If you are at all a fan of modern fashion, you've surely noticed some eccentric style choices that people wear just to make a statement. Historical fashion trends are no different. Humans have always worn clothes, whether comfortable or not, to prove their status and wealth to those around them. We’ve seen many depictions of historical fashion in film, theater, and television, and though these representations may not always be the most accurate, it’s always interesting to learn just what prompted people in the past to put such effort into their outfits.
Bizarre fashion trends from the past may seem funny to us today, but more than that, they show us that we as people never change, and that fitting in or showing off is always on our minds, no matter how impractical or uncomfortable the clothes may be.
- 1278 VOTES
Pointed Shoes Could Be So Long That Wearers Tied Them To Their Knees To Keep From Tripping
A foreign import from merchants coming from Krakow, Poland (where they get their name), crakow shoes dominated medieval shoe fashion in England between the 14th and 15th centuries. Also known as poulaines, these shoes were at first subtle in their toe length upon introduction into England.
As they caught the attention of the nobility, over the course of the 200-year period of their popularity, they increasingly grew longer - likely due to competition. Eventually, wearers had to tie the points of their shoes to their knees to be able to effectively walk.
Poulaines even made their way into armor design, with 15th-century plate sabatons featuring the poulaine pointed toe (commonly used on parade armor, as combat in them would have been too impractical).
These shoes earned a lot of criticism due to their impractical and vain nature, with a 1388 English poem complaining that men were unable to kneel in prayer due to their shoes being too long. Eventually, in 1463, Edward IV passed a law restricting anyone below the rank of a lord from wearing poulaines with toes longer than 2 inches.
- 2260 VOTES
In The 16th And 17th Centuries, Clothes Were Padded With Bombast To Give Them Balloon-Like Volume
The fashion choices of the 16th and 17th centuries differed drastically from those of centuries past. During the medieval period, outfits were chosen to keep the wearer slim; however, the fashion of the 16 and 17th centuries was all about making the wearer as big and rotund as possible. Bombast, usually made up of cotton, wool, horsehair, or even sawdust, was the material they used to achieve this bold look.
Elizabeth I can be seen employing this fashion trend in her portraits, in which her sleeves are exaggerated and robust. By comparison, her head occupies a significantly smaller area of the canvas. Men of the period would use bombast to exaggerate their chests and arms; to them, it was a sign of strength.
Granted, the portraiture of the time exaggerated the subjects, but these bombast-filled outfits were still grand and ridiculous in size.
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In The Medieval Period, The Ruling Class Found It Fashionable To Wear Codpieces On Their Clothing And Armor
In the already bizarrely styled 15th and 16th centuries, men donned codpieces, sewn onto their trousers, to accentuate their packages. As with the poulaines of the same period, these codpieces were subtle upon introduction but naturally, in the pursuit of competition, grew to be hilariously oversized, with one of Henry VIII’s codpieces weighing over 2 1/2 pounds.
Obvious innuendos aside, these codpieces also served as additional storage for small items, a sort of medieval fanny pack where you could store a napkin or maybe some fruit. Again, similar to poulaines, these codpieces were not only shown off in royal court, but also on the battlefield, where they were attached to the crotch area of plate armor worn by wealthy lords.
Teeth blackening, including the Japanese custom of ohaguro, was a common cultural practice of Asian and Oceanic peoples for centuries. In Japan, ohaguro involved using a solution called kanemizu, which was a combination of iron fillings, vinegar, and tannin.
Even today in Japan, objects that are pitch-black are seen as immensely beautiful, so naturally having pitch-black teeth was coveted. The use of this solution to dye one's teeth was not restricted to a certain gender, nor any specific age group. For young adults around the age of 15 during the Heian period, blackened teeth symbolized their introduction into adulthood; for older adults, it was simply a symbol of beauty.
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First sported by the queen of France, Marie Antoinette, the Pouf Sentimental, or simply pouf, was a large, ornamental hairstyle that grew to enormous sizes. Comparable to the wigs worn by men in the same period, these headdresses massively outsized their male counterparts.
They were often adorned with ceremonial or sentimental objects that were interwoven or nested upon large wigs made from human hair. Butterflies were often intertwined in the hair, and even crematory urns could be found in these headpieces.
Long-accepted criticisms of these wigs remarked on their uncleanliness, often claiming that mice or maggots infested them, though this is likely untrue as they were constantly restyled, repurposed, and cleaned to stay fashionable and relevant.
- 6217 VOTES
Powdered Wigs Were A Popular Way For The Elite To Hide Their Syphilis
In the second half of the 18th century, powdered wigs became a major status symbol for the ruling class. Syphilis was the main cause of these wigs coming into fashion, as the disease was rampant in Europe during the period and affected more Europeans than the plague.
With the hairline being an important symbol of status for men at the time, the syphilitic side effect that caused patchy hair loss and the graying of one’s hair obviously was a large concern. Wigs became the easy (yet expensive) fix for hiding the hairline.
Once King Louis XIV of France and his cousin King Charles II began wearing them, the fashion quickly caught on with other members of the ruling class, courtiers, and eventually merchants. The white powdered wigs eventually fell out of favor, replaced by individuals simply powdering their own natural hair instead.