An Focal · Fashion

Slaves to Fashion

What have women really suffered for fashion?

Foot binding was the Chinese custom of narrowing the feet to make women more beautiful, feminine and dainty.

Binding usually started during the winter months between the ages of two and five, so that the feet were numb, and the pain not as extreme.

Each foot was soaked in a warm mixture of herbs and animal blood to soften the foot. To enable the size of the feet to be reduced to the diserable 3 inches, the toes were curled under, then pressed down and squeezed into the sole of the foot until they broke.

The foot was then pulled down straight, the arch forcibly broken. The girl had to stand and walk on her freshly broken and bound feet to further crush them into shape. As the wet bandages dried, they constricted, making the binding even tighter.

Victorian corsets were worn tightly laced to achieve a slim waist. The shape of the ribcage was forcably altered by the corset. Wearing a corset also changed the bustline, raising the breasts upwards and shaping them, flattening the stomach, and improving posture.

Excessive corset wearing weakens certain muscles, making it more difficult to maintain posture without one.

Corsets were first worn by the Minoans of Crete and were designed to turn the torso into the fashionable cylindrical shape narrowing the waist. Tightlacing was ordinary fashion taken to an extreme.

Coinciding with the popularity of corset wearing was corset punishment which was used as a method to control the wearer who would be unable to run, breath heavily, or eat too much while tightlaced.

Some African tribes are renowned for wearing neck rings even today. Brass coils are placed around the neck lengthening it. These coils are first applied to young girls when they are around five years old.

Each coil is replaced with longer coil, as the weight of the brass pushes the collar bone down and compresses the rib cage. Contrary to popular belief, the neck is not actually lengthened; the illusion of a stretched neck is created by the deformation of the clavicle.

The rings, are seldom removed, as the coiling and uncoiling is a lengthy procedure. They are usually only removed to be replaced by a new or longer set of coils.

Modern culture takes a less extreme and permanent approach to fashion trends compared to those fashionistas of the past. Wearing different styles of clothing and dying hair expresses individuality in a much less lasting way allowing for changes in trends to be more accessable. Make-up, fake nails, false eyelashes and piercings make up the bulk of what the majority of women will now do for fashion.

Suffering to the extreme for fashion may have faded into the past but it seems that this tradition is ingrained in us through our ancestors and fellow fashion lovers.

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