Dangerous Fashion Trends People Swore By

Beauty is pain, they say, but some people have taken this proverb a little too seriously in the pursuit of fashion. Dangerous fashion and aesthetic trends have existed for generations, and they are unsettling and might also be fatal. Women have gone to tremendous lengths to make themselves more appealing. Plastic surgery is now often seen as a radical and risky means of achieving the ideal appearance.

A group of women helps a woman with a complicated dress.
Source: Unknown/Public domain/Wikimedia Commons

When plastic surgery was not established, considerably more dangerous techniques were used to get the desired look. Historical fashion styles straddled the line between dubious and dangerous, from corsets and crinolines to poufs and foot binding. Take a trip down memory lane as we recall certain fashion and cosmetic fads that elevated the term “beautiful hurts” to new heights.


Corsets don’t require an introduction when it comes to risky fashion clothing. Corsets have been worn by women (and some males) for hundreds of years. Corsets are one of the most divisive fashion pieces of all time, unsurprising. However, there was a time when no self-respecting lady could leave her house without one.

A vintage corset is on display.
Source: Los Angeles County Museum of Art/Public domain/Wikimedia Commons

In addition to being inconvenient, the corset’s tight lacing can cause various problems, the most prevalent of which is breathing difficulty. Regular corset wear may cause fainting and poor digestion in more serious situations. We’re sure Elizabeth Swann from Pirates of the Caribbean wasn’t the only lady who loathed wearing them.

Belladonna Eye Drops

Often known as deadly nightshade, Belladonna is one of the most dangerous plants ever discovered. Belladonna has been utilized in therapeutic procedures for centuries, even though it is poisonous. It has been used for hundreds of years and is only dangerous if consumed. On the other hand, women continued to use it as a cosmetic.

A container of Belladonna eye drops.
Source: Wikidudeman/Public domain/Wikimedia Commons

Belladonna eye drops were popular in Renaissance Italy, where the word “beautiful lady” meant “beautiful woman.” This plant’s eye drops were employed to generate a doe-eyed expression, which was a popular beauty standard. Like the plant itself, this substance proved extremely hazardous, causing skin irritations, heart difficulties, and even blindness if taken daily.

High and Tight Collars

Women weren’t the only ones who risked their health to follow the latest fashion trends. Men have been victims of various harmful fashion fads throughout history, including high and tight collars. These collars were all the rage in the nineteenth century, but pairing them with booze wasn’t a smart idea.

A portrait of a man wearing a high collard shirt.
Source: Pinterest

They were unpleasant enough on their own, but combining them with alcohol was a hazardous combination since they cut off blood circulation to the brain if worn for an extended time. In the mid-1400s, shirt collars first appeared in the Western world. As a result of new improvements in starch, standing collars grew into severe neck ruffs in 16th century London.

Foot Binding

Lotus feet, obtained by the risky technique of foot binding, were previously regarded as a prestige symbol in China. Due to this harmful tendency, many women have spent their lives dealing with limited mobility. In Chinese eyes, its numerous titles expressed its complex image: chanzu (binding feet) highlighted the commonplace process of wrapping the body with a piece of fabric.

A woman sits in a chair to show her foot bindings.
Source: Lai Afong/Public domain/Wikimedia Commons

The major purpose of this procedure was to tuck a woman’s toes behind the heel and wrap them in bandages from a young age to make her feet small. Many women wore special shoes to help them operate correctly, but this didn’t protect them from the many deadly illnesses that resulted from this process.


You’ll be astonished at how many strange fashion items were once considered conventional. The fontange was the most popular women’s hairstyle in 1680, and it remained so until the early eighteenth century. The fontange, named after Louis XIV’s mistress, Duchesse de Fontange, was a high headpiece popular with French ladies in the late 17th century.

A portrait of a woman with a large headdress.
Source: John Smith/Public domain/Wikimedia Commons

Lace, ribbons, and pins were commonly used to keep them. However, as the patterns got more intricate, they became increasingly difficult to wear. They grew in size, with larger pins used to keep them in place, posing a threat to the person wearing them and others who came into contact with them.

