Frills & Fancy ezine
Color in a Victorian World

Seldom during the 1870’s was a fashionable ensemble turned out with did not show at least two contrasting hues. Black combined with color was a favorite. Black with bright “electric” blue, green, crimson, purple, yellow or pink showed strong tones from the aniline dyes used which lacked the mellowness of the vegetable and mineral dyers used before and after the period.

Also evident during the Victorian period were costumes of brown, steel-gray, dark green or olive-drab with trimmings of black and white at neck and wrists.

Stripes, checks and plaids were the most popular patterns of the period. Patterned material was combined with plain, stripes were arranged in various combinations. One popular fabric from 1885 was called “pompadour” flowers alternating with stripes of plain colors. Braided designs were applied both to edges and surfaces of bodices, jackets and skirts with woolen, silk or cotton braid. Seams as well as edges of garments were frequently piped with silk of a contrasting color. Buttons of silver, gilt, pearl and jet black were seen on many costumes of the period, but the most important trimming consisted of the material arranged in draping; in puffs; in pleated, fluted, or gathered flounces; in ruchings and quillings. Even underskirts had their ruffles; the first is knife-pleated taffeta ruffle, the next under, of lining muslin, its dust ruffle edged with lace and again knife pleated, which showed when the wearer held up her skirts.

Dolls costumed for this period will show authenticity when made in one of two ways: bright colors and contrast with loads of frills and fancy or tailored and smart with almost masculine lines. A slim jacket over a corset that flares a bit at the hips and over a  bustle in a dark grey or brown woolen fabric and a small simple hat with just a bit of white trimming the wrist and high neck.

By Shellie Williams with reference to Lucy Barton.