Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Colors Anyone?

I do a lot of searching on eBay for antique garments. Mostly I see what's out there to study historical fashion design and materials. And occasionally I will bid on something.

But I've noticed lately (and I've been searching eBay for years) that most of the late Victorian bodices for auction are primarily black or dark colors. And the Edwardian items are primarily white.

Now, I'm not a textile conservator, so I'm wondering if black garments have survived because they are so prevalent in existence or if the colored dyes used back then destroyed the fabric in garments to not have them survive to reach us now.

I know color existed. Just look at all the delightful historical costume books and museum websites out there. And you *can* find the green dress or blue coat or the hot pink ball gown. However, I find it interesting that the Victorian black and Edwardian white is dominant in surviving clothing.

Does this then give us a bias thinking that many women wore black before 1900 and afterwards wore white? Does this have anything to do with Queen Victorian dying in 1901 (who wore black since 1861 when Albert died)?

How do we break out of this bias and be willing to attempt a brightly colored gown?


varun said...

nice range!!Shawls and Scarves

AlohaAroha said...

Here is my take on it as someone who works in museum

I think that most women did wear dark colours in the last few decades before 1900, and that there was a dramatic switch to light colours after 1900 coinciding with the invention of better bleaches and easier washing mechanisms. Museums collect the most interesting examples of fashion, so end up with a disproportionately wide variety of colours compared to what the ordinary woman wore.

If you look at the colours that women wear today on an everyday basis, and compare them to what you see in fashion magazines (the fashion plates of today) you will probably notice that we wear much duller colours on an everyday basis than the magazines indicate. The clothes that we save tend to be our fancy clothes, which means that in 100 years time there will be a lot of wedding dresses, a lot of little black dresses, and a few fancy coloured frocks, and not much else left over.

In historical costuming, as in real life, I just try to make and wear what I like, which means more colours than the average person.

Jennifer said...

That makes so much sense: laundry technology.

In 100 years my cute new sweater I wore to work this week and the plain striped t-shirt I wore today to do gardening won't be around. However, my silk wedding dress (new in 1996 but looked antique) will probably still be wrapped up in the same cotton sheet with cedar balls rolling around in the box.
And let's not forget the closets full of historical clothing that will probably confuse the heck out of that finder trying to sell it as "authentic" on that ancient site eBay or in a common consignment shop as dress up clothes.

Makes me wonder what *will* our great-grandchildren think of us in the early 21st Century who jumped on the fad of re-creating clothes from previous centuries. Will they laugh or admire us???