Rib Removal

Since Victorian times, the hourglass shape has been one of the most popular beauty standards, and women have made considerable efforts to acquire it. They frequently represent the pinnacle of femininity, yet they are notoriously uneasy. It’s no surprise that corsets have a bad rep. They’ve existed in some form or another for thousands of years, dating back to ancient Crete.

A woman shows off her super skinny waist.
Source: Public domain/Wikimedia Commons

They usually employed laced corsets to get there, but in certain cases, they had ribs removed to get the perfect form. Most doctors would not attempt it since it was exceedingly hazardous and had a poor track record. It’s also not well-documented, and some people still don’t think it happened.

Venetian Ceruse

Today’s ladies are on the lookout for skin-whitening treatments that can help them get rid of blemishes, scars, and uneven skin tone. Acne, unintentional scars, and too much sun exposure are the main causes of skin defects. Few people know that this cosmetic has been used for centuries by a wide range of individuals, particularly the rich. Today, all you have to do is go to the next Sephora to get high-quality cosmetics, but that wasn’t always the case.

A portrait of Queen Elizabeth I.
Source: National Portrait Gallery/Public domain/Wikimedia Commons

To obtain their desired look, women were willing to employ a variety of dubious beauty items, including lead face paint. This is the most accurate description of Venetian ceruse, a popular skin whitener in the 16th century. Its principal ingredients were water, vinegar, and lead. This combination was hazardous because prolonged lead exposure can cause skin damage, hair loss, migraines, and death.

Hair Waves Machine

Humans have chopped, shaved, grown it out, cleaned, dried it, dyed hair, curled it, and, yes, even manufactured jewelry throughout history. People have always been looking for innovative ways to style their hair. Curly hair was a fashion statement in the early 1900s, and many ladies couldn’t pass up a tool that promised to keep the appearance for the long haul.

 An ad for an odd-looking hair machine.
Source: Louis Calvete/CC BY-SA 4.0/Wikimedia Commons

A permanent hair wave machine was used to obtain the appearance. However, because it was impracticable, it quickly fell out of favor. Women would have to sit under it for almost 10 hours to have flawlessly curled hair. This would take a long time, but the machine would frequently break down, resulting in burns and baldness.

X-Ray Hair Removal

The range of hair removal procedures is practically unlimited, but some are illogical. That is the case with X-ray hair removal, which is one of the most irrational procedures women have employed to remove their body hair. When X-rays were first discovered in 1895, it didn’t take long for beauty salons to use them to remove hair. This was a bad idea that resulted in burns, ulcers, and possibly cancer.

A newspaper ad for permanent hair removal.
Source: Imgur

The customer, generally a lady who wants to get rid of unwanted body hair, would sit in front of a mahogany box with X-ray equipment that could be seen via a small front window. The size and form of the skin region to be treated were taken into account when creating the window. When the operator flipped a switch, the customer could have heard a whirling sound as power was created. The treatment, however, was completed in three to four minutes.

Neck Rings

Humans, it appears, have always engaged in some form of bodily alteration. Tattoos, piercings, foot binding, and skull flattening are all common practices worldwide. Neck rings are one of the earliest known kinds of body modification. They are used to lengthen the neck. The definition of beauty varies by culture.

A woman is swearing stacked gold necklaces that lengthen her neck.
Source: Steve Evans/CC BY 2.0/Wikimedia Commons

Elongated necks are the beauty norm for Kayan women in Myanmar, and neck rings are frequently used to achieve this, forcing the collarbone and ribs down. As part of this historical tradition, women still wear up to 10 kilos of brass collars. Their neck muscles may deteriorate due to their weight, which might lead to significant neck and back discomfort, especially if they gain weight.

