Dr. Evan Hart presents to a room of students and staff

Dr. Hart presents to a room full of students. 'Dying for Fashion: When Clothing Kills' was the first campus event celebrating Women's History Month.

On March 4, lovers of fashion and history came to Popplewell Hall for 'Dying for Fashion: When Clothing Kills,' a Women’s History Month event put together by Dr. Evan Hart. 

The event showcased items in fashion history that were very on-trend for the time but had some deadly elements to them.

Dr. Evan Hart is an assistant professor of history in the Department of Social Sciences and Humanities at Missouri Western University. She put a lot of research into this event and wanted to do something in March for Women’s History Month. 

“I wanted to do something that was a little outside of the box in terms of what we often see during women's history,” Hart said. “Often during women's history month we talk about, you know, the great women of history, and I wanted to do something that was perhaps a little bit more fun. And during women's history month we talk about, you know, the great women of history, and I wanted to do something that was perhaps a little bit more fun.” 

In the event, Hart talked about hats, especially the phrase ‘mad as a hatter’ and how hats in the 19th century were stylish accessories to have, with some even being made out of felted animal fur. But to felt animal fur, they would have to use mercury. When mercury touches the skin, it absorbs through the body and can make you go crazy and get very sick.

In the 19th century, dyed clothing was hard to come by. People had to use natural dyes, which were made with arsenic at the time. This made some women very sick, especially when it was used in dresses.

To Vice Provost for the Office of Academic Affairs, Dr. Elise Hepworth, the event was about more than just seeing fashion through the eyes of women throughout history.

“I think it's an opportunity to highlight and celebrate all of the contributions women have made throughout time and continue to do so. And it also brings awareness to the fact that we still have a long way to go.” Dr. Elise Hepworth said.

Missouri Western student, Skye Fisher, has always found fashion from the 19th century fascinating. For Fisher, she wanted to learn more about the overall history.

“I love old dresses. I like to learn that there are deadly substances in those dresses,” Fisher said. “And I thought they were very pretty even though they could kill me.”

Dr. Hart believes that even darker history can be interesting and worth learning about because it reminds us where we’ve come from. 

“I actually love that dress that I showed that sort of blue column dress with the sequence, but I actually like all parts of it,” Hart said. “It's kind of disturbing to say you like something that causes people's deaths, but I'd say that and also like those brilliant two shades, especially that purple, like those brilliant dice. I was excited to share with people.”

‘Dying for Fashion: When Fashion Kills’ kicked off a full month of events celebrating Women’s History Month. A full list of events can be found at https://www.missouriwestern.edu/goldfridays/

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