Throughout the history of the World, men and women of all ages and all nations have been willing, nay, desperate, to do the most atrocious things to themselves and their children in order to keep in fashion. When it comes to matters of vanity, all of humanity is gripped with insanity.
Since the beginning of recorded history, many ideas of what is "beautiful" have come and gone. There has never been a single idea of what to be beautiful is. Indeed many men and women once thought to be beautiful now seem grotesque to modern eyes. Surely in the future many of the ideas promoted in fashionable colour supplements will be viewed with the same abhorrence, with little thought to those who actually strived for that false ideal; the achievement of being fashionably beautiful. This is an ideal to which many have been willing to sacrifice not only the beauty they had but also their lives, gaining nothing as a result.
The desire to be thin is not a new one for women. During the Hundred Years War, a war fought between England and France from 1337-1443, Charles VI of France's wife Princess Isbeau of Bavaria decreed that her ladies-in-waiting should have a waistline between 10-13 inches, resulting in many of their deaths. During the Renaissance a Medici duchess used an iron corset to gain a 13-inch waist.
The Corset Consequence
Corsets as tight as these caused the stomach and back muscles in the women wearing them to atrophy, meaning that they were no longer even able to sit up without corsets and were forced to wear them in bed. In extreme cases autopsies confirmed that the women's liver had all but been cut in two, with other organs forced out of their natural position.
Tight corsets deeply affected the lungs, and therefore the way the wearer breathed. Women wearing them were forced to breathe from their chest alone, and not from their abdomen as is normal. The tight corsets therefore meant that women were forced to breath quickly and shallowly, a habit which often resulted in fainting at the least.
During the Victorian age, wearing tight corsets was an act women chose to inflict on themselves as adults, despite the advice of Doctors and men who described women in tight corsets as looking "like ants with a slender tube connecting the bust to the bottom". In 1837 a book was published on the deformities of women's chests caused by corsets, showing how tight corsets injured the organs and spine. In 1850 Doctor Copeland wrote in his Medical
Dictionary that women not only endangered their spine, but also their uterine organs. Women who wore corsets during pregnancy and even childbirth were likely to suffer from inverted nipples, nipples forced into the breasts, meaning breast-feeding was impossible.
Yet despite this, women continued to wear corsets, ignoring the evidence of the harm they did in order to appear in fashion.
One of the most cruel and tragic tales of a people trying to keep in fashion is that of the Chinese practice of footbinding that lasted a thousand years, but thankfully is now illegal.
The idea of footbinding was simple; women would cripple themselves and their daughters until they were unable to walk, and hoped somehow that this would make them attractive. It was a symbol of status; only a rich man would be able to marry a woman unable to walk. A woman unable to walk would also appeal to a man's sympathy, as he would go out of his way to help and protect her. It also meant that his wife was unlikely to have affairs with other men if she could not leave the house on her own.
When exactly footbinding began is unknown. The story is that the Southern Tang Emperor Li Yu, who reigned from 961-975 AD, fell in love with a small-footed concubine called Lovely Maiden and decreed that all women should emulate Lovely Maiden and have small feet.
Many societies believe that mothers and their daughters have a special bond, but this did not prevent a nation of mothers from torturing their children over several generations in the name of fashion. A ten foot long bandage was wound round each foot, forcing the four small toes into the foot while the big toe was left unbound, forced upwards to form a crescent. The child's foot was left 2-3 inches long, and was said to resemble a lotus. Many women and children died from gangrene or amputation as a result of having their feet bound.
The Renaissance was a time of enlightenment, art, science, discovery and deadly make-up. Venice became the centre of a new industry; make-up. The make-up industry was embraced by the fashionable elite, a society was formed for testing the make-up which included Queen Catherine De Medici of France. Queen Elizabeth I also regularly used White Lead. In Venice they specialised in the selling of Venetian ceruse, from the 16th to 19th Centuries. Venetian Ceruse was made of white lead, which was poisonous when absorbed through the skin's pores.
The women who wore the make-up, like those who wore corsets in the 19th Century, were not ignorant of the danger their make-up posed. Physicians at the time warned them of the danger of the ingredients in their make-up, and the Church preached that they were punishing themselves for their vanity, but for the women wearing the make-up only being in Fashion mattered.
Venetian Ceruse had an affect of making women's skin look like a ghastly, white mask, as if the women had been coated in plaster. The women who wore it normally just kept adding the mixture now and then rather than wash the old layer off. The effects of the white lead was that it rotted the wearer's teeth, creating a terrible bad breath in the process, turned their skin different colours; yellow, green and red. Hair could fall out, the eyes would swell and inflame, watering often in agony. The mouth and throat would become affected and gradually destroy the woman's lungs.
