Fashion victims: 10 of the deadliest shoes and accessories of the 19th Century

Gold button boot
Photography by Ron Wood for the Bata Shoe Museum
Gold button boot
Photography by Ron Wood for the Bata Shoe Museum

10 of the deadliest fashions of the 19th Century »

Oh, the things we do for fashion. While the connection between pain and beauty seems as strong as ever today, the truth is that women have been suffering for style since well before the corset days. Today, Toronto’s Bata Shoe Museum opens Fashion Victims: The Pleasures and Perils of Dress in the 19th Century, an exhibit that looks back at some of the most dangerous dresses, shoes and accessories of the Victorian era.

Much like the advances that came a century later with the advent of American sportswear in the 1920s, the Industrial Revolution saw a number of drastic changes to they way women dressed, including flats, high-waisted skirts and loose dresses. Not all of these changes came easy though; “The problem with flats is that they were incredibly narrow and they were made as straights, which means that pairs of shoes did not have distinct lefts or rights,” says Bata’s senior curator Elizabeth Semmelhack. What’s more, many were dyed with hyper-poisonous arsenic, a chemical that while responsible for some of the most vibrant hues of the day, could kill.

Here we preview Fashion Victims with a look back at 10 of the most dangerous styles of the 1800s. For more information on the exhibit, visit batashoemuseum.ca.