Tapeworm Diet

Fad diets are still popular today, but Victorian ladies took things a step further and adopted some dubious weight-loss practices. The tapeworm diet, which consists of taking tablets created from “sterilized” tapeworm eggs, is an excellent example. The goal of this diet was for tapeworms to consume all of your additional calories.

A vintage ad for tapeworms.
Source: Wikimedia Commons

On the other hand, the tapeworms didn’t always attach themselves to the organs of the digestive system, resulting in a slew of unpleasant side effects such as nausea, fever, diarrhea, and stomach discomfort. Once a person had attained their goal weight, they took an anti-parasitic tablet hoping that the tapeworms would die. The dieter would then have to expel the tapeworm, resulting in stomach and rectal problems.

Teeth Blackening

People nowadays attempt to keep their teeth as white as possible, but this isn’t always the case, particularly in Japan. In this nation, black teeth were originally thought to symbolize beauty, and the procedure known as ohaguro was frequently practiced. Teeth blackening is more often done throughout adolescence. It was largely done to preserve teeth until old age, as it works similarly to current dental sealants in preventing tooth decay. It was seen as a symbol of civilization, elegance, and maturity.

An Asian drawing of a woman looking at her black teeth in the mirror.
Source: Tsukioka Yoshitoshi/Public domain/Wikimedia Commons

Women who wanted to darken their teeth drank a concoction of an iron-based pigment diluted in vinegar and mixed with tea powder. Surprisingly, this cocktail had no harmful effects on their health, although it had an extremely disagreeable flavor and was eventually banned by the government.

Scheele’s Green

Green gowns were all the rage during the Victorian era, but following the obsession wasn’t necessarily healthy. Scheele’s green was frequently used to give dresses a lovely green hue, and the color was to die for in every way. Scheele’s green was extremely harmful since it was manufactured from the poisonous chemical arsenic. Skin rashes, headaches, diarrhea, and even cancer might occur if the dye is absorbed into the wearer’s skin.

A vintage green gown on display.
Source: MET Museum/CC0/Wikimedia Commons

Scheele’s green, despite its shortcomings, was eye-catching and successful. The color was inexpensive to make, but it also closely matched the colors seen in nature. It wasn’t too bright or too teal, but just right. It was a full-saturated medium green with no gray tints or hints of brown. It was a garden color, and the pull of Scheele’s green was difficult to resist for city inhabitants.

Muslin Dresses

During the first quarter of the nineteenth century, cotton muslin was the most popular fabric, even in the cold. Muslin dresses were never truly out of style, but how ladies wore them in the nineteenth century was dangerous. They would dampen their garments before leaving their houses to flaunt their figures regardless of the weather.

A white muslin dress is on display.
Source: MET Museum/CC0/Wikimedia Commons

Tailors and designers utilize muslin for their toiles, or mock-ups, which has led to the toiles being referred to simply as “muslins.” Wearing damp muslin gowns was all fun and games in the summer, but things became dangerous when the weather turned cooler. During these gloomy times, valuing beauty above warmth resulted in a surge in respiratory ailments such as pneumonia, dubbed “Muslin Disease.”


Some ladies wear high heels religiously, while others avoid them. Chopins, a lethal platform shoe that first appeared in the 16th century, is unlikely to appeal to you, no matter how you feel about them. It might grow over 18 inches tall, although this extreme appears to be limited to Italy and probably Spain. Its origins are in Venice, where prostitutes initially wore it before being embraced by stylish Venetian nobility.

A uncomfortable-looking platform shoe.
Source: Rama & the Shoe Museum in Lausanne/CC BY-SA 2.0 FR/Wikimedia Commons

The design was inspired by the Turkish bath shoe, which kept the wearer’s feet out of the water. Society’s upper crust mostly wore them, and their primary function was to protect clothes from mud and dirt on the streets. Although it was a good objective, chopines proved so ineffective and unstable that many ladies fell while wearing them.

