For centuries people, mostly women, have, like sheep, blindly followed the herd, regardless of the pain it caused. Back in the day, women’s only purpose was pleasing their husbands. Following the latest fashion was their way of keeping their husbands’ eyes from wandering.
The Arsenic Waltz portraits fashion as deadly
The Arsenic Waltz was a cartoon in an 1862 publication that showed awareness of the risks women faced. However, back in the day, “no beauty without pain” was not just a saying. It was the truth, so much so that some fashions caused fatal injuries.
Corsets — extreme fashion essential
Women in the Western world wore corsets from as far back as the 16th century. In the early 20th century, Victorian-era women would rather die than go without tightly laced corsets. People regarded those who dared not to wear this undergarment as scandalous and loose. However, self-respecting women followed this trend despite the health consequences. The tightly laced corsets caused indigestion, constipation and internal bleeding. In fact, its pressure on the lungs caused fainting and even death. Corsets had steel inserts to withstand the tight lacing. When Mary Halliday died in 1903, an autopsy revealed penetration of two pieces of steel in her heart.
Blindness risk of Renaissance-era fashion
Even if they risked losing their sight, women of the Renaissance era would do anything to look seductive and beautiful. One of the requirements for that look was dilated pupils. A homeopathic preparation of the fruit of the belladonna plant proved to create the desired effect. However, nobody told them the belladonna plant is one of the most toxic plants on earth. Although, even if they knew they would likely become blind, they followed the fashion blindly. The extremely harmful eye drops did more than dilate their pupils. Coupled with the risk of blindness, the dangerous herbal preparation caused heart problems and skin irritation.
If fashion dictates crinoline, we’ll wear it
Despite the risk, women of the Victorian era believed they had to wear dresses made from crinoline to show the perfect silhouette. Crinoline is an extremely flammable material that caused the death of many fashionable women. The Irish poet and playwright, Oscar Wilde, lost his two half-sisters whose crinoline dresses caught fire. The two women burnt to ash before the flames were extinguished. A report in 1858 estimated crinoline-related fires killed about three women every week. It proves the “no beauty without pain” mindset of the time.
Was rib removal where plastic surgery began?
It seems this fashion extreme might be a rumor. However, an image of a French actress, Polaire, shows her unnaturally tiny waist. Every women’s dream was to have what they called wasp waists. Removing some ribs was the ideal way to achieve this fashion extreme. Without documented proof, and considering the advancement of surgery then, it could be only rumors. Nevertheless, it would be an extreme risk, and anybody who had ribs removed would most likely risk death.
Eat-as-much-as-you-want diets are nothing new
Another extreme fashion requirement in the Victorian era was, as today, being slim. Even today, some women would do anything to lose weight or stop gaining weight. Would they? Even if it meant consuming tapeworms? This is how it worked: Women swallowed sterilized tapeworms in the form of pills, each containing a tapeworm egg.
The egg hatches in the woman’s stomach, it will grow bigger and eat everything the host person eats. From there, the promise that you can eat as much as you want without gaining weight. Most importantly, even if the woman loses weight, she could suffer severe complications. These include nausea, abdominal pain, weakness and fever.
Killer footwear fashions
The predecessor of the platform shoes we know was called chopines, worn from the sixteenth and into the eighteenth century. If you have ever wondered about killer heels, this is it. Society’s elite wore chopines, and the height of the shoes showed a woman’s respectability. Falls while wearing chopines were common. Despite the risks of severe or even lethal injuries, chopines remained an essential fashion item for three centuries.
Dangerous Crakows banned
Before chopines, crakows were the fashionable shoes of the fifteenth century. They are not very different from the current, ridiculously sharp, pointed Balenciaga knife shoes. Crakows were just one more dangerous fashion statement. They posed significant problems for any woman who tried to walk while wearing them. History indicates that authorities eventually banned cracows because frequent falls caused severe injuries and even some deaths.
And still, we fail to learn lessons from the past. Many people still follow fashion blindly.