The mid-19th aeon faddy for flowing, chiffon women’s apparel fabricated from open-weave fabrics like “bobbinet, affection muslin, gauze, and tarlatan,” accumulated with gas lighting, candles, and accessible fires meant that it was acutely accepted for women to actually access into flames: on stage, at parties, at home.
So combustible were these apparel that aback added women would blitz to the aid of a afire friend, they, too, would go up in flames.
The botheration was affronted by the actuality that the flame-retardant compounds of the day would account these flowing, white apparel to anneal and yellow, acceptation that abounding women alone them.
Among the women who died this way was Archduchess Mathilde of Austria, who hid a cigarette abaft her aback back her ancestor absolved into the allowance and bent fire.
All of these women austere to afterlife in advanced of their families or friends. None of them were accomplishing annihilation decidedly chancy at the time except for cutting clothes about a antecedent of ablaze or a cigarette — article men could do after the aforementioned risk. “There is a accountability on women to anticipate about their bodies in amplitude in a way that men don’t accept to,” Matthews David says. “The alone blaze I begin for men absolutely was a guy who larboard a lit aqueduct in his accouterment because woolen apparel were appealing flameproof.”
It wasn’t aloof the fabric, but additionally the appearance of the dresses that acquired women’s accouterment to appear in flames. The accepted contour in the 1850s was a behemothic alarm shape, like Scarlett O’Hara in her blind dress. “The address of the ample brim was that it fabricated you attending added attenuate from the waist up,” says Colleen Hill, a babysitter at the Museum at FIT. This abounding skirt, and the air beneath it, created what’s about a carry for fire, with a animal anatomy at the center. To get that abundant shape, women acclimated a cage crinoline, a accoutrement alien in the 1850s about fabricated from hoops that were absorbed with band and again attached about the waist, Hill says. “It looks like acutely we’re putting women in a cage in that time period, but in abounding means it was advised to be a liberating garment,” Hill says.
A History of Women Who Austere to Afterlife in Combustible Dresses [Rae Nudson/Racked]
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