The creation of new pigments and chemical dyes revolutionized fashion. New colors were brighter and more colorfast than earlier natural dyes. Artificially dyed greens, particularly the shade known as Scheele’s green, were among the most popular colors in the 18th and 19th centuries. Unfortunately, the source for these new, vibrant greens was arsenic.
Horror stories of girls poisoned by their dresses added a morbid angle to moralizers’ complaints about the young and fashionable.
As author Alison Matthew David discusses in her 2015 book Fashion Victims, this April 1862 Punch cartoon, “The Arsenic Waltz,” associates deadly vanity with the scandalous new dance, the waltz!