Evening dresses dyed with arsenic, hats made with mercury, crinolines highly flammable. These and others are the contents of the book “Fashion Victims: The Dangers of Dress Past and Present” written by Alison Matthews David, showing pictures and details about the fashion during the past centuries, focusing particularly on the period between the 1700 and 1930. The book is a surprising as well as dramatic collection of stories about the random and odd deaths that producing or wearing a certain garment had caused.

Above: “Fire”. The horrors of crinoline and the destruction of the human lives, circa 1860. The skirts structure were very popular during the old centuries but also terribly dangerous due to their flammability (Picture from Wellcome Library, London).

Above: the drawing shows the germs that the skirt is able to capture while crawling on the ground. In the meantime, the Death awaits typhoid fever, influenza and other kinds of germs (Picture from The Art Archive at Art Resource, NY).

Above: The Haunted Lady, from a discussion in 1863 of Punch. A woman is standing in front of a mirror and sees the tailor next to her, worn out, that lies dying after having made her gown. (Picture from Toronto Public Library).

Above: The fashion of arsenic, from 1840. The green dress is most likely been dyed with a pigment coming from the dangerous arsenic (picture from Courtesy Bloomsbury).

Above: a chromolithography shows the effects of the arsenic used for the fabrication of artificial flowers on the workers hands, 1859 (Picture from Wellcome Library, London).

Above: the Arsenic Valzer, connected to the use of arsenic as as green pigment, 1862  (Picture from Wellcome Library, London).

Above: the cover of “Fashion Victims”, printed by Bloomsbury

Above: the Revolving Hat, from 1830. The use of mercury in the production of hats lasted for more than 200 years as they did not consider it to be dangerous for its wearers even when they knew about the damages caused to the workers who would make the hats (Picture from Wellcome Images, London).

Above: half a skeleton, fashionable memento mori, 1805 (Picture from Wellcome Images, London).

Above: a postcard for the robe Perkins, highly flammable yet “strongly recommended by Coroner”, 1910.

Above: the harmless “Swan Down”, face powder containing lead, circa 1875-1880

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Matteo Rubboli

I am a publisher specialised in the digital distribution of culture and founder of the portal Vanilla Magazine. I don't wear a tie or branded clothes, I keep my hair short so I don't have to comb it. That's not my fault but just the way I've been drawn as...

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