Dedicated followers of fashion have always been prepared to go to ridiculous extremes. Today we scoff at models falling off their eight-inch heels or Lady Gaga sporting a dress made from meat. The past has furnished equally ludicrous examples, such as the Georgian woman whose hoop petticoat became entangled in a ram’s horns and the Edwardian craze for ‘hobble skirts’, which prevented women from running. Yet, as Alison Matthews David’s fascinating book reveals, fashion fads have far more frequently led to tragedy than comedy.
The endless quest for the latest shape, hairstyle, colours and fabrics has lured the fashion-conscious down the centuries to don poisonous hats, toxic dresses, exploding hair combs and flammable skirts. Although women are generally seen as fashion’s worst martyrs, men have also forced their feet into high heels, strangled themselves