When fashion mavens say that such-and-such is to die for, they don’t literally mean it. However, some clothing fads have actually killed their wearers now and then. You are no doubt familiar with foot binding in China, a practice that only started to die out around a hundred years ago. But have you ever heard of muslin disease? It’s not a bug, but it make some women in France unable to fight off common diseases.
In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, it was all the rage for women to dampen themselves in water before dressing in their muslin gowns. The wet, thin fabric would then stick to their backsides, showing off their figures and emphasizing that they were dressed sans undergarments. In revolutionary France, the Sumptuary Laws stated that one’s clothing and accessories could not weigh more than 3.5KG, as rich fabrics and heavily embroidered clothing were reserved strictly for the upper class. So, lower class women would forego underwear. The cold temperatures, however, proved to be too strong for the women wearing wet, weak fabric, leading to severe cases of pneumonia.
The Daily Beast has the story of muslin disease and six other fashion trends that cost at least some people their lives.