Stylized map as background

6. Fashion Victims

6. Fashion Victims

In the 19th century, the beautiful outfits fashioned by seamstresses and shoemakers supplied the privileged with beautiful ensembles. Swathed in expensive garments and delicate footwear, fashion-forward women graced the boulevards and the ballrooms with their colourful presence. Their tailored male companions cut equally refined figures in their black coats, spotless white linens, lustrous top hats and shiny boots. Yet presenting an elegant exterior was not without its perils. The discomfort of constricting corsets and impossibly narrow footwear was matched by the dangers of wearing articles of fashion dyed with poison-laced colours and made of highly flammable materials.

Perils such as these extended to the makers of fashion as well. In addition to working with dangerous materials, these workers also experienced major shifts in production methods as fashion moved from independent craft to fragmented labour performed in garrets or on factory floors with complex machinery. However, pleasures could also be found. Industrialization democratized fashion, allowing more people access to a greater variety of fashionable goods at a wide range of price points. The development of the department store with its large plate glass windows also allowed all who passed by to indulge in the pleasure of visually consuming the splendours on show.