Incredibly Odd Fashion Trends From The Past

You might have wasted some serious energy and emotion lamenting the fashion trends of this past year (like teddy bear shoes or the whole gorgeous gothic thing), but believe me when I tell you that culottes and mermaid hair have nothing on a certain nine weird fashion trends from history. Granted, these nine garments and practices might not seem strange at first glance, but when you take a closer look and examine the cultural and social environments that surround them, things start to get a little bizarre.

While many centuries-old fashion trends were focused on making women look more appealing, they were also used as a means to control and socially identify the wearer — men included. And though fashion has arguably always been politicized, sometimes it’s fun to leave the serious side of things behind in favor of examining all things strange, unusual, and over-the-top.

Below are some of the most bizarre fashion trends ever, taken from Medieval times, the Tudor era, and more. So learn a little about aristocratic fashion’s odd and slightly off-putting history. When you find out the reason people used to wear powdered wigs, you’re going to be really glad they’re a thing of the past.

Black Teeth

In early Tudor England, sugar wasn’t readily available. By the time that Elizabeth I came around, it was everywhere (though at a very high cost), and the Virgin Queen had a thing for sweets. According to The Telegraph, her teeth were black and decaying, and some folks even complained that it was hard to understand her. Though Elizabeth’s teeth were a product of a sweet tooth (and a whole lot of neglect), they also sparked a short-lived fashion trend in England: Women purposefully blackened their teeth to prove that they had enough money to buy sugar.

Hobble Skirts

“Hobbling” is a term for tying an animal’s legs together to prevent it from running away. In the early 20th century, the hobble skirt attempted to do the same to women. Designed specifically to slow women down and prevent them from taking large steps, the hobble skirt is certainly symbolic of how women were viewed at the time. According to the Metropolitan Museum Of Art, the first hobble skirt is credited to a French designer called Paul Poiret, who eschewed petticoats for this sleek, crippling silhouette, while also forgoing the then-popular corset. “Yes, I freed the bust,” Poiret once wrote. “But I shackled the legs.”


Ladies, if you stuff your bras, feel no shame: Your impulse to pad out your clothing has some historical significance. Popular during the Elizabethan era, men and women used to bombast their sleeves to create large, “leg-of-mutton” arms. Men would also bombast their doublets to create a filled out belly, a symbol of prosperity at the time.

Powdered Wigs

Many people will recognize the powdered wigs of the Middle Ages, but not many are as familiar with their tie to syphilis. In Epidemics And History: Disease, Power, And Imperialism, author Sheldon J. Watts explains their significance: Back then, many of those in the upper and middle classes had the disease, which produced some raunchy symptomatic smells — and not to mention, baldness. To cover the smell, many people wore goat, horse, or human hair wigs called perukes. The wigs were powdered in scents like lavender and orange, to cover the stink coming from down below. The trend caught on when Louis XIV started wearing them. And yes, he had syphilis, too.


It’s not just your favorite hangover dish, but rather a delightful and strange fashion trend from the mid 1700s. Remember Yankee Doodle Dandy, and how he stuck a feather in his cap and called it macaroni? That lyric is in reference to young French men in the 1750s, who took Italian fashion to the extreme.

The most notable element of macaroni fashion was a huge wig with the tiny hat (or feather) on top, but it also included flashy waistcoats, bright stockings, and fancy buckled shoes. According to The New York Times, macaroni men also made up their own language (a combination of French, English, and Italian), making their dandy club of frippery and fashion even more exclusive.