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  • Isadora Duncan (1877 - 1927)
    Photos Isadora Duncan (May 26, 1877 - September 14, 1927) was a dancer, considered by many to be the creator of modern dance. Born in the United States, she lived in Europe and the Soviet Union from th...

Please add the profiles of people who died as a result of “Fashion”.


Some fashion trends are “to die for”, while others well, they just might actually kill you. There are many trends that became fashionable throughout history, world wide.

From the Muslin Disease, popular in France in the late 18th century, to the more current ‘Fashion Braces’ fad sweeping Thailand, Indonesia, and China. Some examples:

Muslin Disease

  • In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, it was all the rage for women to dampen themselves in water before dressing in their muslin gowns. The wet, thin fabric would then stick to their backsides, showing off their figures and emphasizing that they were dressed sans undergarments. In revolutionary France, the Sumptuary Laws stated that one’s clothing and accessories could not weigh more than 3.5KG, as rich fabrics and heavily embroidered clothing were reserved strictly for the upper class. So, lower class women would forego underwear. The cold temperatures, however, proved to be too strong for the women wearing wet, weak fabric, leading to severe cases of pneumonia.
  • History - Dissertations--Sumtuary law in ancien regime France, 1229-1806

Foot-binding

  • Foot binding, aka "lotus feet," was a custom for women in China from around the 8th century until the beginning of the 1900s. For over a thousand years, the Chinese tradition of foot-binding plagued the country’s young women. The practice, which emerged during the eighth century, was meant to symbolize wealth and class. Women would first bathe their feet in a mixture of vinegar and natural vegetation. Then, their toenails would be cut off and their toes would be bent tightly underneath each foot until the bones broke. The feet were then firmly bandaged, allowing the binding to solidify. Wealthy women would have their feet rewrapped at least once a day to ensure they were being molded into the appropriate shape. By deforming the feet, women became desirable “household items,” as they were barely able to walk, not to mention to do any sort of labor. Some men also considered the small steps women were forced to take after this ritual to be more feminine. As a result of the painful procedure, women would lose circulation in their toes, resulting in gangrene, blood poisoning, and worse—toes that would rot and fall off. Of the nearly ten million women who underwent the practice, around 10% died from relating complications.
  • Wikipedia - Foot binding

Detachable High-Collar

  • Nicknamed the “father killer,” the detachable high-collar was a popular men’s accessory in the 19th century that was attached to the shirt by studs. Seemingly harmless, the collar was so stiff and tight that it actually could cut off a man’s circulation, causing asphyxia or an abscess of the brain. In an obituary for John Cruetzi in 1888, /react-text react-text: 238 The New York Times wrote, “His head dropped over on his chest and then his stiff collar stopped the windpipe and checked the flow of blood through the already contracted veins, causing the death to ensue from asphyxia and apoplexy.” In 1912, a man named William F. Dillon died from a similar situation. “Mr. Dillon apparently suffered from an attack of indigestion which caused a slight swelling of his neck and the collar choked him to death,” the paper said.
  • The New York Times - Choked by his collar
  • The New York Times Feb. 12, 1912 - Choked to Death by His Collar

Chopine

  • The chopine was, in ways, a primitive form of the high heel, popular among European women from their creation in the 1400’s until the mid-1600’s. These high-platform shoes were meant to help women steer clear of mud or dirty roads, as well as provide the illusion of elongated legs. Overtime, chopines were designed increasingly higher, with some hitting up to 30-inches in height. The platform shoes, however, severely threatened a woman’s mobility, and, as the heights grew, so did their danger. Women were mostly unable to walk without a cane or escort, and they often lost their balance, resulting in injury, and sometimes death.
  • Random History - Dangerous Elegance, A History of High-Heeled Shoes

Corsets

  • Notoriously one of the most dangerous fashion fads of all time, the corset restricted women’s breathing, led to broken ribs, and could result in internal bleeding as organs were pushed in unnatural directions. When tight-lacing corsets became a phenomenon in the 1890s, things became increasingly dangerous—the bust-less Edwardian corset, in particular, deeply injured a woman’s hips and spine. The upper-class women who favored this fashion developed bodies that became distorted, particularly in their breasts, shoulders, and necks, as their waists sizes shrunk. The corset also served as an appetite suppressant, so in addition to dying from pneumothorax, atelectasis, or chronic gastroesophogeal reflux, it was also possible to faint, resulting in a bad fall.
  • Doctor’s Review - Corset craze
  • BHL (Biodiversity Heritage Library) - Death by Corset: A Nineteenth-Century Book about Fatal Women’s Fashions (and Animal Physiology)

