Saturday, September 20, 2014

Shoes and other things

Yesterday I got to use a free pass to the Bata Shoe museum. I didn't take the kids, because I think their interest in shoes is nil. There was an exhibit I wanted to see about deadly Victorian fashions, and see it I did. It was partly about the toxic nature of Victorian material and partly about the deadly social inequality, a society of consumptive women in damp basements making lace (although I don't think they mentioned that one. See, they should pay me to improve the exhibit!) and starving miserable shoeshine boys, and seamstresses gradually put out of work by the invention of the sewing machine.
These are actually Regency

The damask was sooooo beautiful.
There was a brief bit about how awful tanning leather was in the old days. I don't know that it has improved significantly although I assume that tanneries no longer use collected dog crap and stale urine. It wasn't a Victorian thing, though- tanners were people you didn't want as neighbours all throughout history because tanning was a disgusting occupation.
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 The above pairs of shoes were both dyed using one of the early aniline dyes, which used arsenic. I can't remember if they didn't know the stuff was poisonous- previous generations didn't know their powdered white lead face paint was poisonous. According the exhibit the arsenic would gradually leach into the skin, and was eventually denounced (when the public figured it out) from newspapers and pulpits.
I'm glad they were restrained and tasteful

The above were mauve, which I think was the earliest of the artificial dyes. I don't think it said if these ones were poisonous. 

Stunning. Also poisonous, dyed with copper and arsenic

It makes me think of Meg's party dress in Little Women
Although the time is a bit off. It's from 1865, approximately, so it would probably be from a few years later than Meg's. I love the lace bertha. So pretty.

Again with the restraint in colour. According to the exhibit, the brighter colours fell out of fashion partly because of warnings about their danger and partly because as the price dropped the lower classes began wearing them. So they became unfashionable, and the Aethestic movement was born and started shouting for indistinct and jewel tones. Which were also created with aniline dyes, some of them poisonous.

1870s-1880s recreation Late Georgian. Not very convincing, but very beautiful
I'd forgotten that the later nineteeth century had a fascination with the previous hundred years. I mean, I know about the poetry, but I'd forgotten about the clothes. This is almost completely different from an 18th century dress aside from the back.
Which has a falling back
The wasp waist princess seamed gown is really interesting with the sack-back.

There was also a bit about the dangers of the crinoline and corset. Corsets by and large weren't dangerous. Only a few lunatics actually practiced tight lacing, and Victorian corsets were reasonably comfortable. The wide skirts did present considerably hazard, because women cooking or near fireplaces died from their skirts catching fire. Worse with silk and cotton than wool, I'd bet, because wool is naturally fire retardent.

Anyway, that concludes my brief tour of Why You Don't Want to Live in the Victorian Era and Be Poisoned by Your Clothes.


Anonymous said...

I was just catching up and reading old posts and got to the one where you mentioned incorrupt saints and had to go look that up. (I'm not Catholic.) The question that comes to mind is why were they exhuming all of them? Who goes around digging people up to see if they've decomposed or not??

lissla lissar said...

There's a couple of things, although I'm really not an expert. First, lack of corruption is seen as a miraculous reversal of the effects of the Fall. Second, the history of relics is pretty much back to the apostles. Mentioned in Acts, that not only Peter's shadow but clothing the apostles wore would heal people. So Catholics understand that holiness and God's healing can be transmitted through physical objects that were in contact with very holy people.