Are you a fashion victim?

Imagine wearing the fashions of 150 years ago.

Stylish women of the Victorian era put on tight whalebone corsets that made their waists tiny–and often made them faint from lack of oxygen.

Many of them stuffed their feet into confining, pointy shoes that twisted the bones in their feet until they were virtually crippled.

Victorian men donned high collars that restricted both their breathing and the movement of their neck.

Thank goodness modern fashions are much more free and easy, and less damaging to our health.

Or are they?

Fashionable Facts

Experts say there are plenty of modern fashion health-hazards.

For example, at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, researchers have discovered coccygeal tenderness, more commonly known as “tight-jeans syndrome.”

The researchers who discovered the problem were Dr. Edward Mortimer, a professor of pediatrics, and Marcie Stoshak, then a medical student.

They studied two high-school girls who had suffered for months with tenderness of the tail bone, or coccyx. Physical exams, including X-rays, could find nothing wrong with the girls’ bone structure.

But Mortimer and Stoshal noticed the girls often wore extremely tight jeans. The girls slouched in their hard wooden school seats and the heavily reinforced seams of their jeans hit right at the base of their spine.

“The stiff seam was hitting the bone every time they sat down,” Dr. Mortimer said. “We suggested they stop wearing the tight jeans, and it worked. Their pain disappeared.”

This kind of tail bone tenderness is not only a young woman’s problem. Mortimer also found a case of a male long-distance motorcyclist who reported extreme pain in his lower back. He, too, had worn too-tight jeans.

Swiss doctors have pointed to another problem associated with binding jeans.

It comes from wearing jeans that are so tight they press on, and damage, a nerve that runs from the torso to each leg. The pain it causes can be so debilitating that sufferers are unable to stretch out their leg and have to limp. At least 10 of the Swiss patients reported severe pain and itching in the hip and groin area.

The solution is not always simple, the doctors found. Some victims recover spontaneously, as soon as they trade in their old jeans for some looser styles.

Another health problem related to snug jeans is the increased risk of bacterial infections that comes from trapped heat in the groin area.

The medical profession has also warned that, like the corsets of a century ago, tight jeans put too much pressure on the internal organs. They also may keep wearers from breathing properly.

Considering all the problems stemming from too-tight jeans, some people may want to consider wearing their “blues” a bit baggier. But for those who still want the super-skinny look, there are some alternatives.

Fabric manufacturers have come up with new stretch wovens and knits with a good amount of elasticity. Some of the stylish tight black pants have enough give and breathability not to cause health problems. Stretchy synthetics like Lycra spandex are also being woven into blue jeans, to allow for a “second-skin” look, but one that allows the wearer to sit down and bend over.

Not Just Jeans

Jeans aren’t the only fashions that can cause health problems. Tight or very high heeled shoes can cause the same problems today as they did for the Victorians. Apart from causing wearers to twist their ankles, high heels, if they’re worn often enough, can affect the development of lower leg muscles and tendons. Besides being painful, tight shoes prevent a normal flow of blood. In a cold winter that can invite frostbite.

A variety of other ailments can be brought on by a number of accessories, such as pierced earrings and false fingernails. It was a dermatologist in San Francisco, Dr. Robert Herwick, who noticed a connection between an increase in popularity of acrylic fingernails and a boost in a nasty kind of fingernail disorder.

The condition, onycholysis, is a separation of the real fingernail from the nailbed, followed by an infection. It is caused by a combination of allergic reaction and chemical irritation from the cement used to glue on the false nails, Herwick says.

There is no way to conceal the infected, stubby fingers of the victim, he said.

Girls who have their ears pierced are often warned that minor infections can result if they don’t clean their ears properly and disinfect them with alcohol.

Now Hear This . . .

How many people are aware of the damage they can do with one of the hippest ear-accessories of all–the stereo cassette players they wear while exercising, waiting for the bus, or while studying?

Ever since the Walkman made its first appearance, doctors have warned of the ill effects of plugging into these music machines. They have found that repeated listening at full volume can cause everything from ringing in the ears to slight deafness.

The key to staying in style without sacrificing your good health is moderation, every doctor’s favorite word.

You can wear snug jeans without bringing on strange infections. Just don’t wear them too snug.

High heels are OK, too, but doctors advise alternating them with comfier styles.

And listen to the Walkman all you like–at a reasonable volume. Just make sure you look where you’re going as youdance down the street.


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