Crinoline

  • Comprised of stiff material including horsehair and steel, the crinoline was a piece of hardware layered underneath women’s hoop skirts and dresses. Aside from discomfort, the steel, cage-like apparatus made even the most mundane tasks, like sitting down for dinner or walking through a doorway, nearly impossible. The dangers of the crinoline, however, were never-ending. The accessory was easily lifted by a gust of wind and would regularly get entangled in the wheel spokes of carriages. The most dangerous facet, however, was its flammability. In 1861, poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s wife, Fanny, caught fire and died while wearing her crinoline. “While seated at her library table, making seals for the entertainment of her two children, a match or piece of lighted paper caught her dress, and in a moment she was enveloped in flames,” a Victorian newspaper wrote. “Her husband ran to her assistance, and succeeded in extinguishing the flames, with considerable injury to himself… the following morning Mrs. Longfellow rallied a little, but at eleven o’clock she was forever released from suffering.”
  • Shocking Death Through Crinoline 4 August 1861

Fashion Braces

  • More recently, the fad of fashion braces—mouth-wear utilized for stylistic, rather than medicinal purposes—took the teens of Thailand, Indonesia, and China by storm as they are “considered a sign of wealth, status, and style.” Although the mouth accessory may not seem all that bad, it has been linked to two deaths—one of a 17-year old from Khon Kaen who died from a thyroid infection, and another of a 14-year-old girl who passed away from unreported complications related to fashion braces she purchased at an open-air market. The Thai government pushed to have fashion braces banned, as many of the pieces confiscated by authorities were also discovered to contain amounts of lead. The government has since prohibited the production, sale, and import of these products. Aside from purchasing braces on the black market, D.I.Y. kits were (and still are) also available for home installation. “Some people put the fashion (braces) on by themselves, which is dangerous because they could come loose and slip into the throat," the secretary-general of the Consumer Protection Board in Thailand said in 2009.
  • The Cristian Post - Fake Braces Trend: Asian Teens Copy Rich Kids in Deadly Fashion Trend
  • CBS All Access - Crackdown on Fake Braces Fashion Fad

The Fontange

  • A Fontange was a high headdress popular during the turn of the late 17th and early 18th centuries in Europe. Technically, fontanges are only part of the assembly, referring to the ribbon bows which support the frelange. The frelange was supported by a wire framework called a commode.
  • The hairstyle made by Louis’s mistress was short, but the women of the day made theirs taller. Their fontanges got so tall that making them stay upright became a daunting task, as they would often bend to one side or the other. Women began adding egg whites to their hair for several weeks to make it as stiff as possible. This left their hair smelling so bad that they often used loads of perfume to hide the disgusting smell. Others added flour and starch, which meant lice, insects, and mice would often make a meal out of their hair. The hairstyle took a lot of time and effort, and women would often leave it on their heads for weeks. This meant their hair often got hot, itchy, and smelly.
  • This did not deter French women, and the fontanges only got taller. Some could be as high 120 centimeters (47 in), so that a servant using a stick to hold the hair in place often walked behind the women. They also could not lie down to sleep and had to sleep while sitting upright. Aside from the animals that fed on the hair, the abnormal height of the hair also meant it often caught fire from candles attached to chandeliers hanging from the ceiling.
  • Encyclopeda of Fashion - Fontange
  • The hair at the Eighteenth century

Lead in Cosmetics

  • Or else they chose a slower, toxic death. The makeup choice of people from ancient Greece and all the way up to the 1920’s wa a lead-based powder or lotion that rendered their faces white. Lead poisoning is a slow killer, so takes years for people to accumulate enough lead in their bodies to die from it. The use of lead in face makeup enabled a whole host of terrifying symptoms including nausea, rotting teeth, headaches, confusion and even death.
  • We still knowingly use poisons to make ourselves more beautiful. (Botox is derived from Clostridium botulinum, the most acutely lethal toxin known.) We may think that historic problems such as lead in Elizabethan cosmetics are safely relegated to the past, but despite constantly changing fashions in make-up, lead can still be found in many of our lipsticks today. Even though no level of lead is considered safe, the US Food and Drug Association (FDA) has deemed that there are no safety concerns when lipstick is applied topically "as intended". A 2011 study by the FDA found lead in all 400 of the lipsticks they tested. In June 2013, I went on a hunt for the colours with the highest lead content in several outlets and found two of the top seven, L'Oreal's Colour Riche Volcanic No 410 and Tickled Pink No 165. It is still not clear exactly how much lipstick we actually ingest, if any; similarly, whether these ingredients may or may not cause harm to lipstick wearers.

