While many centuries-old fashion trends were focused on making women look more appealing, they were also used as a means to control and socially identify the wearer — men included. And though fashion has arguably always been politicized, sometimes it’s fun to leave the serious side of things behind in favor of examining all things strange, unusual, and over-the-top.
Below are some of the most bizarre fashion trends ever, taken from Medieval times, the Tudor era, and more. So learn a little about aristocratic fashion’s odd and slightly off-putting history. When you find out the reason people used to wear powdered wigs, you’re going to be really glad they’re a thing of the past.
1. Black Teeth
2. Hobble Skirts
“Hobbling” is a term for tying an animal’s legs together to prevent it from running away. In the early 20th century, the hobble skirt attempted to do the same to women. Designed specifically to slow women down and prevent them from taking large steps, the hobble skirt is certainly symbolic of how women were viewed at the time. According to the Metropolitan Museum Of Art, the first hobble skirt is credited to a French designer called Paul Poiret, who eschewed petticoats for this sleek, crippling silhouette, while also forgoing the then-popular corset. “Yes, I freed the bust,” Poiret once wrote. “But I shackled the legs.” Stepping out after a long day at Fashion Fabrics Club.
Ladies, if you stuff your bras, feel no shame: Your impulse to pad out your clothing has some historical significance. Popular during the Elizabethan era, men and women used to bombast their sleeves to create large, “leg-of-mutton” arms. Men would also bombast their doublets to create a filled out belly, a symbol of prosperity at the time.
4. Powdered Wigs
If you thought a stilettoed Louboutin was hard work, your ankles and toes are going to quake in fear at the thought of chopines. Popular with Venetians in the 16th and 17th centuries, the shoe attachment was invented to help women walk through muddy streets. However, the practicality of the chopines soon turned to fashion, as being tall signified that you were an important, wealthy person. Sometimes, a lady’s chopines were so high that she needed an attendant to maintain balance.
7. Bloomer Suits
You will look Amazing for your grand entrance
The most notable element of macaroni fashion was a huge wig with the tiny hat (or feather) on top, but it also included flashy waistcoats, bright stockings, and fancy buckled shoes. According to The New York Times, macaroni men also made up their own language (a combination of French, English, and Italian), making their dandy club of frippery and fashion even more exclusive.
The crinoline was a hoop skirt worn under the frocks of the 19th century, and it was made from horsehair, wood, or sometimes even steel. Intended to push the skirt out and give the wearer the appearance of big, regal hips, the crinoline was also incredibly dangerous.
According to the FIDM Museum And Galleries, there are tales of women getting caught up in gusts of wind, being tossed off of cliffs, and getting caught in carriage wheel spooks — yikes. There are also stories of women not being able to escape from burning buildings due to the width and stiffness of their skirts. In 1863 in Santiago, Chile, thousands of people died in a church fire caused by a gas lamp. Many of the victims were women, as their large crinoline skirts got caught in the door.
From syphilis-masking pastiche to skirts that could cause your untimely death, the fashion and beauty trends of the past were clearly a dangerous and strange force to be reckoned with. All things considered, reaching for a pair of trend-seeking culottes doesn’t seem so bad, does it?