17 Weird Fashion Ideas From The Past That You’d Agree Are Totally Dumb
Weird fashion ideas from the past are a good lesson for contemporary cloth designers in many ways. First, people back then would go to crazy lengths just to prove where they stand in society. They wouldn’t mind breaking their necks by wearing high platform shoes and teetering or tie themselves in the tightest possible crotchet– everything for the sake of fashion, style and reputation. And secondly, the more exaggerated it was, the better it was for fashion sense. From overlypadded sleeves to codpieces having tons of elaborate embroidery on them, the true fans of fashion have always believed in the golden rule of “the bigger the better”.
And fashion ideas and trends from the past weren’t just crazy, they were dangerous, too. The dyes used in cloths could be toxic arsenic, or the gigantic crinolines were easily highly flammable. And even if a person’s clothing wasn’t exactly a danger per se, most of these weird fashion ideas from the past really impaired one’s ability to move around and live in a comfortable way. For instance, those wearing bliauts weren’t exactly in a position to move around their arms. Similarly, men who took pride in wearing crackowes found it difficult to walk. And those wide panniers that women wore didn’t allow them to go through a door that was very narrow.
Anyway, irrespective of whether these fashion ideas were fatalistic or pure dumb, we can at least be thankful that these ideas are left behind in history. Let’s check out some of the dumbest of fashion trends from the past. Here we go!
The Lotus Shoes
These shoes were usually worn by the Chinese girls having bound feet. In China, a painful process of breaking the feet in order to create tiny ones was the common practice as those were considered more beautiful. The foot was often bandaged up and wasn’t allowed any kind of growth, which later led to the bones breaking up and the toes curling downwards. The entire process was meant for about three years, while the lady’s feet were made tiny for the rest of the life.
Women who had bound feet wore these lotus shoes, which were either sheath-shaped or cone-shaped that looked like a bud from a lotus flower. Made of usually silk or cotton, the shoes often had embroidery on them that included patterns, animals, and flowers mostly.
It’s not like attempts weren’t made to ban this painful method of binding feet, but it never really bore results until it was finally banned by the rulers in the year 1912.
During the Victorian era, the bottle-green garments were probably the most expensive dresses. The reason behind exorbitant prices was that unique shade of green, which was actually achieved by using huge quantities of arsenic-based dye. The effects obviously were bad. Many women suffered impaired vision, skin reactions and nausea because of the dye. However, the only good thing was that since the dresses were very expensive, they were worn on really special occasions only, thereby reducing exposure to this deadly element.
The real damage was caused to the makers, though who died in order to make such fashionable dresses for the rich class.
Stiff Starched Collars
During the nineteenth century, detachable collars were quite a rage, and they were deadly as well. They were starched until they became unbendable, and were attached with a pair of studs. On the other hand, the collar was such that it could easily asphyxiate anyone over a period of time, especially if the person fell asleep wearing it, or while he was drunk!
The pointy collars added to this problem as well. Once, a St. Louis resident tripped and the pointy, sharp collars dug into his throat, which made two deep wounds. The collars, in fact, were so deadly that they were nicknamed “the father killer”!
Panniers is taken from the French word “pannier”, which means “basket”, was a rage from the early seventeenth century to the late eighteenth century. This dress, which was in the form of a boxed petticoat started the trend of expanding the width of dresses such as skirts and was designed in such a manner that it stayed away from the waist on either side. These dresses used to vary in shapes and sizes, but were predominantly made of wood, whalebone, metal, or at times even reeds. Usually, the pannier size depended on the occasion, so a large occasion demanded a bigger pannier. Since it wasn’t exactly a cheap dress, only the rich could afford it, while the servants were supposed to wear the smaller hoops. The panniers were apparently so big that if two women tried to pass through a passage at the same time, they wouldn’t be able to do so! The dress wasn’t exactly comfortable, as it severely restricted the overall body movement.
Slowly, but steadily, the grandiose of this dress started courting ridicule from all quarters. Most magazines carried articles on how the women were completely fed up of this fashion trend, which felt like ‘a chair being hid up on either side of their waits – right up to the ears’, a passage from a leading magazine read.