Mercury Hats

Hat manufacturers experimented with different materials to improve the quality of their hats back in the day. They eventually discovered mercury by chance and used it to make great felt hats for over a century. It did, however, have some unintended repercussions. If you’ve ever wondered where the term “crazy as a hatter” came from, you’ll be pleased to learn that it predates Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

A drawing of the mad hatter.
Source: Lewis Carroll/Public domain/Wikimedia Commons

It has something to do with mercury in the hat-making process. The chemical was often employed in the felting process, and it proved hazardous to both hat manufacturers and hat users. Inhaling it for an extended time has a significant influence on their physical and mental health, with major mental problems being a possibility.

Hobble Skirt

When we first heard the term “hobble skirt,” we thought it was amusing, but it got much more amusing after we realized what it meant. One of the most restrictive styles of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries came into prominence during the first decade of the 1900s, just as women sought greater freedom, rights, and comfortable clothes. Hobble skirts were playfully dubbed the “speed limit skirt,” but how they affected individuals who wore them was anything but amusing.

A woman is seen walking in a hobble skirt.
Source: Uncredited/Public domain/Wikimedia Commons

The fashion trend began in the early twentieth century, but it was short-lived due to its impracticality. Hobble skirts’ hems were so thin that they hampered the wearer’s stride and restricted their motions. Following this trend proved fatal since it restricted women’s freedom of movement and resulted in frequent falls.


Crakows were called after Kraków, Poland, where they first appeared in the 15th century. You’ve undoubtedly seen if you’ve ever read medieval literature with images or looked attentively at medieval art. They’re difficult to miss. With just one glimpse, it’s evident why they didn’t last long on the fashion scene and were eventually outlawed in some nations.

Pointy leather shoes.
Source: Ziko/CC BY-SA 3.0/Wikimedia Commons

Crakows were unsafe to wear because of their large, pointed beaks. They were so difficult to walk in that they often resulted in deadly falls. As a result, they rapidly faded into obscurity. Despite their odd and amusing appearance, Crakows were highly popular during the Middle Ages, particularly in Poland, England, and other European countries.

Styling Lard

Hairstyles have evolved from symbols of power and wealth to expressions of self-and uniqueness. They are sometimes worn to make political statements, defy societal norms, or convey one’s narrative. Hair has been braided, colored, teased, and ornamented throughout history to represent the styles of the time and the morals of the time. Wigs are timeless, yet they were worn distinctively in the seventeenth century.

An old drawing of a woman with a complex hairstyle.
Source: After Jean-Francios Ganeray/Public domain/Wikimedia Commons

Many high-society personalities adopted the adage “the larger, the better” and experimented with dubious ways to create the voluminous look. Lard was a popular styling material for wigs, then powdered with lead following application. This unfortunate combination proved to be a magnet for lice and vermin, posing a serious health risk that wig users were forced to seek more sanitary alternatives.

Male Corsets

Women weren’t the only ones who had to deal with the horrors of corsets. They’ve been wearing them since the 16th century, but the time was significantly shorter for males. While men of the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries may not have been as forthright about their interest in fashion and personal grooming, there was a tendency for men to be well-groomed and trendy.

A drawing of men trying on corsets.
Source: Public domain/Wikimedia Commons

Men wearing corsets may seem like a step too far for some, but men, like women, aspired to fit in with a specific form and appearance that was seen as desirable. Between 1820 and 1840, male corsets were popular because it was fashionable for men to have a thin body with a small waist. Some men continued to wear them, saying they relieved back discomfort, but the practice faded after the mid-nineteenth century.

Crinoline Dresses

Crinoline was initially a horsehair petticoat, a fashionable trend in the late 1840s that was named after the French term “crin” (“horsehair”). The spring hoop crinoline was so fashionable in the late 1850s and early 1860s that it was worn by ladies’ maids, factory girls, and the wealthy. Crinolines are still worn today, which is unexpected considering their history.

A group of women helps another put on her dress hoops.
Source: Unknown/Public domain/Wikimedia Commons

Even though they are made of highly flammable materials, hundreds of women put their lives in danger to stay fashionable. In the years 1863–1864, renowned English statistician Florence Nightingale calculated that 630 women died due to crinoline-related accidents. Emily and Mary Wilde, Oscar Wilde’s half-sisters, died shortly after their evening dresses caught on fire.

