lively, intimate history of beauty wants us to take a more sympathetic view of the women who engage in the often-condemned and sometimes dangerous quest for gorgeousness. All the Rage sits you at the dressing table of history: a place of dreams, doubts, self-harm and hopes... More interesting than a simple catalogue of beauty's ills would have been. Here, beauty is sometimes an oppressive force, and sometimes a way for women to negotiate their way around other oppressive forces
Sarah Ditum, Sunday Times
Virginia Nicholson's history of modern women's dedication to their appearance is full of ironies... She is particularly good on how a body looks when styled according to the fashions and expectations of an era.. A compelling account of how... women are moulded by dominant ideals
Literary Review
This is a fascinating book: funny, unexpected, forgiving, political, personal, glamorous and yes, quietly, angry. Read it for the amazing stories; stay for the self-knowledge. Or the Revolution
Louisa Young, Prospect
In All the Rage, the incomparable Virginia Nicholson, shaped and armed by her unconventional childhood among the Bloomsbury Set, is unafraid of skewering the social conventions that bound her generation. The tragedy of the myth of beauty, as Nicholson shows, is that it was never a myth. I love her writing
Amanda Foreman