Fashion is a form of expression that screams to the world, “Look at me, I’m cool.” But while many countries brag about their fashion styles and trends, no country has come close to matching Britain’s prowess. From the renaissance to the Victorian era, Brits have been showing the world that there are many ways to wear fabric and look fabulous while doing it. It’s no wonder that Charles Frederick Worth, the father of fashion, was an Englishman and the inventor of haute couture.
But even the most fashionable choices have risks, and when it comes to Britain, the words “dressed to kill” come to life. Forget James Bond, the fictitious English spy who looks flashy in his impeccably cut suits and stylish wardrobe options. In real life, the British authorities had a tough time convincing people to abandon fashion choices that were too dangerous.
Let’s look at some dangerous British fashion trends and why they had to be abandoned for being too deadly for fashionistas.
Giant Skirts That Caused Deaths By Fire
The Victorian era was a time when fashion was dominated by full skirts, and one popular garment at the time was the crinoline. At the time, the hourglass feminine figure was most desirable, and to make the waist smaller, wide skirts rose in popularity. The skirts were fashionable, but for women, they were a great burden since they were highly flammable and supported by heavy steel rings or cages.
Yet, despite their popularity, crinoline dresses were notorious for causing deaths by fire. One famous death was that of Fanny, wife to poet Henry Wadsworth. The obituaries described that she died a day after her dress caught her fire, enveloping her in flames before anyone could put her out. The wide dresses caught fire easily if one was not extra careful and could even get entangled in the wagon wheels when riding.
Stiff Collars That Choked You To Death
In the Edwardian era, a popular fashion accessory among men was the detachable collar that reduced the need to change a shirt every day. Men would wear the stiff white collars made from a fabric that had a hard-cardboard-like consistency. The only problem with the stiff collars is that they could strangle the wearer to death.
Commonly referred to as the “father killers,” the detachable collars easily blocked the windpipe or blood supply. Autopsies described causes of death for men as asphyxia and apoplexy, particularly among drunk men that fell asleep while still wearing them.
Poisonous Dresses That Caused Colorful Deaths
Fashionistas would do anything to get noticed, and in the Victorian era, bright green dresses were as bold as you could get. To get the infamous green hue, arsenic was used to dye the fabric. Since arsenic was a cheap natural element, designers used them to decorate dresses, shoes, and even artificial flowers that decorated hair.
The fashion trend became unpopular after it led to the deaths of manufacturers and, for women, rashes on the skin. Accounts describe that a businesswoman who used arsenic on artificial flowers met a violent and colorful death. The compound made her bile, fingernails, and even the whites of her eyes green!
There are many other examples where British fashion crossed the line, creating fashion victims rather than icons. Britain limited dangerous fashion choices and encouraged people to follow safer trends to save people from fatal fashion mishaps. While a lot of time has passed since the Victorian era, there are still plenty of fashion victims who will do anything for five minutes of fame.