Crazy fashion trends from history teach contemporary clothes horses a few things. One, people will go to ridiculous lengths to prove their station in society. They’ll nearly break their necks by teetering on towering platform shoes, hobble themselves with skirts, and bind themselves up in an organ-shifting corset, all in the name of style. And two, exaggeration is key. From hugely padded sleeves to large embroidered codpieces, true devotes of trends believed that bigger was better. Some films get historical fashion wrong, but others are pretty accurate, no matter how ridiculous the clothes seem.
Weird fashion trends from history were frequently dangerous as well. Vivid dyes could be made with toxic arsenic, while voluminous crinolines could easily catch on fire. Even if the clothing wasn't fatal, a lot of these crazy fashion trends from history seriously impaired a person’s ability to live a normal life. People who wore bliauts couldn’t really use their arms. Men who donned crakowes found walking a bit problematic. And extra wide panniers kept women from fitting through narrow doors.
Whether they're deadly or just plain nuts, you can be thankful these fashion trends are in the past and are not deserving of a comeback.
The crinoline, also known as the hoop skirt, was a bell-shaped device that pushed the volume of skirts to an extreme degree. Worn in the 1800s by Victorian women, crinolines were originally petticoats made of linen stiffened with horsehair. Later, the invention of the steel cage crinoline offered the same voluminous look without the extra heat and bulk of thick petticoats.
These undergarments were unwieldy, but they were also dangerous. In 1858, a young woman in Boston died when her large skirt caught embers from a fireplace in her parlor and went up in flames. Nineteen such deaths occurred in a two-month period.Is this the worst?
Stiff Starched Collars
These detachable collars were popular in the 19th century, and they could be deadly. Starched to the point of being nearly unbendable and attached with a singular or pair of studs, the collar could slowly asphyxiate a man, particularly if he fell asleep or passed out while drinking.
Another dangerous aspect of the collar was its pointed corners. A St. Louis man tripped in the street and the pointed corners of the collar jabbed into this throat, "making two ugly gashes." These collars were so lethal, in fact, that they were known as "the father killer."Is this the worst?
In the 16th century, noble ladies were mad for the extreme platform shoes known as chopines. They were made mostly from wood or cork covered in leather, brocade, or jewel-embroidered velvet. These shoes were worn as a sign of one’s social status, with higher shoes meaning a higher standing.
Chopines made the wearer wobbly on their feet. Women would sometimes require assistance to venture out in their extra tall shoes.Is this the worst?
The exaggerated body stuffing known as bombast was popular with both women and men during the 16th century. Cotton, wool, or even sawdust was used to add volume to areas of clothing, particularly the sleeves.
Men sometimes filled their doublets to give the illusion of a fuller belly, or padded their calves to look more muscular.Is this the worst?