Radioactive Hair

Hair that glows in the dark was popular in the early twentieth century, leaving a deadly legacy. This was difficult to produce, and ladies had to brush radium into their hair for lengthy periods to obtain it. In 1933, a miracle cream was introduced in Paris. It purported to increase circulation, strengthen muscular tissue, decrease fat, and smooth wrinkles as a “scientific beauty solution.”

An ad for radioactive hair.
Source: Radior cosmetics/Public domain/Wikimedia Commons

It was part of a series of cosmetics called Tho-Radia, named for the radioactive materials thorium and radium. This was only one example of radioactive quackery that arose following Marie Curie’s discovery of this extremely radioactive compound. Many radium-based items were eventually prohibited because it was discovered that they might cause major health problems.


A farthingale is one of the numerous constructions worn under Western European women’s clothes in the 16th and 17th centuries to support and augment the bottom part of the body and keep the skirts in place. Farthingale first appeared in Spain in the 15th century, and it is said to have been brought to England by Catherine of Aragon.

A portrait of Queen Elizabeth wearing a farthingale dress.
Source: Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger/Public domain/Wikimedia Commons

Farthingale was a forerunner of Crinoline, and its major goal was to give a skirt a greater form and make the lower body appear larger. Farthingales, unlike crinolines, were not composed of extremely flammable materials, and they were only worn by upper-class ladies who were rarely in danger. However, we can imagine how unpleasant they must have been because whalebone was one of the principal materials utilized in their construction.

Bandeau Tops

Hourglass shapes attained with bust-enhancing corsets were no longer fashionable until the Roaring Twenties arrived. Women began wearing bandeau tops to flatten their chests and produce a more boyish physique, which was fashionable. A bandeau is a piece of clothing that resembles a strip of cloth. The phrase is now commonly used to describe a garment that wraps around a woman’s breasts. Sports or swimwear is frequently worn as part of a bikini.

A silk and lace bandeau top is on display.
Source: Pinterest

It’s comparable to a tube top, except it’s shorter. Strapless, sleeveless, and off-the-shoulder are common features. Regulated and dangerous breast binding results in several serious consequences. Although rashes and infections under the breast were common, shortness of breath, overheating, and back and chest discomfort were the most prevalent side effects.

Tudor Ruffs

During the Elizabethan era, Tudor ruffs were all the rage, and Elizabeth I of England was one of many royal figures who followed suit. The ruff is also known as a “goffered frill,” which refers to a piece of lace that has been heated and pushed into pleats. It’s easy to understand why this garment fell out of favor during the mid-seventeenth century. While colored starches were available, white was the most popular, but the blue dye was occasionally added to help emphasize the pale skin that was popular in the period.

A portrait of Queen Elizabeth with a ruffled collar.
Source: National Portrait Gallery/Public domain/Wikimedia Commons

Small sticks of bone, ivory, or wood were used to keep the ruff shape. Narrow steel ‘poking sticks’ have been employed since the 1570s. Tudor ruffs were dangerous because their rigid shape was difficult to maintain, and numerous pins were used to keep them in place. In addition to being uncomfortable and causing neck pain due to limited mobility, Tudor ruffs were dangerous: their rigid shape was difficult to maintain, and numerous pins were used to keep them in place.

High Foreheads

High foreheads were also popular throughout the Elizabethan period regarding new fashion trends. High foreheads were considered attractive, and some women would pluck their hairline back to acquire this look. Many modern women dispute whether or not to clip their bangs, which is typically done to make the forehead appear smaller.

A portrait of Queen Elizabeth with her hair pulled back, exposing a large forehead.
Source: George Gower/Public domain/Wikimedia Commons

It wouldn’t have occurred to anyone in the Middle Ages or Renaissance, though, because high foreheads were fashionable. If a person repeatedly removes hair from their scalp, this activity can impair hair development by slowing it down. Hair does not always come back if a follicle is harmed, but Elizabethan ladies didn’t mind.


