Color in Fashion: Specific Shades


Figure 1.--This unidentified boy wearsabright rd jacket. We have not yet identified the artist, perhaps Sir Thomas Lawrence ho liked to paint boys in red. It appears to have been a popular color for boys from affluent families in the early-19th century. We have not yet idenuifued it, perhaps painted in the 1820s. Boys from more modest families were more likely to wear homespun in natural or at least not bright colors.

We note children wearing clothes done in about every different color imaginable. Some colors have been more popular than others. This has varied over time and by gender. Blues and browns seem especially popular for boys, but they worn many more colors. The modern blue/pink conventions are fairly recent developments. There are also other variables such as fashion, cost, garment, countries, and others. Here we want to list every color and review it uses in fashion. There are major fashion varitions. For most of history, brightly colored clothes were for aristocrats and the well to do. The peasntry which was the great mass of the population wore undyed homespun which meant natural colors, primarily brown shades, some close to white. Flax and cotton yielded white fabrics. During some periods men and boys wore brightly colored clothing and at other times it was women and girls that wore bright colors. There were sometimes religious factors. Jews had to wear yellow garments during the medieval era. The Puritans considered bright colors ostentatious. The Victorians, especially Victorian men preferred black. And some colors were reserved for royalty. Chinese emperors chose yellow. Purple was only for emperors in the Roman Empire. Sumterary Laws restricted the lower classes from wearing bright colors. This was in part the rarity and cost of creting dyes. The development of the chemical industry in Europe and ability to create low cost dyes of virtully every color removed the economic contraints of wearing bright colors. Our knowledge of color was at first restructed to vintage clothing and art work and literary references. Fashion plates appear in the 18th century and catalogs in the 19th century. We begin to get color lithographs in the late 19th century. We do not get large number of color images, howeve, until the 1970s when color photography becones prevalent nd we can see in great detil what color clothing children wore. We have already done some work on specific shades in connection with indicividual countries and specific topics. We will gradually link thise pages here under the different colors. This will, however, take some time. As with much of HBC, we know more about America than other countries.

Black

We see the Dutch at the peak of their prominance and maritime empire wearing black. The great Dutch and Flemish artists recorded this in great detail. The Victorians, especially Victorian men also preferred black.

Blue

Blues seem to be one of the most popular shades for boys. Some sources report that blue dyes as Europe was emerging from the medieval era were some of the least expensive. Thus you see early grammar schools in Engkand havung blue uniforms for the charity students (16th centyry). The modern blue/pink conventions are fairly recent developments.

Brown

Browns seem another very popular shades for boys. For most of history, brightly colored clothes were for aristocrats and the well to do. The peaantry which was the great mass of the population wore undyed homespun which meant natural colors, primarily brown shades, some close to white. The Puritans considered bright colors ostentatious and woremostly brown clothing, sometimes black.

Green


Grey

We do not think that grey was a very common color through most of history because it is not a natural color of the raw material used for clothing like wool, cotton, and flax. We do see it beingb used in the 19th century for boys suit and for military uniforms. It became very popular in Britain for school uniforms, including shirts, trousers, and suits. It was also used in France for school smocks, lthough not the primary color. It had the avantage for boys as not showing dirt like some other colors. Grey lso became notablr for men's business suits--the famous grey flannel suit.

Pink

The modern blue/pink conventions are fairly recent developments.

Purple

Purple was only for emperors in the Roman Empire.

Red

We note fashionable people during the medieval period wearing brightly colored clothing. This included reds. We also note fashionable boys from ruch English families wore red jackets in the early-19th century. The portrait here is a good example (figure 1). We have not yet idenuifued it, perhaps painted in the 1820s. We see this in Sir Thomas Lawrence's portraits. Perhaps a factor was the bright red uniform tunics that British soldiers wore at the time.

White

Flax and cotton yielded off white fabrics. Pristine white clothing was a matter of status in the Roman Empire. Thisrequired bleaching fabric. The primary bleaching material was the amonia derived from human urine which was collected. Paintings of the well to do in the 18th century show them wearing white silk stockings with brightly colored clothing. Most people, however, wore less expensive brownish stockings reflecting natural colors of wool.

Yellow

Chinese emperors chose yellow. Jews had to wear yellow garments during the medieval era. And some colors were reserved for royalyy.







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Created: 11:21 PM 9/15/2012
Last updated: 11:21 PM 9/15/2012