Another fashionable make-up ingredient was mercury. It was believed to clear the skin of spots and freckles, which it did, but also removed the skin and corroded the flesh from most faces also. The woman's teeth would fall out and the gums would recede. The mercury did not just inflict the wearer, but the poison stayed within the woman's body and was passed on to her children.
And the list continues; the things people have done to themselves is too long to ever know. How can we mention every silly self-inflicted stupid masochist attack on themselves each man or woman has done? In Europe at the end of the 18th Century, women were willing to cut their toes off just to wear smaller shoes. In Africa, women have elongated their necks with rings, broadened their lips with plates and stretched their ear lobes.
Today, in America and throughout the world, as a "modern civilisation" we have not stopped this gruesome trend that has lasted throughout history, no, rather we have used our inventive mind to think up new, advanced ways to inflict pain on ourselves using special technology. Our cruelty is no longer just inflicted on ourselves and our children, instead animals have make-up tested on them to see what side affects they have, as well as being farmed for their skins and furs, not because there is no other way to keep warm in winter, but because it is fashionable.
Now, as we are living in an advanced age, we no longer see clothes as merely the tool we use to keep warm and dry, but rather we allow our clothes to use us. Many of us go to work or send our own children to school wearing a uniform that includes a tie. The tie is a device designed to be uncomfortable and slowly strangle the wearer whilst looking ghastly, and can only be the invention of a sick mind, yet its use continues, merely because it is fashionable.
"I'm so worried about the fashions today I don't think they're good for your feet" - Terry Gilliam
In the Western World, a large number of women's favourite hobby is buying shoes that are going to cause them feet disorders. Just because that is what the fashionable thing to do is. High heels and pointy toes often just produce blisters, which is not too serious a problem, but can also result in corns.
One of the extremes many people go to in the pursuit of looking fashionable is undergoing Plastic Surgery. In 2001 in the UK £211,000,000 was spent on cosmetic surgery, with 33% of operations being liposuction, 19% "tummy tucks" and 15% breast implants. That's 8,000 breast implants last year just in the UK, with a quarter under 18, some in girls as young as 15.
Rhinoplasty, commonly called "nose job", routinely involves breaking the nose in order to change its shape.
Silicon implants in women have left women with bigger problems than having to buy bigger bras. Silicon implants have been known to burst, leaking silicon into the wearer's body. This results in silicon poisoning and necrosis, a flesh-eating conditioning. Skin can turn black and often stinks, chest pains and vomiting are common and in more extreme cases results in poikilthermia 1
paralysis, arthritis, and heart attacks.
Even today in Western Society it is still apparently fashionable to be thin. No-one knows exactly why, afterall a more rounded woman has long been admired, especially in Rubenesque paintings. Gerry Halliwell was a woman once considered to be one of the World's most attractive examples of the fair sex2, having ample curves etc. She then decided to lose weight and market a Yoga video, and in what is surely one of the best advertisements against yoga, now looks like a blond lamppost.
Liposuction and "tummy tucks" have resulted in women left with two belly buttons, no belly-button, severely damaged stomachs and even deaths. For those who cannot or are unwilling to pay the extortionate rates charged for the ridiculous idea of having your stomach sliced in half and your body fat removed with a trumped-up vacuum cleaner, eating disorders such as anorexia have resulted. Just because those involved want to be in fashion.
A Whiter Shade Of Pale
One idea that keeps changing in the world of fashion is that of skin colour, especially in regard to sun tans. Until recently it was the fashion in Europe for women to have the whitest possible skin. Only the working class who had to work outside would get a sun tan, so a white skin showed that you did not have to work, and were therefore important. More recently it has become fashionable in Europe and America to get a dark sun-tan by exposing your body to the sun's radiation and killing all your skin's cells. A tan is a layer of unhealthy, dead skin, yet that does not deter many of us from going out of our way to get an all-over sunburn on our back and on our legs.
While at the time that many people are lying underneath giant sunlamps trying to get a darker skin, many others, especially in Asia are trying to get lighter skin. Skin-whitening laser treatment is growing in popularity. Patients go beneath lasers that look as if they've been borrowed from the set of Goldfinger on the grounds that it would result in lighter skin, but in reality poses significant risks.
In conclusion, there seems no end to humankind's stupidity, and sheer mad inventiveness, when it comes to creating and following absurd fashions. There can be no denying that, should it become fashionable to emulate that paragon of beauty, the Venus de Milo, and have both arms amputated, many otherwise perfectly normal people would fight tooth and claw to be among the first to follow her example.A596478TatoosIs the necktie dying?