Cothurnus were laced leather boots that first appeared in Ancient Greece. In ancient Rome, the cothurnus was a unique boot worn by hunters, horseback riders, and men of authority and strength. The boot, made of leather, was pulled onto the foot and laced up to the top. It might go down to the mid-calf and up to the knee.

A drawing of a man wearing cothurnus.
Source: Paul Sellier/Public domain/Wikimedia Commons

They were useful for shielding the user from thorns and filth, but the higher the heel, the more difficult they were to wear. Ancient Greek tragedy performers wore them to make them look taller and emphasize their characters’ significance. Platform heels, like other heels, limited the wearer’s mobility, perhaps leading to falls and accidents, which was the actual tragedy.

“Macaroni” Fashion

During the 1770s, a new sort of stylish man emerged: the Macaroni, whose look was readily mocked by cartoonists and the media. “Macaroni” fashion is a name that originated in 18th century England and was used to characterize men who dressed outrageously and lavishly, usually by wearing wigs with long curls.

A drawing of the Macaroni.
Source: Philip Dawe/Public domain/Wikimedia Commons

The macaronis’ dress style drew much attention in the last part of the 18th century when flamboyant clothes were all the rage. The practice wasn’t inherently harmful, but the large wigs worn by “macaroni” men made them impracticable. On top of that, some of them had chapeau bras, which were frequently removed with a sword.

Aniline Socks

A series of poisonings in the mid-nineteenth century sparked widespread concern in the press. Almost everyone was in danger, yet the perpetrator was still unknown. But the poison came from a much more sophisticated, domestic murderer hiding in plain sight rather than as a Victorian arch-criminal. During the 1860s, aniline-dyed socks were all the rage, but it didn’t take long for people to forget about them.

A group of men sits together.
Source: James Tissot/Public domain/Wikimedia Commons

Because aniline was far more deadly than anybody had imagined, they were silent murderers. Aniline socks quickly transport the chemical through the skin, potentially causing many health problems. Before it fell out of vogue, this foolish trend did more damage than good, causing anything from skin irritations and rashes to weariness and disorientation.


We’ve already written about Crinoline, the 19th-century fashion undergarment dubbed the Woman Killer, and we were inspired by it when we came across another era’s fashion item, the pannier. Panniers, which were related to farthingales and crinolines, were a fashionable undergarment in the 17th and 18th centuries. Their form, however, was slightly different since they were quite wide on the sides rather than extending evenly in all directions.

 A corseted large underskirt is on display.
Source: Los Angeles County Museum of Art/Public domain/Wikimedia Commons

The new silhouette featured a wide-hipped skirt with a flat front and back. The hoop skirt could not create this form, so a new undergarment was devised, consisting of two whalebone or cane baskets hung at either hip. A casual peek inside a pannier reveals the source of their problem. They were not only uncomfortable and took up a lot of space, but their size had a severe influence on the wearer’s mobility.


Bustles are a well-known variation of the crinoline skirt, which first appeared in the 1870s. By the early 1870s, the bustle had evolved into a distinct garment worn over the back and usually fastened around the waist. Bustles were made in various ways, with hard support (metal or mesh, for example) and some type of cushioning (horsehair, down, wool, or even straw).

 A bustle undergarment is on display.
Source: Los Angeles County Museum of Art/Public domain/Wikimedia Commons

They were worn beneath the skirt below the waist to protect the skirt from dragging on the floor. They weren’t as perilous as crinolines, but they were still a pain in the neck for the ladies who wore them. The ladies who wore them could not sit in natural postures and had difficulty relaxing their backs.

Bloomer Suits

In the nineteenth century, bloomers were bifurcated garments used under gowns. Bloomer suits, named for Amelia Bloomer, a women’s rights leader, first appeared in the 1850s as a more comfortable alternative to other fashionable products. Baggy trousers were worn below a knee-length skirt with a vest. The invention sparked a lot of debate and eventually went out of style.

