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Dangerous Duds

Corsets Used To Be At The Height Of Fashion

When you get dressed in the morning, safety doesn’t really come to mind, does it? When you get ready to go for a bike ride, you do certain things to protect yourself from getting hurt – like putting on a bike helmet. When you go for a car ride, you make sure you keep yourself safe by strapping on a seatbelt. But since when did fashion have anything to do with danger?


In fact, there are and have been many fashion items and trends throughout the years that proved to be pretty risky for the people wearing them! Here at KW, we think of the dangerous clothing below should come with either a warning label, an instruction manual or some safety gear!


High Heels

True story: a girl in Barcelona (in the country of Spain) reportedly fell down a narrow flight of steps outside an elegant restaurant one night. Unfortunately, she lost her footing, landing wrong-side-up on the sidewalk below. The cause of her accident was her three-inch platform shoes. The girl was rushed to the emergency room, got 20 stitches in her forehead and needs ongoing physiotherapy to help heal her injuries.


In the late 1990s, shoes with brick-high soles (sort of like the platform shoes of the 1970s disco era, but somewhat more extreme) were all the rage. Some of these platform shoes were as tall as 8 inches from the ground! The fashion industry promoted this trend as making women’s legs seem longer and faces seem smaller (compared to the size of the shoes, we’re guessing!).


Nowhere did this style catch on more than in Japan, where hospital across the country reported a grand total of 203 accidents involving women’s ultra-high-heeled shoes between 1994 and 1999. Sadly, one of these cases involved a Japanese girl, 25 years old, who died from a fractured skull resulting from a fall in her brand-new platform sandals.


Even the shoemaker Manolo Blahnik – made famous by Carrie Bradshaw in Sex And The City – sees danger in super skinny heels. He actually removed a pair of razor-sharp, three-inch stilettos from his line because they could have been dangerous. The stems on those shoes were as thin as the ink-filled tube inside a regular ball-point pen and were supposedly able to cut right through carpet.


Corset Matters

Corsets were invented way back in the 16th century but reached their height of popularity in the 1800s. Though early corsets were mainly worn by women of the Victorian upper class, by the 19th century they were pretty much a standard item in practically every girl’s closet.


Even back then, doctors were quick to clue in to the fact that there were lots of dangers associated with tying a corset too tight – many physicians actually advised against wearing corsets altogether. A paper published in 1874 lists a whopping 97 diseases produced by corsets, with symptoms ranging from difficulty breathing, poor blood circulation, depression, hysteria (mental illness) and even birth defects for pregnant women who sported the corset style.


While the most dramatic claims against corsets have never been scientifically proven, they definitely did result in some minor health problems, like shallow breathing, shortness of breath, strained back muscles and potential difficulties in pregnancy.


So what happened to the good old corset? In 1960, a company called DuPont introduced an incredible new material called Lycra to the fashion world, making the traditional corset, which was made out of whalebone or metal to hold its shape, totally obsolete. When “corsets” were made with Lycra, they became a different and less excruciating fashion item called a girdle. Then, in the 1970s, females seeking equal rights for women demanded the fashion industry come up with less restrictive and more natural items for them to wear.


On a bit of a side note, the concept of a corset really never died. You see, the corset was used to cinch women at the waist, making them look incredibly (and nearly impossibly) thin. Experts who study human evolution and the history of fashion actually say the physical corset was replaced with other tools to reach the same goal – today, things like extreme dieting, exercise and plastic surgery are performed by women all over the world in an attempt to get that “ideal” feminine figure. Too bad – this shows we really haven’t made that much progress after all.


Crinoline Concerns

If you’ve ever attended or been in a wedding, you’ve probably seen crinoline before. It’s a fashion item that’s worn under dresses and skirts to make them look a lot fuller that they really are and (the main objective) to make women’s waists look a lot smaller than they really are.


In the 1840s, the first crinolines were lined with horsehair and straw. Not only did these materials mean major rashes and skin irritation for the women who wore them, they also caught fire extremely easily and were a big hazard around candles and open grates or fireplaces, which were common in all homes at that time (before electricity was invented).


Lead Astray

Way back in the late 1500s, the paler your skin was, the better. Having tanned or dark skin meant you were a lowly laborer, working your days away in the fields under the hot sun. Porcelain-white skin, then, meant you stayed indoors all day being waited on by others and not having to lift a finger your whole entire life.


