January 14th kicks off India’s Pongal Festival – day three
Beauty is pain, or so we’ve been led to believe by the fashion industry. For hundreds of years people have been willing to suffer to keep up with the latest trends. Sometimes though we go overboard, with fashion being linked to serious health problems and even death. If you’re afraid of death by fashion, avoid these trends new and old.
1. High Heels
Most people know the dangers of high heels at this point, but we could always use a reminder. Not only are high heels simply a tripping hazard (unless you’re Miss J) that come with risks of sprained or broken ankles, they also cause damage to your feet, legs, and back, some of which can last a lifetime.
2. Heavy handbags
It seems like the modern woman needs to have a small arsenal of random goods on her person at all times in order to deal with whatever life throws at her. Enter the trend for larger and larger handbags. And with those larger handbags comes a lot of strain on your shoulders, back, tendons, and muscles. This can lead to pain, headaches, and muscle tension, some of which becomes serious enough to need medical attention.
3. Tooth Lacquering
In Japan, Vietnam, and China, black teeth were considered extremely beautiful starting in the early 200s AD. In order to get this lovely look, people would chemically lacquer their teeth. Unfortunately the chemicals they used to get the dark teeth commonly caused painful reactions. On the plus side, the process did help prevent tooth decay.
4. Muslin disease
People today like to complain that women’s clothes have become too skimpy, but in the early 1800s it was common for women to wet their dresses before they went out so that you could see through the fabric. Notably, most lower class women could not wear underwear due to weight restrictions of clothing. Not only is this trend scandalous, but it also led to an outbreak of pneumonia cases due to the cold weather and the less than adequate clothing.
In many times and places, fashion trends have been dictated by the rich. The most extreme example might be from Elizabethan England, when sugar was only available to the rich and dental care was available to no one. Due to this combination of factors, the wealthy started to get some serious tooth decay going on. Their solution? Say it was in fashion. Lower classes mimicked the trend with black powder on their teeth.
6. Lead face paint
Another gem from the Elizabethan era, the trend was for women to have extremely pale skin. In order to get that look, they would spread a mixture that included white lead in it all over their faces. Unsurprisingly, this caused a few problems including leaving the skin gray and saggy over time, as well as more serious problems like the shakes, hair loss, stomach problems, and sometimes death.
7. Father killers
Now what, you might be asking, is a father killer? Good question. It’s actually just a high, stiff collar, as were popular in the 19th century. Unfortunately, these collars were so tight that they could cause asphyxiation and actually killed a number of people.
Who wouldn’t want to have a lovely green dress to wear? Especially in France in the early 1800s, when the dye known as Paris green was so popular, it was a piece no woman could do without. Until doctors started noticing that people who wore the dresses died early. And then the recipe for the dye was published. That lovely green color? It was the result of arsenic.
Another well-known fashion culprit, corsets could make it difficult to breathe, leading to fainting, would change the shape of the spine and rib cage, move around the internal organs (causing some digestive problems), potentially cause damage to babies or uterine prolapse, and even allow your back muscles to atrophy.
10. Rib removal
There’s some controversy about whether rib removal actually exists. Many people suggest that it is a myth that women in Victorian times would remove a rib to make it easier to wear their corsets. However, rib removal is available through some plastic surgeons today. Very few surgeons will perform the procedure as it’s incredibly invasive, leaves important organs unprotected, and is too extreme to be considered for an elective procedure.
11. Foot binding
Originating in the 10th century and continuing all the way through the early 20th century, it was common in China to curl a young girl’s toes to the underside of her foot and bind them there. This usually involved breaking the toes and the arch of the foot, repeatedly binding the feet tighter and tighter, and often leaving the bones broken for years at a time. Beyond the extreme pain of the procedure, it was also common for the foot to get infected which sometimes led to death from septic shock.