kinny jeans have been given a health warning, after an Australian woman had to be cut out of a pair. BBC Culture looks at five of the worst fashion disasters.
Giving new meaning to the phrase ‘fashion victim’, a 35-year-old Australian woman had to be cut out of a pair of skinny jeans after developing a condition called compartment syndrome. It’s not the first time someone has succumbed to a dangerous style trend: “They’ve always been around, since the Stone Ages,” says Summer Streves, the author of Fashionably Fatal. “It’s when fashion is taken to an extreme; I call it vanity insanity.” Here are five of the deadliest fads in history.
The structured petticoat did more than just enhance a silhouette. During the 19th Century, at the peak of the crinoline’s popularity, there were several high-profile deaths by skirt fire. In July 1861, the poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow rushed to help his wife after her dress caught fire. She died the following day. Oscar Wilde’s two half-sisters also died of burns after they went too close to an open fire in ball gowns. One case, in 1858, prompted the New York Times to proclaim that “an average of three deaths per week from crinolines in conflagration, ought to startle the most thoughtless of the privileged sex; and to make them, at least, extraordinarily careful in their movements and behaviour, if it fails… to deter them from adopting a fashion so fraught with peril”.
Invented in the 19th Century, the detachable collar meant men didn’t have to change their shirt every day. It was also starched to a stiffness that proved lethal. “They were called ‘father killer’, or ‘Vatermörder’ in German,” says Streves. One 1888 obituary in The New York Times was headlined ‘Choked by his collar’; a man called John Cruetzi had been found dead in a park, and “the Coroner thought the man had been drinking, seated himself on a bench, and fell asleep. His head dropped over on his chest and then his stiff collar stopped the windpipe and checked the flow of blood through the already contracted veins, causing the death to ensue from asphyxia and apoplexy.”
The undergarment that shrank waistlines long before Spanx had an influence on language as much as women’s bodies: it spawned the term ‘strait-laced’, lending a Victorian respectability to its wearer, as well as ‘loose women’ – implying that those who were corset-less had morals as free as their lacing.