Girl on Fire
December 22, 2017 9:45 AM   Subscribe

That article about women catching on fire was interesting. "What is this website Racked?" I wondered. "I wonder what other interesting articles they might have. I will browse there and perhaps while away my morning exploring its content."

*clicks on homepage*

A Foundation for Woman Who Hate Wearing Foundation

The Best Way to Store Your Beautyblender is in an Egg Cup.

The Cleanser That Cleared My Clogged-up Pores.

So, not an interesting website about history, or the history of fashion. I am not the target audience.

Excuse me while I google "Beautyblender."
posted by Orlop at 10:08 AM on December 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

Orlop, check out their History tab for more, well, history stories. Some decent stuff there.
posted by emjaybee at 10:23 AM on December 22, 2017 [3 favorites]

That lead quote totally reminded me of Zachary Schomburg's poem "The Fire Cycle." Fascinating article, thanks!
posted by flod at 10:27 AM on December 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

Orlop, Racked's longform articles tend to be quite good (try this one about that perennial topic, pockets), but the main focus of the website is the fashion/beauty industry.
posted by sukeban at 10:36 AM on December 22, 2017 [2 favorites]

This reminds me of the part of the Kenneth Branagh Frankenstein where undead Helena Bonham Carter becomes an absolutely comical ball of fire. Which I guess actually makes some sense between fabrics and embalming fluid.
posted by selfnoise at 10:38 AM on December 22, 2017

Anyone else remember the flammable rayon skirt panic of the 1990s (and the eponymous Aimee Bender book)?
posted by evidenceofabsence at 10:41 AM on December 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

Matthews David wrote that in 1860, British medical journal the Lancet estimated that 3,000 women in one year died by fire. That’s roughly equivalent to the amount of women murdered in the US in 2014, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Uhhh, so what is this comparison supposed to tell me, exactly? There has to be a better way to illustrate the scale of death here.
posted by J.K. Seazer at 10:52 AM on December 22, 2017 [3 favorites]

So this one time I was playing a maid in a 19th century opera, period costume. And since I was a maid, my overdress and petticoats were pretty heavy and ugly. Thank god for small favors, apparently, because when the dressers were spraying my skirt with anti-static spray, I swear I saw the canister explode in a literal fireball that left the outer costume untouched but vaporized the back half of my stockings. Afterwards followed maybe the only time in the 21st century that a doctor rubbed ointment into the bare buttocks of a young woman in a maid costume with zero sexual context.

In all seriousness, flammable fabric can catch and spread fire crazily fast, and me not getting hurt worse was pure luck. I cannot imagine the chaos and pain those women experienced before they died.
posted by fast ein Maedchen at 11:13 AM on December 22, 2017 [28 favorites]

flod- Zachary Schomburg was my WRI 101 professor.
posted by complaina at 11:29 AM on December 22, 2017

Anyone else remember the flammable rayon skirt panic of the 1990s

I wasn't aware anyone wore skirts in the 90s. It was ugly boxy shirts and blue jeans as far as the eye could see in my recollections. Maybe this recall was why?
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 11:52 AM on December 22, 2017

That Racked article was really good. It's rare for me to get a pop history or science article that manages to address all the questions I formulate as I read it.

I wondered if peiple were aware of it being a problem (yes) if it was just not having good fabric tech (no), if it was partly the poofiness of the style (yes), how frequent it really was (3000 women in one year holy fuck).
posted by mark k at 1:09 PM on December 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

posted by Space Kitty at 1:32 PM on December 22, 2017

Fenders. The fenders on cars are named after the inadequately defensive railings that used to be around the fire in each room -- when all the heat came from open fires of coal or wood, and the sparks flew upward, and outward, and "smut" meant something else. It was common and sort of greedy to stand in front of the fire intercepting the heat, and men just flipped up their coattails, but big skirts could billow over the fender. Disaster!
posted by clew at 3:30 PM on December 22, 2017 [2 favorites]

Really thought that first line was a Beyonce lyric.
posted by rokusan at 4:08 PM on December 22, 2017 [3 favorites]

One of my favorite throwaway bits from Little Women has always been the mention that although Jo has a decent dress to wear to the party she attends with Meg, she has to stand plastered to the wall the entire time since warming her backside too close to the fireplace scorched her skirts. And she confesses it's a recurring habit. Played for humor, but now I wonder if this (like so many other things in the story) was a habit of Alcott's as well. It must have terrified her family, if so.
posted by notquitemaryann at 7:28 AM on December 23, 2017 [2 favorites]

My mother once told me that a family member (I think her great-great-grandmother) burned to death when she stood too close to the fireplace and her dress caught fire. My mom didn't know any details, because it was so horrible the family never talked about it.
posted by elphaba at 7:52 AM on December 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

Wow, great find.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 3:28 PM on December 23, 2017

Sad stuff. That would leave a scar for at least a few generations.
posted by notquitemaryann at 11:44 AM on December 24, 2017

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