Tag Archives: die

A Killer Green Dress and other Fashion to Die For

Recently I heard about Fashion Victims: The Pleasures and Perils of Dress in the 19th Century a new exhibit at the Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto, Canada.  The centerpiece of the exhibit is a bright green ballgown from 1860.  Like many other fashions of the time, the bright green color was accomplished with a dye created with arsenic.  The vivid green color was very popular at the time because it looked beautiful under the new electric lighting.  Other arsenic-laced fashions on display include electric green shoes, gloves and other items.

These arsenic laced items were known at the time to be dangerous to the fashionistas who wore them.  Arsenic was absorbed through the skin when the wearer perspired and frequently caused rashes and worse conditions.  And the garments were not only very dangerous to those who wore them, but also to those who created the fabrics and made them into clothing.  Similar to these dangers in dressmaking were the frequent poisonings by those who created the fashionable hats of the time.  The demand for a larger number of felted fur hats, required cheaper fur which used mercury in the finishing process.  Mercury is known to cause a wide variety of damage to the brain and nervous system.  The poisoning of hat makers became so well known that the phrase “mad as a hatter” came into widespread use.  Add to this the generally poor working conditions for those working in the garment district including terrible fires like the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire and you see a whole class of workers dying to help others look good.

The desire for using cheaper materials to replace more expensive ones, led to an explosion in products available to the middle classes, but sometimes it simply led to explosions.  On display at the exhibit you will find some hair combs created from celluloid rather than the more expensive tortoiseshell combs.  The material was so flammable, that houses burned when the combs came too near a fire.  The material was also used as a film base for motion pictures, and theater fires at the turn of the century were dangerous and sometimes deadly.’  Also on display in the exhibit are tightly-laced corsets and extremely narrow shoes and gloves which were considered fashionable during the day.

One might be tempted to believe that we have moved beyond all that and are no longer willing to die or kill for fashion.  But I wonder if this is really true.  We certainly have stricter regulations regarding the dyes we use in clothing.  And many items are now fire retardant.  But there are some studies indicating that the fire retardants themselves might be bad for our health.

Studies in laboratory animals and humans have linked the most scrutinized flame retardants, called polybrominated diphenyl ethers, or PBDEs, to thyroid disruption, memory and learning problems, delayed mental and physical development, lower IQ, advanced puberty and reduced fertility. Other flame retardants have been linked to cancer. At the same time, recent studies suggest that the chemicals may not effectively reduce the flammability of treated products.

And while corsets are more often decorative than function in modern fashion, how often do we use spandex “shapewear” to smooth our bodies under certain kinds of clothing?  Even though we know that it literally squishes our internal organs and makes us more prone to yeast and bacterial infections?  And some women go as far as painful and dangerous surgery just to look better in their Jimmy Choos.

Fashions are still based on a very narrow vision of beauty attainable by no-one without a huge budget, great genes and Photoshop.  Women are still dying in droves trying to make their bodies conform to a size and shape that may not be attainable by anyone without significant photo retouching.

And plenty of people are still dying to create inexpensive fashions.  We may have created work regulations that make the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire  unlikely here in the U.S.  But plenty of people are dying in other countries in order to offer us the cheap clothing we still desire.

All of which leads me to ask this question.  When will it end?  When will we decide that it is unfashionable for people to die so we can buy more clothes?  When will we start demanding clothing fit us instead of asking our poor bodies to be starved, mangled, stretched and permanently damaged to fit clothing?  When will we stop impregnating our fabrics with chemicals that cause brain damage and cancer?  I hope it’s soon.  But however fast it is, in my opinion, is just not fast enough.

Love, Jeanette DePatie (AKA The Fat Chick)

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Death and Taxes

deathandtaxesWell we’ve survived another U.S. “tax day”, so I thought I’d share a little post about inevitability.  Most of us have heard this quote, “In this world, nothing is certain but death and taxes.”  And while most of us understand the notion that taxes are inevitable (well at least unless you are a multi-billion dollar corporation) we have a little harder time with the whole death thing.  We know on an intellectual level that everybody, including us, will die.  Yet on an emotional level, many of us believe that if we eat enough fiber, do enough exercise, and stay thin, we won’t die.

Now don’t get me wrong.  It’s perfectly reasonable to want to make choices that can potentially extend our lives or improve the quality of our lives.  That makes sense.  But I’ve often wondered at the emotional response to my acceptance of my own size.  I understand that not everybody agrees with me.  Some people think I should do anything and everything that just conceivably might help me at least for a short time to lose weight.  But it’s the emotional involvement with this disagreement, the hatred and anger and spitting vitriol that comes with it, that sometimes throws me for a loop.

I recall sitting in a crappy and inadequate paper gown in a medical center where a doctor was nearly frantic in telling me that since I was fat, I was going to die.  He wasn’t offering me any statistics or research indicating increased risk for mortality or morbidity.  He was simply doing that finger wagging, nagging, since you’re fat, you’re going to die speech.  And I replied, “well you know, I don’t have an M.D. after my name, but I’m pretty sure we’re all going to die.”  Which gave me at least 10 seconds of respite before he started in on me again.

If you want to talk to me about increased risks for morbidity and mortality that may or many not be attributable to being fat, well okay.  I’m armed.  I’ve got data.  Let’s rumble.  But if you want to argue that all fat people are going to die, guess what.  You’re right!  All people, everywhere are going to die.  Even if they eat whole grains, and their chi is perfectly aligned and they run a marathon every day-even if they are thin, they are still going to die.

I think this is at least a small part of what freaks people out so much about my decision not to actively pursue weight loss.  Because at least in a small way, I’m not buying into their emotional fantasy, that if they do all the right things, they just won’t die.  Here’s the thing. I’ve lost many who are close to me.  And some of these folks did everything “right”.  They ate well, they slept eight hours per day, they managed their stress, they went to the doctor and they simply got sick and died–sometimes quite young.

Am I suggesting that we should just ignore our health? Absolutely not!  I am suggesting that there is no day in our life that is guaranteed.  And I for one refuse to spend so much of my life trying to change one potential (and questionable) risk factor for mortality that I don’t have time to really live.  If my days are limited on this earth, and they are limited, I want to do what makes me feel good and allows me to experience wonder and contentment and joy.  Sometimes that’s taking the dog for a walk.  Sometimes it’s eating ice cream.  Because I’m grown up enough to understand that both walking the dog and eating ice cream are wonderful.  And even giving up ice cream won’t allow me to live forever.

Love,

The Fat Chick

P.S. If you’d like to hear more about that story in the doctor’s office, you might want to check out this episode of the Right Now Show.  And I’m pleased to let you know that the deadline for the RESOLVED project has been extended.  So it’s not too late to create and share your video about your experiences with health care.

And if you’re interested in learning a little more about the joy of exercise, don’t forget to check out my book and DVD!