Suffering for Victorian Fashion: The Grecian Bend

In the 1860s, American women bent over frontward to remain fashionably relevant.

When Limping Was En Vogue

In 1869, a strange fashion trend was afoot among the hippest London ladies. With the assistance of canes and mismatched shoes or specialty pairs with different heel heights, they affected what was called the Alexandra Limp.

When did women begin wearing pants?

Before men started wearing the crotch-covering legging we call trousers, everybody wore skirts in one form or fashion (see also: loincloths, tunics, togas, kilts, etc.). And why not? Skirts are far simpler to construct and facilitate more cooling air flow to the nether regions, which would've been a godsend in the pre-air conditioning days. But then, thanks to the rise of horseback infantries, trousers (see also: breeches, codpieces, tights, etc.) became the below-the-belt manly uniform of the masculine masses. Western women, meanwhile, continued wearing skirts, and not just simple wrap-around numbers. We're talking multi-layered, heavy, floor-length ensembles often further supported and puffed out with the assistance of cage crinoline, petticoats, bustles, or other clunky foundation garments, depending on the era (see also: corsets).

A post over at NPR's health blog about girls and germs reminded me of an old family photo. In it, my older siblings are playing football in the yard while little Cristen is standing on the sidelines, stone-faced and sporting a frilly dress and matching hair bow. Adorable -- and completely bored. That picture could perfectly illustrate the point Oregon State science philosopher Sharyn Clough made to NPR about something called the hygiene hypothesis.