Poisonous Dyes

  • Before the 1780s, green was a tricky color to create on clothes, and dressmakers depended on a combination of yellow and blue dyes to produce the hue. But in the late 1770s a Swedish/German chemist named Carl Wilhelm Scheele invented a new green pigment by mixing potassium and white arsenic on a solution of copper vitriol. The pigment was dubbed Scheele’s Green, and later Paris Green, among other names, and it became a huge sensation, used to color walls, paintings, and fabrics as well as candles, candies, food wrappers, and even children’s toys. Not surprisingly, it also caused sores, scabs, and damaged tissue, as well as nausea, colic, diarrhea, and constant headaches.
  • Although fashionable women wore arsenic-dyed fabrics—even Queen Victoria was depicted in one—its health effects were worst among the textile and other workers who created the clothes and often labored in warm, arsenic-impregnated rooms day after day. (Some scholars have even theorized that Napoleon might have been poisoned by the arsenic-laced wallpaper hung in his St. Helena home.) Arsenical dyes were also a popular addition to artificial flowers and leaves, which meant they were frequently pinned to clothes or fastened on heads.

Pestilential Fabrics

  • Soldiers of the Victorian era (and earlier) were plagued by lice and other body parasites that carried deadly diseases such as typhus and trench fever. But soldiers weren’t the only victims of disease carried via fabric—even the wealthy sometimes wore clothing that was made or cleaned by the sick in sweatshops or tenements, and which spread disease as a result. According to David, the daughter of Victorian Prime Minister Sir Robert Peel died after her riding habit, given to her by her father as a gift, was finished in the house of a poor seamstress who had used it to cover her sick husband as he lay shivering with typhus-induced chills. Peel’s daughter contracted typhus after wearing the garment, and died on the eve of her wedding.
  • Women also worried about their skirts sweeping through the muck and excrement of city streets, where bacteria was rife, and some wore special skirt-fasteners to keep them up from the gunk. The poor, who often wore secondhand clothes, suffered from smallpox and other diseases spread by fabric that was recycled without being properly washed.

Arsenic-Ridden Taxidermy

  • Dead birds were a popular addition to ladies’ hats in the 19th century. According to David, “fashions in millinery killed millions of small songbirds and introduced dangers that may still make some historic women’s hats harmful to humans today.”
  • But it wasn’t the birds that were the problem—it was the arsenic used on them. Taxidermists of the day used arsenic-laced soaps and other products to preserve birds and other creatures. In some cases, entire birds—one or several—were mounted on hats. Some Victorian fashion commentators decried the practice, though not because of the arsenic involved. One Mrs. Haweis, a writer on dress and beauty, began an 1887 diatribe against “smashed birds” with the sentence: “A corpse is never a really pleasant ornament.”

Mercury

  • No upper-class man of the Victorian era was complete without his hat, but many of those hats were made with mercury. As David explains, “Although its noxious effects were known, it was the cheapest and most efficient way to turn stiff, low-grade fur from rabbits and hares into malleable felt.” Mercury gave animal fur its smooth, glossy, matted texture, but that velvety look came at a high cost—mercury is an extremely dangerous substance. 
  • Mercury can rapidly enter the body through the skin or the air, and causes a range of horrible health effects. Hatters were known to suffer from convulsions, abdominal cramps, trembling, paralysis, reproductive problems, and more. (A chemistry professor studying toxic exposure at Dartmouth College, Karen Wetterham, died in 1996 after spilling just a few drops of a supertoxic type of mercury on her glove.) To make matters worse, hatters who drank while they worked (not an uncommon practice) only hastened mercury’s effects by hampering the liver’s ability to eliminate it. While scholars still debate whether Lewis Carroll’s “mad hatter” was meant to show the effects of mercury poisoning, his trembling limbs and wacky speech seem to fit the bill.

Today:

  • If an accident occurs now, the police, childcare professionals, and emergency room doctors jump in to warn and protect the public. Government bodies often regulate or ban dangerous clothing items before accidents can happen. The European Commission's rapid alert system for non-food dangerous products (Rapex) publishes weekly alerts that include hazardous clothing, cosmetics and even tattoo inks and bans them if they present "serious risks".
  • In 2013, more than 200 girls' bikinis and hoodies with laces or drawstrings that presented risks for strangulation or injury were banned and taken off the market. But historically, attitudes toward accidents were radically different. Before the 19th century, fashion presented more of a moral than a medical risk. Exaggerated silhouettes and garments were worn only by a small elite and caricatured for public entertainment and supposedly for moral edification.

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