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Shelley wrote on July 27, 1820 to Keats, commiserating as one TB sufferer to another, that he has learned ‘that you continue to wear a consumptive appearance.’ This was no mere turn of phrase. Consumption was understood as a manner of appearing, and that appearance became a staple of nineteenth-century manners. It became rude to eat heartily. It was glamorous to look sickly. […] The tubercular look had to be considered attractive once it came to be considered a mark of distinction, of breeding. […] What was once the fashion of aristrocratic femme fatales and aspiring young artists became, eventually, the province of fashion as such. Twentieth-century women’s fashions (with their cult of thinness) are the last stronghold of the metaphors associated with the romanticizing of TB in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.

Illness as Metaphor, Susan Sontag.

So kids, next time you find yourself worrying about your lack of thigh gap, just remember: our society’s obsession with skinny models is the result of Europe’s past popularisation of a fatal illness.

(via the-library-and-step-on-it)
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