Every era has its fair share of insane fashion and beauty trends and the Victorian era is no different. The Victorian era’s insane trends particularly stand out for their ability to endanger the health of those following them. So today we look back at some of the crazier trends from that period.
Today we know how much of a dangerous poison arsenic is, but that wasn’t necessarily the case in the Victorian era. During this time pale skin was the beauty ideal, it was a sign of class as it meant that you didn’t have to work outdoors. Arsenic would cause women’s skin to become extremely pale, as such many women would go to arsenic spring baths to attain that desired complexion.
Cosmetics containing lead were another way to achieve a flawless pale complexion. Lead was present in lotions and powders and some cosmetics even contained the extremely radioactive radium. Pale skin with red lips was the beauty trend that dominated the Victorian era and the lipstick used by Victorians contained the very dangerous poison ammonia mixed with the boiled and crushed up bodies of insects (carmine). Eye make up also contained mercury and eyedrops contained nightshade, an incredibly dangerous plant that would dilate the pupils when administered.
The ideal figure during the Victorian times was that of an extreme hourglass figure. Therefore, Victorian women laced their bodies in the tightest of corsets to achieve an extremely slender waist. This of course was incredibly dangerous to the internal organs and would cause frequent fainting.
The crinoline cage was an essential part of creating that much sought after hourglass figure. It was a cage like structure that sat underneath the skirts and would hold them out. It was very difficult to move around effortlessly while wearing a crinoline cage. Indeed it was incredibly easy to trip over them and run into things that could potentially cause great harm.
Tuberculosis was endemic during the Victorian era and it had become somewhat romanticised. The physical symptoms of tuberculosis included pale skin and a thinner waist, which were two highly desired traits by Victorian women. Before germ theory emerged, one way Victorians judged a woman’s susceptibility to the disease was whether she was attractive or not.