Monday, May 30, 2011


I know Brown technically isn't part of the "rainbow" of colors (neither is pink), but it's variety of tones were still quite popular in the 18th century.  It also seems a very practical color.  I have a chocolate brown wool gown, and it never shows dust or dirt.  I wore it all winter and it doesn't look dirty (trust me, it is).  And while it may not be exciting, it is flattering.  Again, definitions from Elephant's Breath & London Smoke.

Brown: fun-burnt, of a colour which may be made of a mixture of black with any other colour. Royal English Dictionary, 1775.
Chocolate: Mitella; ...commonly call'd Anotto or Arnotta in America. ... The Seeds of this Plant are ufed for dying a Chocolate Colour. Gardiners Dictionary, 1735.
Chesnut: Chesnut Brown is a deep reddish brown and yellowish brown. Werner's Nomenclature of Colours, 1814.
Cinnamon & Musk: Red and Brown. Dictionarium Polygraphicum, 1735.
Coffee: To give a browning, ftuff which has been juft dyed, is dipped in a folution of fulphat of iron. Elements of the Art of Dyeing, 1791.
Nut Brown: Nutbrown, brown as, or of the colour of a nut kept long. Royal English Dictionary, 1775.
Russet: of a reddifh brown; ufed by Sir Isaac Newton for grey. Coarfe, ruftic, or homefpun. Royal English Dictionary, 1775.
Snuff: a yellow-brown, the color of snuff. Primary Object Lessons, 1871.
Tawny: that is of a tanned, yellowifh, or dusky Colour. Dictionarium Anglo-Britannicum, 1708.
Umber: Umber Brown. Is a light Brown, a mixture of Yellowifh Brown and Grey. Philosophy of Mineralogy, 1798.

A note that while the first reference in the book to Coffee or Cafe au Lait is 1791, there were coffee shops even in the Colonies by the 1750s (broke ground in Wmsburg in 1747 for one).

MFA Cotton Round Gown, late 18th c.

Met Stays, 1780


Anonymous said...

Beautiful post.

I have been wanting a brown CW dress for about 3 months now.

Anonymous said...

thank you very much for your great research. i do appreciate your work and it helps me a lot dealing with my dress-making. now just one little question concerning colours. will you write on grey and black too or are you already finished with colours?



ColeV said...

I probably won't do anything on grey and black. I didn't come across any grey items (I think there's a riding habit out there in putty grey somewhere...). And black is, well, black. There aren't many garments of that color either (black dye was often very abusive to fabric), and there isn't color variance. If I ever delve deeper into the meanings of color choices or what was fashionable what year, then grey and black will come up. They seem to be generally avoided during this time except for the mourning stages.