Fatal Fashion; A Steampunk Feminist Perspective

English, early 1860s. In 1856 when William Henry Perkins accidently invented mauve, the first synthetic dye, a new age of colour in fashion was born. Soon vibrant and often gaudy synthetic colours were the toast of fashion but many of these hues also came with risk to wearer. Arsenic and picric acid to name a few were just some of the toxic chemicals used in create coloured clothing. This pair of mauve boots shows the brilliance of the new synthetic colour. Collection of the Bata Shoe Museum Photo credit: Image © 2014 Bata Shoe Museum, Toronto, Canada (photo: Ron Wood)

Mauve boots dyed with the new synthetic colour dye containing arsenic, picric acid, and other toxic chemicals, circa 1860s, from the collection of the Bata Shoe Museum

It is estimated that, during the late 1850s and late 1860s in England, about 3,000 women were killed in crinoline-related fires. In 1861, Fanny Appleton Longfellow died from the burns when her dress caught fire. In 1871, Oscar Wilde’s half-sisters, Emily and Mary, died of burns sustained after their evening gowns caught fire.

The Tragedy of Continental Theatre Fire in Philadelphia, 1861. Six or nine ballerinas died (reports vary). Four of fatalities were from the one family; they were the celebrated Gale sisters, from England. The problem was the flammable gauze of the costumes, that blazed fiercely when alight.

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Filed under Fashion, Plot, Steampunk, Steampunk Feminist, Steampunk Genre, writing

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