High stakes fashion

Cutting edge is an adjective often used to describe high fashion. But sometimes cutting edge is more than just a figure of speech. 

Cutting edge is an adjective often used to describe high fashion. But sometimes cutting edge is more than just a figure of speech. Consider an Australian woman, who had to be cut out of her pair of skinny jeans after experiencing muscle damage, swelling, and nerve blockages in her legs. She said her feet felt numb, and, once she tripped and fell, was unable to get up again.  

Corsets were very fashionable in the Victorian era, a woman was considered ‘loose,’ or lacking in morals, if she didn’t wear one. But, of course, reshaping your waist has numerous consequences, from constipation and fainting to internal bleeding and repositioned organs. One woman, who died of a seizure, was found to have two pieces of corset steel, rubbed to a point by the movement of her body, lodged in her heart. 

During the 19th century, the crinoline, a stiffened petticoat invented to hold out a woman’s skirt, was the height of fashion. However, women had to be incredibly careful to not go near any flames, as the dresses would catch fire very quickly. As the New York Times said in 1858, “an average of three deaths per week from crinolines (on fire), ought to startle the most thoughtless of the privileged sex; and to make them, at least, extraordinarily careful in their movements and behavior, if it fails…. to deter them from adopting a fashion so fraught with peril.”

Also in the 19th century, detachable collars were invented, which freed men from needing to wear a new shirt every day. And while having a nicely starched collar can be a good thing, these collars were over starched and very stiff. Starched collars proved to be deadly. Men would go to the gentleman’s club, have a few drinks and then fall asleep in a comfy armchair, their heads falling towards their chests, never to wake. The collar would cut off the blood supply to the carotid artery, and sometimes the air, causing suffocation and apoplexy. 

Long ago in China, foot-binding, inspired by a court dancer, was a common practice. Demonstrating that a woman didn’t need her feet to work was considered a sign of status. Most women who bound their feet had lifelong disabilities, would often break and re-break the bones in their feet, and were susceptible to infection caused by ingrown toenails. Because of the devastating effects of foot-binding, it was banned in 1664, but it took until the early 20th century for the trend to actually die out. 

And while we may argue that we don’t bind our feet nowadays, women still go to extreme lengths in the name of fashion. Some women are surgically shortening, or even amputating, healthy toes to better fit into stilettos. Some people are getting their ribs removed to get a smaller waist. And now, we even have to worry about our skinny jeans. 


LatinAmerican Post |

Prepared by: Jonathan Zur

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