Rabbit Holes: Fashion History

Because I never claimed that all of my interests were practical.

  • Here is an illustrated history of women’s fashion (for wealthy Western women).  It’s a neat collection of fashion plates and sewing patterns from 1784 to 1970, and tells you a lot about the popularity of different silhouettes/colors over that time.
  • There are a few interesting related threads on Reddit, where the above illustrated history originated.  I particularly liked the ones about the colors of Victorian fashion and about historical working women’s fashion.
  • One thing I was surprised no one brought up: those beautiful green dresses of the 18th century were deadly poisonous.  The green dresses from the early 1860s were particularly startling, because in 1861 there was a widely publicized case of an artificial flower maker dying a horrible death from those poisonous green pigments.  (This also solves a long-standing mystery for me about why many fashion people really resist making green clothing.)
  • Speaking of dyes, but in a less terrible and morbid way, here is an interesting history of nail polish.
  • High heels!  Who thought they were a good idea?  Answer: Persians, for riding horses.  Before the riding heel, there were chopines, platform shoes women teetered on as a region-specific display of material wealth (leatherworking in Spain, textiles in Italy).  Also, men complained about the frivolity and costs of these fashion elements that were meant to display men’s wealth and status.

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