A woman is seen wearing a bloomer suit.
Source: Public domain/Wikimedia Commons

While bloomer suits were not strictly harmful to women’s health, they did potentially harm their social standing. Because the fad was seen as a sign of patriarchal domination, women who wore them were frequently assaulted, and there were even public gatherings held to put an end to the fashion craze.


In the 1100s, affluent men and women wore the bliaut, a long gown. The enormous volume of cloth employed in the bliaut’s construction was one of its most noticeable features. Bliauts featured a lot of folds and drapes, so they needed twice as much fabric as a flat skirt would. Hundreds of pleats were common in women’s bliauts.

A painting of a woman in a bliauts dress.
Source: Edmund Leighton/Public domain/Wikimedia Commons

Floor-length sleeves, constructed of various materials ranging from wool to silk, distinguished this extravagant gown. It’s tough to dispute that bliauts were stylish and sophisticated but impractical. In the worst-case situation, the wearer may trip over their long sleeves, but a bliaut restricts their movement greatly even if that doesn’t happen.

Tooth Sharpening

Even with modern instruments and medications, most people hate going to the dentist, yet there was a period when these things weren’t accessible. However, this did not deter some people from attempting to sharpen their teeth by hand. In Africa, several societies practiced tooth filing as an extreme form of bodily alteration.

A picture of a smiling boy with sharp teeth.
Source: Gerhard Sisters/Public domain/Wikimedia Commons

Names were insufficient to identify ancient Africans. Body scarification was more essential to them in determining where a person came from and which family, sub-ethnic group, or ethnic group he belonged to. Unfortunately, teeth sharpening might have exposed the body to infections due to chipped enamel, which could have been exceedingly deadly in the absence of contemporary medical advancements.

Wax Cones

People have fought to mask their body scents throughout history, and the ancient Egyptians devised their solution to the problem. They disguised their foul odors by wearing wax cones on top of their heads. Women wearing cones are frequently pictured in long, transparent dresses with a fold thrown over the left shoulder. The dress’s color frequently mirrors that of the cone.

Hirogliphics show Egyptians wearing wax cones on their heads.
Source: Louvre Museum/CC BY-SA 2.0 FR/Wikimedia Commons

What precisely did this deception entail? Wax cones were generally worn beneath the wigs, where they melted due to body heat and diffused the aroma. It doesn’t sound like a great adventure to have wax melt on top of your head all day, but that was the price they were willing to pay to smell good.

Alexandra Limp

There were several unusual outfits throughout Marie Antoinette’s period, but one of the most remarkable ones happened after she was guillotined. Alexandra, Princess of Wales at the time, was a great fashion symbol in the nineteenth century, and anything she did became fashionable rapidly. Others imitated her distinctive choker necklaces and high necklines, but they also imitated her limp!

A portrait of Alexandra in her wedding dress.
Source: Public domain/Wikimedia Commons

She developed the limp in 1867 after an illness that “threatened to contract her leg and render her a cripple.” Alexandra walked with a limp and carried a walking stick whenever she went out in public. Her ailment was quickly imitated by “distinguished people,” and various stylish society members adopted the “Alexandra Limp.” English society women so idolized her that they didn’t mind hobbling around in pain to imitate her appearance.

Children Dressing Like Adults

Although baby and children’s clothing is a lucrative industry, it is typical for them to dress like their parents. This isn’t a new trend in the fashion industry, and nowadays, youngsters wear it for comfort, but that wasn’t always the case. We don’t think of t-shirts and khaki pants when we think about children dressed as adults throughout history.

A portrait of a little girl wearing a corseted dress.
Source: Pierre Gobert/Public domain/Wikimedia Commons

For generations, children, like their parents, had to wear highly uncomfortable clothes, and it wasn’t until the beginning of the 18th century that they began to wear looser, simpler attire. Beginning in the late 1770s, new, looser dress designs for children became fashionable, as did new views about youthful innocence and the need to separate children from the troubles of the adult world.


