There is plenty of odd, bizarre, and downright otherworldly fashion that exists today, evidenced by unforgettable moments like when Lady Gaga showed up to the MTV Music Awards in a gown made of meat or when Miley Cyrus danced on-stage in a baby diaper. While the most “out-there” fashions are typically reserved for performers who attempt to shock and awe crowds with their theatrical looks, it’s safe to say that most of the population does not dress that way. However, there are many instances throughout history where dominating trends that reached from Europe to the United States were adopted by wide berths of society, and not only were these looks popular, they were downright odd. What most of them have in common is a lack of practicality, forcing the wearer into uncomfortable walking patterns or rendering them unable to sit down. We might look back at these trends now and laugh or glance at them and scream, “Why?!?”, but some of the odder fashion trends in history gave rise to styles we know and love today.
Take a trip through fashion’s weirdest moments and discover eight former trends that we just can’t get over.
The Hobble Skirt
Since the Edwardian look is “back” in fashion, it’s important to remember the clothing from the era that history has refused to resurrect. The hobble skirt is one such victim, with a structure so restrictive at the bottom that it literally “hobbled” or impeded women’s ability to walk when they wore it. Although the original hobble skirt is attributed to legendary fashion designer Paul Poiret, no one knows for sure where this awful trend began — only that it first appeared during the early 1900s.
Dandies were history’s most dapper dressers, but sometimes, they too went to ridiculous sartorial extremes. One old-school American children’s song called “Yankee Doodle Dandy” contains the line “Yankee Doodle went to town riding on his pony / Stuck a feather in his hat and called it Macaroni.” In this case, “Macaroni” refers — not to the the delicious Italian pasta dish — but to young men who sported exaggerated versions of French aristocratic style. Macaronis loved to wear teeny tiny hats that they would perch atop towering powdered wigs, buckled shoes, and embroidered waistcoats.
Chopines were the original platform shoe, worn by aristocracy from the 15th to 17th centuries in order to make them taller than their peers (the higher the chopine, the higher the status of the wearer), and prevent them from staining their shoes in the mud. Chopines were created by stitching silk or velvet slippers on top of wooden or cork blocks that may or may not have matched the slipper. Were they hard to walk in and totally silly looking? You bet they were. However, the elevated platform of the chopine would later give rise to the wedge, so we can’t be too dismayed at their original existence.
Ridiculously Crazy Hats
Though there is still opportunity in the modern era to see whimsical hats worn in public (like the Kentucky Derby, for instance), for the most part, the average person sticks to basics like fedoras or baseball caps. But decades ago, the bigger and crazier your hat was, the more money you were thought to have had. Voluminous hats like the one pictured here were history’s version of statement pieces.
Centuries ago, the wealthiest people in society (namely kings, queens, and members of the royal court) were obsessed with zebellinis (also known as flea furs or tippets). More often than not, zebellinis were the pelts of ermine, sable, marten, or lynx, and worn with — wait for it — the head attached. This horrific trend was a status signifier, proof of one’s position in the social hierarchy and the food chain. By the 16th century, most of the pelts were faux and the heads were replaced with fake embellished versions.
The Tudor Ruff
While modified versions of the Tudor ruff can still be spotted on today’s runways from time to time, the original version was layered, suffocating, and enormous. This relic of the Elizabethan era came into fashion during the reign of Elizabeth I, who favored versions made of expensive fine linen. While it may be a trend worn to frame the face and obscure the décolletage, it was also impossibly unwieldy and difficult to wear, especially as more exaggerated versions required metal suspension lining to keep the ruffs puffed out.
The Paper Dress
What started as a marketing promotion for a paper company became a flash-in-the-pan fad during the 1960s. The paper dress, usually printed with bright, geometric patterns, was a rapid success, but as the dresses were literally made with paper (and nothing else), they were not sustainable purchases. A woman could get away with wearing the dress one time at most before it ripped and became relegated to the waste bin. Talk about fast fashion!
The Hoop Skirt
The hoop skirt is easily one of fashion’s weirdest trends ever — just imagine strapping yourself into a six-foot wide hoop before you were able to leave the house. These crinoline and steel-lined “undergarments” were ridiculously heavy and hard to walk in. However, they were employed to help dresses keep their shape, but the shape in question was a billowing, voluminous bottom half topped by a tight, restrictive bodice. As a fashion trend, hoop skirts took the royal courts of Europe by storm, and the larger they were, the more important the person wearing it was seen to be.