Crackowes, which was also known by the name of poulaine, was a really long shoe that was immensely popular all across Europe during the latter part of the fourteenth century. These long shoes were named after a place in Poland known as Kraków, as the Polish nobles were the first to wear these trendy shoes. The shoes became a rage the moment someone was spotted wearing them in the courts, even though the crackowes were sometimes up to 24 inches long! However, since these were in great demand, they indicated the social status of the people. Also, the longer the crackow was, the higher the position of its wearer was.
Sometimes, even chains were used to tie up the toe end of the shoe with the knee, in order to make walking easier. At other times, the toes of these long shoes were stuffed with different kinds of materials. However, despite being a rage amongst the nobles, the church leaders and conservatives didn’t approve of this, and even called it “devil’s fingers”!
During the sixteenth century, women from rich families were crazy about extreme platform shoes that were named chopines. The chopines were typically made from cork or wood, and were usually covered in either leather or brocade, and had embroidered velvet on top. The shoes signified the social strata one belonged to, with the higher shoes signifying a higher position in the society.
However, the only bad thing about these shoes was that they didn’t allow the wearer to move around with ease. In fact, women often required the assistance of their servants in order to walk in these really tall shoes.
Crinoline was a kind of hoop skirt that had a bell-shaped design, which really increased the volume of a skirt significantly. The dress was worn during the Victorian era in the nineteenth century, and was actually meant to be a petticoat made from stiff linen and horsehair. However, with the invention of steel cage variation of crinoline, the same level of volume was possible to be achieved without having to suffer the extra heat and the bulkiness of such thick petticoats.
The crinoline was not only difficult to wear and carry, but also quite fatal. For instance, in the year 1858, a Boston woman died when her skirt caught fire from a fireplace. Many such instances were reported in the same year, and the trend later lost popularity.
The second decade of the 20th century saw “The King of Fashion”, the French designer Paul Poiret dominate the fashion ideas. He was the one who introduced the famed hobble skirt. The hobble skirt was a very close-fitting skirt that didn’t allow easy movements of the legs, forcing women to take shorter steps. However, his design did allow women to liberate themselves from those heavy petticoats and the tight corsets. But in his own words, he freed the bust, but shackled the legs!
The aristocratic men from the British society used to wear really big wigs that had a small hat or a feather at the top in the 1760s. The men who sported this look apparently brought it with them from the “Grand Tour” that they took across Continental Europe that was intended to impart them a “deep cultural knowledge”. However, the style was actually named after the famous Italian dish, which in fact signifies sophistication.
The popular British rhyme, “Yankee Doodle,” would sing:
A-riding on a pony,
Stuck a feather in his cap
And called it macaroni.
The lyrics of this rhyme were actually meant as a satire of the idea that by sticking a feather in one’s hair, any commoner could think of himself as sophisticated and valuable as “macaroni”. Despite this rhyme, this fashion trend actually was quite in rage and continued to be a popular choice amongst the masses until at least the next twenty-odd years.
During the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, men used to draw attention to their packages with codpieces. These codpieces were quite often made of embroidered fabric, padded cloth, or sometimes even metal. The codpiece was held in place by use of ties, buttons, strings, and was supposed to draw praise. The name itself was quite bawdy, as “cod” was actually a slang used for the word scrotum!
Michel de Montaigne, a French philosopher, however was a severe critic of the dress. In the late 1580s, he described the codpiece as a vague and useless device that doesn’t even have a decent name, but is quite fondly worn by men in the public.
The codpieces ultimately lost prominence, as the breeches and doublet styles gained more popularity amongst the masses.
The Roaring ‘20s saw the boyish flapper figure gain popularity and underwear got a significant fashion boost, while the hourglass shape fell out of fashion. The primary aim of every piece of an undergarment was to make sure the breasts and the torso looked flattened, so that flapper dresses didn’t have any curvaceous ‘interruptions’, and could hang down in a straight manner.