Hennins are one of the several varieties of problematic headdresses that we’ve already mentioned. During the late Middle Ages, the hennin was a headpiece styled like a steeple or truncated cone popular with noble ladies. During the Middle Ages, noblewomen wore cone-shaped headgear, which first appeared in France during the 14th century.

Drawings of women wearing horned hats.
Source: Rogier van der Weyden/Public domain/Wikimedia Commons

The crowns of some of the hats were pointed and conical, while others were truncated and ended in a flat top. Hennins were usually worn with a veil or cointoise that draped over the woman’s shoulders and, in some circumstances, to the ground. Hennins had a lengthy veil connected to the top that was difficult to keep on. Religious leaders chastised hennins, believing them to signify vanity and excess, which didn’t help matters.


Hairdressers nowadays cut, color, and style hair, and they must stay current with current trends to keep their clients satisfied and look stylish. In the late eighteenth century, the same may be said of hairdressers in England and France. Many of the wigs worn by European high society are somewhat bizarre, and poufs are no exception.

A portrait of Marie Antoinette with large poufy hair.
Source: Palace of Versailles/Public domain/Wikimedia Commons

They were popularized by Marie Antoinette, who embraced them in the 18th century and sparked a genuine obsession. Poufs, which could exceed two feet in height, were a status symbol, but even Marie Antoinette’s mother, Maria Theresa, was skeptical of the expensive wig. Because of their unsanitary condition, they were commonly referred to as “rat’s nests.” They were also exceedingly impractical and posed a significant safety threat.

Gigot Sleeves

Even though some fashion trends were unappealing, high-society women didn’t mind adopting them because they spent their days doing nothing. Uncomfortable and unnecessary fashion elements, such as gigot sleeves, become status symbols in this way. One of the most recognizable features of 1830s fashion is leg-of-mutton, or gigot, sleeves. They rose to popularity again in the 1890s, reaching their peak size in the middle of the decade.

A portrait of a woman wearing a dress with gigot sleeves.
Source: Louis Krevel/Public domain/Wikimedia Commons

Despite severely restricting women’s movement, they were fashionable in the 1840s. These enormous balloon-like sleeves were designed to give the impression of a small waist, making the person wearing them appear more sophisticated. Unlike the 1890s’ large sleeves, gigot sleeves did not begin where the sleeve and the dress’s shoulder met. Rather, gigot sleeves started at the top of the arm, aiding in creating a trendy sloping shoulder aspect.

Leech Therapy

Women used a variety of treatments over the years to acquire light skin, which was generally viewed as a symbol of royalty. Some people were willing to go to any length to seem whiter, and bloodletting was the deadliest way they used to do it. Despite its unpleasant nature, using leeches to drain one’s blood became a popular medical technique, and many ladies embraced it.

A drawing of a doctor administering leech therapy.
Source: Wikimedia Commons

When it comes to skin whitening, leech therapy is no longer a prevalent medical procedure. Leeching had a good reputation in the past when it was used to treat various diseases, ranging from fevers to flatulence. Today’s scientists have limited its application, and leeching is currently only performed in microsurgeries to treat venous congestion.

Arsenic Wafers

Scheele’s green dresses weren’t the first arsenic-related fashion trend that proved fatal. During the twentieth century, arsenic wafers were another popular cosmetic product that was harmful, and many women used them to lighten their skin. Women in the nineteenth century did the same with arsenic, much as we do now with vitamins and vegetables to keep our skin shining.

A newspaper ad for arsenic wafers.
Source: Pinterest

They had specific arsenic wafers that they would eat daily, progressively poisoning themselves to get the ill, pale appearance. They ate just enough to make their complexions whiten but not enough to cause them to pass out. Even while skin whitening is still a contentious practice, it’s impossible to imagine a substance used for this reason that was anywhere near as harmful as arsenic wafers.