Most dangerous trends in fashion that killed people back in the day

fashion that kills

Fashion is very much a vital element of human existence. Throughout history, fashion fads and trends have dominated appearances and looks. And while the importance of fashion in going beyond the aesthetics is gaining ground in the modern day, people of earlier times used to accord a somewhat ridiculous importance to style. In fact beauty was so obsessed about that people went to unusual extents to be and look fashionable. Be it starkly outrageous or outright fatal manifestations, fashion trends over the ages have seen really bizarre instances of extremities. Here are some of the most dangerous trends in fashion that even killed people back in the days-

Arsenic wafers

Back in the days wafers used to be just another form of poison. Arsenic wafers were nibbled on all day long by women in pursuit of the sick, pale white look. These wafers were advertised as safe even when it was a blatant oxymoron of the times, as women resorted to these deadly bites to rid their skin of blemishes and coarse textures. Such was the obsession with being spotless that they preferred to be lifeless!

Foot binding

Among the more famous of the dangerous trends that dominated fashion of the ancient times is China’s foot binding practice. Women were expected to have small, dainty feet which led to the painful practice of bending the feet to fit inside mere 4 inch large lotus shoes. Young girls between the ages of four to nine had to wrap their foot with bandages continuously for two years in order to mould them into the desired shape and size. The practice was undoubtedly painful and came to be banned in 1912.

Aniline socks

Source: The Good Men Project

Aniline dyed socks that dominated the fashion scene of the 1860s were the cause of death of many. As the chemical laced socks leached onto the skin causing inflammation and blood poisoning and even cancer, fashion enthusiasts increasingly fell victim to mindless fads.


Source: Writing Endeavour

Crinolines used to be really flared dresses that women of the mid ’80s would put on with the least qualms. However, crinolines used to be made of layers of inflammable material which was a sure shot invitation for disaster. Going frilly in one of those crinolines led many women to be burnt alive or even being seriously injured by the flaring intensity that led to be easily caught and trampled by the winds.

Needled eyelash extensions

Source: LashBeePro

Eyelash extensions have forever been a popular beauty fad. But while modern day extensions are hassle free, the ones of yore were quite dangerous as they had to be sewn in to the extreme edges of the eyelid. While we are fretting out at the mere thought of having the needle work upon something as delicate as the eyes, daring woman used to actually do it with flair!

Tapeworm diet

Source: ABC

This one is outright ridiculous. Imagine the obsession that had women resorting to popping in tapeworm pills to remain thin and slim! Not only is this life threatening, the tapeworm diet is also outrageous. Pills that came with tapeworm eggs were happily consumed by women of the early 1900s to let these tapeworm hatch in the intestines so that they would feed off on all the food! The diet might have led women to slim down but also led to complications. Intestinal blockages and brain cysts were rampant occurrences among women adhering to the diet.


Corsets were, and still are, one of the most extreme manifestations of fashion in the human psyche. While slipping into these corsets are an ordeal because of their almost non existent diameter, women and even men turned to this fashion equipment with surprising frequency.

Corsets continue to be preferred by fashionistas even now though they have a choice. Back in the times however, putting on a corset was mandatory because it would slim dow the waist over time and lead to a more appealing figure. The visual effect surely was breathtaking but the accompanying health disasters were appalling. From passing out due to constricted breathing to having broken ribs, digestive problems, hysteria, melancholy, and constipation, corsets have to be among the most dangerous of fashion trends over the times.


Long pointy shoes called crakows were all the rage during late 14th century even in the face of widespread criticism. Because they were unduly long, crakows could not have been effective as footwear. Walking in them is a tough task and also dangerous, so much so that they were referred to as the Devil’s fingers and eventually banned.


In Japan, unlike in many other parts of the world, the color black is a supposed to be a vital enhancing factor of fashion. Teeth blackening referred to as Ohaguro used to be one of the really weird practices that ruled the fashion scenario in Japan at one point of time. Tea oxidized with iron fillings and flavoured up with spices used to be the regular brew particularly for married women who were deemed by custom to dye their teeth black. Though the practice was found to be beneficial for dental health, we bet folks unaccustomed to the practice would pass out at just the sighting of a pair of witchy black dentals smiling wickedly at them!

Neck rings

Standards of beauty neccesitate that women have slender, elongated necks that look graceful and more feminine. Unsurprisingly then, conforming to the norms were the Kayan women of Manipur who used to wear multiple brass coils around their neck. Toddler girls, merely of 5, were made to submit to this mindless torture, with the weights increasing as per the age. And needless to say, like other ridiculous trends that catch the fancy of the human race obsessed with beauty, the neck rings did not serve the purpose expected of it. The necks weren’t elongated; instead they deformed the neck shape and pushed the collarbone down only lending the illusion of a longer neck.

Arsenic dress

The extent to which people can go for aesthetics can seriously drive you crazy. The deadly element arsenic was exploited to dye dresses a pretty green color, worn by fashionistas without even battling eyelids. Over time as arsenic leached in to the body and caused cancer, the dress became a cause of multiple deaths. The dress indeed was a sea of prettiness but it came at a huge cost.

Belladonna eyedrops

Organic make up products of today might not be poison to your skin but back in the day even natural ingredients were so mindlessly used that it could be lethal. 16th century Italian women used to lace their eyes with belladonna infused eyedrops. Now while belladonna is a plant, it is extremely toxic even in small amounts. Women in pursuit of beauty however administered doses of this drops to the eyes to dilate the pupils and make the eyes look larger and hence more attractive.

Muslin disease

Muslin dresses dotted the fashion scene in Europe in the early 18th century but not in the way you would expect clothes to be. European women of those time used to don the dressed that were first allowed to be soaked in water so that their silhouettes were rendered instantly visible. It was scandalous no doubt because of the see-through aspect but it was no less hazardous for health as well. Spending hours in these wet dresses led most women to suffer from pneumonia and ultimately succumb to the extreme exertions.

Radioactive makeup

Source: Wikipedia

When Marie Curie discovered radium, she claimed the Nobel Prize. But what the fashion world made out of this historic discovery was sheer lunacy. Beauty products like creams and lipsticks and even hair products came to be based out of radium. The chemical was supposed to energize skin and render hair glossier. It sure did all of that and much more- causing anemia, internal bleeding, hair fall and eventually cancer.

Lead face paint

The obsession with thy fair lady isn’t any recent phenomena. The 18th century saw men and women paint their faces a ghastly white with what was lead paint. Lead is a very toxic heavy metal and the white make-up swelled up the eyes and also led to inflammation of the skin while causing teeth enamel to be seriously damaged. Needless to say it also led to slow, tortured deaths.

Stiff high collar


Fashion for men in the 19th century was strongly invested in the high collar trend. These detachable collars however were the cause of rampant deaths, leading them to be dubbed the Father Killers. These collars were so stiff and tight that they hampered blood circulation and caused asphyxia. Even the edges of the high collars were sharp enough to behead any man and matter.


High heels have forever been a fashion statement. And while the ones of the present times are still dangerous, the Europe of the 15th to 17th centuries were witness to footwear as high as three feet tall! Toppling over such high wedges were the order of the day leading to numerous injuries and even death.

Rib removal

Source: The Vintage News

The ridiculous extents to which people ventured for fashion have never been more evident than in the heart shuddering practice of rib removal. Removing the rib is an extreme procedure even for medical conditions and to subject your body to such torture, all in the name of fashion, is madness. But people of the Victorian era largely opted for such to attain a slimmer waist.