Of course, some people are born with naturally darker skin and hardly any of us has the white complexion the aristocrats (upper classes) back then wanted to have. So, to make their skin as white as possible, they painted their faces, often using powders and ointments that turned out to be extremely toxic (poisonous) to humans.


The most popular mixture for white skin was a combo of white lead and vinegar called ceruse. After applying ceruse to their face, necks and chests, people would add faint blue lines on top to look like veins and make their skin look as fair and delicate as possible. Unfortunately, the lead in the white compound would slowly poison whoever was wearing it, causing skin legions, rotting teeth, hair loss and, eventually death in women who were only between 20 and 30 years old.


Wigging Out

By the mid 18th century, powdered wigs were a natural part of daily life and the height of fashion. Lots of movies that show old courtroom cases and trials have actors wearing these weird-looking white powdered wigs. The problem with the wigs back then was that people didn’t really bathe as often as we do today – they didn’t have indoor plumbing, and getting and heating the water to fill a whole bath was hard and took a lot of time and energy. That being the case, people covered their dirty, oily, greasy, unwashed hair with powdered wigs and, as a result, the unwashed wigs became infested with lice and – we’re not making this up – even mice. In fact, the problem was so bad that someone invented a special scratching stick that most wig-wearers came to carry with them – to itch their creepy-crawly scalps.


Plaster Disaster

Here’s an interesting one in the history of dangerous fashion. We all know who David Beckham, soccer star and hubby of ex Spice Girl Victoria (a.k.a. Posh Spice), is. Well, when Dave damaged a bone in his foot during a soccer match, his coaches forced him to cover the area in a hard white substance known as plaster (i.e., he had to wear a cast). For his many young fans, this started a truly strange fashion craze – plaster footwear. We’re not joking about this – some doctors even feared kids would start intentionally breaking their bones to be able to look like their soccer idol.


Piercing Pain

Most girls these days have their ears pierced – in fact, it’s a style that’s been around for thousands and thousands of years. It’s not the actual idea of making a whole in that part of your body that’s dangerous, but the trends when it comes to what you put in those holes. When incredibly long, dangly earrings become the bomb a few years ago resulted in many women catching their earrings on a variety of objects and materials and ripping their earlobes right in half. This type of injury often requires surgery to repair.

To be fair, not all piercings are dangerous. If you get them done by a qualified person in a hygienic place and keep your new piercing clean, you're unlikely to encounter any problems. The dangerous part of this trend, however, involves people who pierce themselves and their friends. In fact, over 100,000 teens worldwide are estimated to mutilate their own bodies or a friend's with piercings annually!


Piercing your own or a friend's body may not only cause incredible pain and suffering, it could also damage blood vessels or even cause paralysis (the ear, for example, contains vital nerves which, if penetrated can cause paralysis).


Close Contact

Fashion and beauty can sometimes be really hard to resist. If there’s something you don’t like about yourself, like the color of your eyes, today’s technologies and advancements make it pretty easy to change the way you look. But sometimes the products and procedures used to make these changes are a lot more dangerous than they seem.


Take colored contact lenses, for example. While contact lenses used by people with vision and sight problems are perfectly safe when recommended by doctors, the trend of color contacts or contact lenses with crazy designs that make your eyes look like a cat’s or a wolf’s or a flame of fire can be a sight for sore eyes.


These “designer” contacts can be bought online, and lots of the sites that sell them don’t care whether or not you have a legit prescription from your doctor – they just want your credit card number. Eye specialists say we all need to be aware that contact lenses should only be used under a doctor’s care. Some doctors have even reported patients who have bought cool-looking contacts over the counter (i.e., without a prescription), slept in them overnight and woke up with infections on the surfaces of their corneas that threatened their eyesight. We say: not worth it!


Hair Die

In 2004, a woman named Katherine Keith sued Procter & Gamble when the hair dye she purchased from the drugstore caused her a long list of medical problems, including hair loss, a burning scalp, swelling, a rapid heartbeat, vomiting, back pain, decreased nerve sensitivity, eye inflammation, motor and sensory changes, depression and post-traumatic anxiety. Yikes!


According to experts, certain hair dyes and other types of makeup and cosmetics contain poisonous chemicals like carcinogens (known to cause cancer), chemicals with "harmful impurities" and chemicals that haven't been studied enough to prove they’re safe for us to use.


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