ILLUSTRATION
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OCAD U THESIS

DOMESTIC ASSASSINS

The Victorian era was a time of rapid change. With more money to spend on luxuries than ever before, the Victorians strove to be mavens of fashionable domesticity. “Domestic Assassins” metaphorically illustrates the unforeseen consequences resulting from the blind pursuit of perfection.

BEAUTY PRODUCTS

The Victorian era saw a decline in cosmetics. Respectable women couldn’t be seen buying them but often would buy and use them in secretly. The cosmetics often contained harmful poisonous ingredients such as Led, Arsenic, and Belladonna.

 

FLAMMABLE PARKESINE

Early plastics such as parkesine were highly desirable because they allowed things such as broaches, hair combs, collars and cuffs, and mirrors to be made cheaply instead of using more expensive materials such as ivory. Parkesine was extremely flammable and as it degrades could self-ignite and explode on impact triggering many disastrous results.

 

CORSET

During the era, corsets were to be worn at all times because it showed class and fashion. The invention of the metal eyelet made it possible to tighten the corset tighter then ever before, without ripping the fabric. The corset could apply vast amount of pressure on the inner organs, and distort the liver, constrict the lungs, and even displace the uterus. Thus, women would unknowingly be ruining their health to look ideal. 

WALLPAPER

Due to the introduction of oil and gas lamps the Victorian middle class was able to put deep, vivid colours onto their walls and still be able to see from the light in their homes. One colour that showed good taste and status was Scheele’s Green, which was made from copper arsenite, which poisoned people accidentally.

PAINTED TOYS

Toys were brightly painted commonly with lead paint. When children put the toys in their mouths they were potentially poisoning themselves. Lead attacks the nervous system and poisonings can cause encephalopathy, damage a child’s development, and cause death.

 

ARTIFICIAL FLOWERS

Realistic silk and muslin artificial flowers were used extensively in fashion as well as put on display in the home. Flower making was seen as a fashionable hobby for women. The flowers contained lethal amounts of arsenic and women wearing artificial wreaths went to their doctors with skin eruptions and red eyes.    

BATHTUB

The bathroom as we know it was a Victorian invention. With the ability to have running hot and cold water and the greater availability of water mains, bathrooms had a huge impact on how people lived and kept themselves clean. There were many cases of people accidently scalding and blistering themselves in the bath due to the water being able to reach extreme temperatures. 

CRINOLINE

Crinolines were cages with hoops that were worn under a women’s skirt to make a bell shape, often made of braided horsehair or steel. Wearing the hoops with excess fabric allowed the wearer to flaunt her wealth. The skirts were very dangerous to wear because they significantly limited mobility. The skirts could get caught between things, fabric and tulle could easily be set on fire, and be blown over by the wind.

THE MANGLE

An invention called the Mangle was used to squish the water out of fabrics after they had been washed. The machine had exposed gears and curious children would accidentally get themselves jammed and caught up in the machine causing server damage or death.

HOUSE OF DESTRUCTION

The house contains many of the hidden domestic assassins found scattered throughout the rooms of the Victorian home including: lead painted toys, artificial flowers, faulty electrical lamps, scalding baths, flammable toilets due to gases created by human waste, crinolines, corsets, fabrics that contained arsenic, steep and poorly built staircases, adulterated bread, and refrigerators that leaked toxic gases such as ammonia, methyl chloride and sulphur dioxide.