Function, accessibility, astonishing amounts of politics, and for a period in the 1980s and 1990s are just a few of the many influences on fashion. Thus, if the current athleisure trend is any indication, sickness has controlled nearly every aspect of our existence from the beginning of time till the present, including fashion. The truth is that those designers owe more to various poxes than they probably realize, even though it may not be the most popular topic of conversation at Fashion Week.
Tuberculosis Killed Floor-Length Skirts
People were unaware of the causes of tuberculosis, a disease that kills you so completely that it was once known as “consumption,” throughout the majority of the 19th century. Prominent explanations included being hot, inhaling “poor air,” and heredity. Actually, no. Dainty ladies with willowy proportions and pouty red lips were deemed to be particularly susceptible in a case of mistaking cause with effect. When we finally understood what germs were, however, nobody seemed to make the connection between them and the “poor air” everyone had been complaining about earlier. The typical Victorian woman typically wore a flowing, floor-length skirt, which led to claims that women were walking harbingers of death who brought the disease into the house on the hems of their skirts like extremely proper smallpox blankets.
Whether or not they were on to anything, floor-length skirts died instead, ankle visibility be damned, for decorum means nothing if you’re dead. As hemlines rose, it became increasingly crucial to pay attention to how your shoes appeared, which in retrospect seems obvious. In essence, Carrie Bradshaw was created as a result of her great-great-alleged grandmother’s involvement in super spreading.
Codpieces Became Popular Because of Syphilis
The codpiece’s evident function of getting people to stare at your crotch is obvious to modern eyes. And that most likely wasn’t a bonus. Yet, other historians believe they originated from the syphilis epidemic that struck Europe at the time men began donning them, about 1500. The codpiece was useful for keeping the medication, all the bandages required to prevent them from rubbing off, and the symptoms contained as the disease itself was not exactly a clean and tidy condition at the time and treatment consisted of several sticky ointments.
Yet, it didn’t take long for men who were always engaged in their lords’ pointless wars to figure out that codpieces are pretty darn effective for preventing dick stabbings when engaged in combat. They lost their link with syphilis as soon as you couldn’t determine who was wearing them for drippy dong and who was wearing them for armor. That implies the historical man depicted in any given codpiece-era painting didn’t have junk rot, but given that he lived in an era without antibiotics, it’s likely that he did.
People Also Wore Powdered Wigs Because of Syphilis — And Lice
Powdered wigs unquestionably appear to be a fad that emerged out of some sort of desperation, and it is no accident that they generally corresponded with the codpiece era. Those who could afford it scrambled to disguise their hair loss, another indicator of syphilis, lest their use of Ye Olde Rabbit Ranch is discovered. These wigs were considerably different from the ones worn in modern Drag Race. Soon, people discovered another, equally gross advantage they were frequently made of horse or goat hair, and shampoo technology has improved significantly since then, they were so foul that they needed to be dusted in fragrant powder. Otherwise, your level of public appearance readiness would decline. It wasn’t a desired lewk because no one could be fooled by it, so Louis XIV chose to adopt it to hide his early-onset baldness that wasn’t caused by syphilis.
They performed admirably as fake lice. One of the sad truths of the past was that just avoiding catching lice wasn’t an option, thus wig users generally shaved their heads for a better fit, which resulted in lice infesting their wigs rather than their hair. That meant less scratching and the option to outsource care to your long-suffering neighborhood wigmaker. However, hair powder levies and the Revolutionary War massacre of those who could afford them led to the widespread abandonment of bug carpets.
The pouf à inoculation was not a fad brought on by the need to avoid germs or prevent your dick fluid from spreading everywhere, but rather a proactive public health initiative. No of how successful it had been in other nations, smallpox vaccination at the time still required injecting yourself with a hospice patient’s bodily secretions, so people were understandably leery of that in 1770s France.
Thankfully, Louis XVI—two that’s Louises after the original one—decided to be a man and set an example. It was such a huge deal that Parisian headwear designers came together to create a unique hat filled with symbols that obliquely expressed the story of “Yay, monarchy cured us,” which is so strange when you think about it. Imagine if everyone wore leggings with 2020 Biden stabbed across the butt. But, because the hats were worn by the elite class—whose sole responsibility it was to support the king—everyone else began to covet them. Because wearing the trendy new hat implied support for vaccination, the campaign was extraordinarily successful.
The majority of diseases are quite ugly. You wind up with sores that are leaking all over your face and body, you’re too exhausted to go to the gym, and some of them make you want to shit yourself. Yet, the unsettling reality about tuberculosis was that, at least by Victorian aesthetic standards, it kind of made you into a snack. It makes you look like a supermodel, gives you porcelain skin, makes your lips and cheeks red, shrinks you to supermodel size, and even enlarges your eyes, which we automatically find appealing because it’s a symptom of horniness (even if it’s not very dependable). You typically get a lovely, deathly glow from it.
We also mean “openly, totally embraced” when we say “uncomfortable.” The most upstanding Victorian women started dyeing their faces white, their lips and cheeks crimson, and wearing garments specifically made to give them a more tuberculosis-like figure. Before, wearing overt makeup was deemed whorey. To give them the “inches from death” look, they did indeed administer deadly eye drops. The tanning craze, which was partly sparked by doctors prescribing sunbathing as a treatment for tuberculosis, will undoubtedly appear in 100 years on lists titled Hilarious Ways Humans Extincted Themselves. If all of this sounds insane, think about the “heroin chic” trend of the 1990s and 2020s, or, oh, maybe the tanning trend that was started by doctors prescribing sunbathing.
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