6 Popular Fashion Trends (That Killed People)

#3.
The Fontange

A fontange was a headdress for proper ladies in 17th and early 18th century France that consisted of ribbons, lace and sometimes small cap intertwined with the lady's hair. Doesn't seem like the sort of thing that could murder you, does it?

How It Could Kill You:

As the 17th century grew unhip, the fontange became larger and larger until it culminated with women that had entire ecosystems attached to their skulls.

When left alone and unprovoked, the fontange probably only maimed, but never actually killed anyone. It's only when you attached the headdress to a lady, and said lady started moving about in a room full of candle chandeliers that the fontange would demonstrate its malicious power, as everything in it was fiercely flammable. They might as well have been wearing gasoline soaked rags on their heads.

Just ask "Mrs. von Ilten" who suffered "... burnt neck, face and hands" because, as the reporter casually stated, "her fontange caught fire, she stared and fell and did not think to throw it off as I use to do..."

We're going to give the good Mrs. von Ilten enough credit to assume she also screamed a bit when the fire started melting away her flesh.

What the Fuck Were They Thinking?

According to lore, one of the king's favorite paramours (that's Middle English for fuck-buddies), Angelique de Fontanges, lost her cap one day when she was out riding horses with the king. Not wanting to let her hair fall freely - as that might be dangerous - she took a piece of ribbon and tied it to her hair.

The king liked it so much that he made de Fontanges a duchess, and because all of France's women wanted to be just as cool as the duchess a fashion trend was born. Never mind that Angélique de Fontanges herself died at the age of 20, probably from standing too close to a candle with her decorative combustible head.

#2.
Lead Makeup

Before the age of the big name cosmetics brands; the easy, breezy beautiful way was for people to smear their entire face with lead. That's right, lead. The makeup choice of people from ancient Greece and all the way up to the 1920s was a lead-based powder or lotion that rendered their faces white and turned their bloodstream into something that would make a vampire puke.

How It Could Kill You:

Lead poisoning is a slow killer, so it would take years for people to accumulate enough lead in their bodies to die from it. But once they had there was little one could do but melt them down and create more makeup.

The symptoms of lead poisoning were many, and it would attack the entire body with some of the major symptoms being: brain damage, wrecking the nervous system, headaches, loss of appetite, anemia, a constant metallic taste in the mouth, paralysis, insomnia, and, oddly enough, a limp wrist.


An actual victim of lead poisoning.

In 1760, Marie Gunning, an Irish noblewoman who was famous for her beauty and white porcelain skin, became the first documented victim of cosmetic lead poisoning. You'd think that'd be enough to get people to change their cosmetics habits, but only seven years later the actress Kitty Fisher joined Gunning in the ranks of the perpetually pale. Finally, in 1878, Madame Rachel, a woman who'd made a living from selling the deadly cosmetics died from exposure to the lead in her own makeup. Irony is a bitch, Madame.

What the Fuck Were They Thinking?

People actually became aware of the health risks associated with lead makeup in ancient Greece -- that is, more than 2000 years ago -- and they would ridicule people who used excessive amounts of the stuff. Both men and women wore lead makeup, and as a result their faces gradually became more and more damaged. Of course the solution to that was to cover the damage with more lead makeup.

Seriously, folks, this was natural selection at work here.

#1.
The Stiff High Collar

We're talking about the specific kind of high detachable collar that was especially popular in the 19th century. The collar was always white and was fastened to the dandy's shirt with studs. For some reason none of this was considered gay at all; even though one of the biggest dandies of the time was Oscar Wilde, and he actually was gay. And he probably used man-studs to fasten the collar to his shirt.


"I told you, I like PUSSY."

Anyway, the collars. These things were starched until they were almost bulletproof, and jutted right up into your windpipe. What could possibly go wrong?

How It Could Kill You:

The detachable collar was a quiet, subtle assassin. By cutting off circulation, it could creep up on a man in his drunken sleep and choke him to death when the man's head fell forward. It could also cause asphyxia and an abscess on the brain just by being tight, or in cases of indigestion that lead to the neck swelling it would simply strangle its prey. One very unlucky man at the end of the 1800s was almost guillotined on his collar when he tripped coming out of a street car.

What the Fuck Were They Thinking?

In several European languages--like German, Danish and Dutch--the stiff, detachable collar was playfully referred to as "father killer" (Vatermorder). Incredibly, that catchy name didn't deter people from buying them. The men at the time made some connection between the erectness of the neckline and sexual virility.

We were about to mock this idea as quaint and ridiculous, but then we saw some guys walk by with popped collars, and damned if they didn't each have a girl on their arm. This requires further study.

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