Not all that long ago, pretty much everything could kill us. It wasn’t uncommon for loads of high society Victorian peeps to drop like flies, courtesy of the weirdest way to kick the bucket ever… deadly clothing.
Toronto’s Bata Shoe Museum is currently hosting one of the coolest (if not the only) death-and-clothing related exhibits ever, entitled "Fashion Victims: The Pleasures and Perils of Dress in the 19th Century." The exhibition is made up of 90+ clothing items that have all… well, killed people.
In the days before proper testing, dyes were made out of things like picric acid, arsenic, and an array of other horrifyingly-toxic chemicals. When it was first created, mauve dyes were the biggest thing since sliced bread, and everyone wanted something dyed soft purple. Turns out that the synthetics were deadly, and the fashion forward paid the price.
Other offenders were exploding hair combs, flammable tulle that when ignited set groups of ballerinas on fire, and beaver-fur hats that contained mercury, coincidentally spawning the term “Mad as a Hatter.” But the worst of the worst was a dye used to create garments tinged emerald green...
Ladies and men all over the world were elated when a man by the name of Carl Wilhelm was able to actually create a color-fast green, a welcome departure from the blue and yellow dyes that were common to the period. Unfortunately, everyone found out that mixing arsenic and copper in order to hold the pigment was also insanely toxic, and in most cases, deadly. Who knew?