6 Popular Fashion Trends (That Killed People)

How far would you go to be wearing the absolute latest and hottest looks? Would you wear something knowing it could, at some point, kill your ass?
6 Popular Fashion Trends (That Killed People)

If we know our readers, then we're guessing fashion dominates your every thought. But how far would you go to be wearing the absolute latest and hottest looks? Would you wear something knowing it could, at some point, kill your ass?

Through history men and women have been asked that exact question, and time and time again they shrugged and said, "Eh, I'll risk it." So we wound up with things like...

The Crinoline

The crinoline is a hoop skirt that women in the 19th century wore under their actual skirts. It was made from horsehair and thread or steel, and the whole purpose of the huge apparatus was to make the skirt look more... skirt-like.

Also, since you were basically wearing a cage around your legs, you could probably use the crinoline to trap small animals and kick them to death.

How It Could Kill You:

The steel crinoline was actually so deadly it's amazing this thing was ever worn at all. Because of its design, it was quite susceptible to gusts of wind. There are tales of women on piers that were swept up and carried out to sea, where they promptly drowned due to having a fucking steel cage tied to their waists. It was also a bad idea to hang around cliffs or tall buildings in this sort of contraption.

The skirts would get entangled in the spokes of carriages, presumably dragging the women screaming down the street. Then there was the less obvious dangers, such as knocking over candles. Don't laugh; the poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's second wife went up in flames this way, and she wasn't the only one.

Wait, it gets worse. In 1863 in Santiago, Chile, between 2000 and 3000 people died in a church fire. When a gas lamp lit the veils on the walls, people tried to run outside, but the width of the women's skirts blocked the door, and crinolines with women inside piled up in front of the exit, making an escape impossible even for the people who'd been smart enough not to wear hoop skirts.

What the Fuck Were They Thinking?

The crinoline, in making someone's ass look big, would also make their waist look smaller, and so women didn't have to wear a corset. Why would they take such extravagant measures to avoid that? Well...

The Corset

The corset, if you're one of the small percentage of our readership not wearing one right now, was meant to suck in a woman's problem-areas with the small side effect of cutting off all circulation between their legs and head.

The result was not so much an hourglass figure, but a body that became an actual hourglass. Queen Maud of Norway was famous for her very small waistline, and many of her gowns are still exhibited so everyone can view their beauty and not-at-all freakishness.

Compressing her organs as only a queen can.

How It Could Kill You:

The act of donning a corset didn't actually become truly dangerous until people started tight lacing them to the point that their insides were squeezed like a toothpaste tube.

Unsurprisingly, when tight lacing was fashionable people didn't breathe very well. With their liver in their throats and their lungs in their bellies, Victorian women invented "the heaving bosoms." Breathing the wrong way in one of these things could break a rib (a serious injury in the days before anesthesia) and cramming all of the organs inwards could cause internal bleeding. Female impersonator, Joseph Hennella, was doubly unfortunate when, in 1912, he first collapsed on stage as the result of the tight lacing from his corset, and then when The New York Times wrote the part about what killed him, they said it was his "increasing girth."

In 1903, a woman died suddenly due to two pieces of corset steel that became lodged in her heart. Yeah, when your outfit fucking stabs you to death, it's probably a sign that you've made a bad fashion decision.

What the Fuck Were They Thinking?

What else do you do when you live in a society that demands women have a shape that's physically impossible? They were stuck between wearing a thing that could snap ribs, or a ridiculous cage dress that could fling them into oncoming traffic at the first gust of wind. At that point, you just flip a coin and wait for someone to invent feminism.


Footbinding, aka "lotus feet," was a custom for women in China from around the 8th century until the beginning of the 1900s. It began with one concubine (that's archaic for paramour) dancing around in front of the emperor with silk wrapped around her feet, and it ended with women whose feet were so disfigured they could only walk very short distances, never mind do the Hustle.

How It Could Kill You:

In order to transform the foot from regular-shaped to crazy-in-the-head-shaped, women started early, at two to seven-years-old, when their feet were soft and their minds blissfully unaware of what would happen to their feet. First, their feet would soak in a bath that could be anything from herbs and water to urine and vinegar, depending on the family tradition. Then all their toes except the big one were folded down, and the arch of the foot bent back. The process would go on for a couple of years, with ever tighter bandages and recurrently disgusting foot baths, until the feet were about three inches long.

Footbinding cut off circulation in the toes, and the procedure oftentimes lead to gangrene or other life-threatening infections. Gangrenous toes were actually considered to be a good thing, because that meant the toes might fall off. The ideal was a foot that wasn't a foot at all, but simply a continuation of the leg. If the woman happened to die in the middle of all this, that was a real shame, but at least she'd be buried with nice feet.

What the Fuck Were They Thinking?

A woman with normal-sized feet was considered ugly and frankly, unwedable. We all know what that's like, when a woman who doesn't have hideously mutilated feet starts stomping about, walking all normal and shit. Would you want to marry that woman? Of course not.

Women who didn't have bound feet were considered to be provincial, because only farmers needed to be able to walk and get work done. A real lady staggered on her heels or rode piggyback, because she was unable to put any pressure on her toes (if she had any).

The foot itself was usually covered in sores, puss and gave off a repugnant smell, and if you happened upon a Chinese woman naked in the days of footbinding in China, the first thing she'd try to cover would be her feet. Not that you'd want to see those feet anyway; men actually never saw their ladies' feet without beautiful silk shoes on, but if they had, we're thinking that would ruin the mood pretty fast.

A "healthy" lotus foot.

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.

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.

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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