This led to the corset-makers R. & W.H. Symington inventing a new garment, which was known as the Symington Side Lacer and was meant to flatten the breasts. A woman could easily wear this garment over her head and then tighten the side laces and pull the straps to make sure her curves were smoothened. The other garment manufacturers also took advantage of this fashion and made their own similar devices. For instance, the Miracle Reducing Rubber Brassiere was made without the use of bones or lacings, while the famous Bramley Corsele was actually a combination of corset and brassiere that could be slipped under any dress quite easily.
Women have been using corsets and their variations right from the fifth century. The corsets were initially made from stiff fabric, and then gradually evolved into a cage-like dress that was made out of whalebone, steel or sometimes even wood. The corsets were so constricting that they even displaced the organs inside the body, and ended up causing health issues such as constipation and indigestion – but never fatal.
In fact, experts agree on the fact that most people have been misinformed about this dress. Valerie Steele, the director of Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology goes on to say that people of the modern era think that corsets were deadly, and caused all sorts of problems such as cancer and scoliosis, which is quite inaccurate. In fact, the diseases that have been credited to these constricting dresses are in fact a result of other causes. However, that doesn’t mean they didn’t or weren’t capable of causing other minor health issues.
During the late sixteenth century, there was an immense popularity for body stuffing called bombast, which was worn by both men and women. Most commonly used material for stuffing was cotton, wool or sometimes even sawdust, to add some volume to each part of the clothing, particularly to the sleeve length.
Men often used to fill their doublets that made it look like they had a full belly, or used padding to their calves to look brawnier.
During the 12th century, men and women from Europe started wearing an ornate garment that had floor-length sleeves. This name of this garment, called bliaut or bliaud, is a word that comes from the Old French and Germanic origins and is actually the root word for the modern word “blouse”. The bliaut was extremely popular because of its long sleeves, which made a dramatic impression upon others, but at the same time, severely restricted the movements. The bliauts were usually made of wool or silk, but sometimes even of other favorite fabrics of the nobles.
The exact origin of the bliaut isn’t well-known, but most historians now believe that this garment actually made its way to the European lands during the Crusades.
The 1870s of the Victorian Era saw the rise of Victorian bustles, which were also known by the name of “Grecian bend”. The first version of this fashion idea involved excess fabric being draped towards the back of the dress a lady was wearing. Slowly, new variations came into being and the skirts were often puffed up by using cushions that were filled with straws. The ladies who decided to wear them ended up looking like voluptuous figures having outthrust hindquarters!
In fact, the bust was always ridiculed. In the year 1868, a young lady named Laura Redden Searing – having pen name Howard Glyndon – wrote how the young women went through pain and ridicule just to follow the fashion trend of the noble classes. She compared the fashion trend as something that required ‘Spartan courage’!
A leading temperance advocate and newspaper editor of the 1850s, Amelia Bloom started a trend that encouraged women to wear fewer constricting clothes and more practical ones. Her newspaper, The Lily, was the original place where she, along with activist and writer Elizabeth Smith Miller began promoting the “Bloomer suit”. The bloomer suit consisted of trousers that were worn underneath a knee-length skirt and a vest, and the suit gained immense popularity with other temperance activists and women.
However, the women who chose to wear this bloomer suit were harassed by people, as it was considered scandalous by the society’s standards at that time. In fact, many editorials were written about how the Bloomer suit actually exposed a woman’s mystery by revealing way too much! The Bloomer suit was ridiculed by the press and society until it was finally pushed out of trend, but not before it made a mark on fashion.
The muslin dress, which was considered quite risqué and sheer, was made popular by Marie Antoinette, the last Queen of France. It was quite the dawn of a new era where women felt more comfortable in showing skin at the French court. However, the fabric wasn’t suitable for the winters, as it was extremely thin and offered almost zero insulation. Rumors also made rounds that some women would even wet themselves down with water or perfumes to show off their body, which exposed them to the climatic elements even more.
The muslin dress, according to numerous historians, actually led to more than eighteen hundred influenza outbreaks in the city of Paris, and it took the lives of many women because of the “muslin-disease”!