Color Selection For Dresses- 1870s Style

One of the central tenets of choosing colors for a particular dress is that one must choose colors that are appropriate for when and where a particular dress or gown is going to be worn. A dress that looks fabulous in the noonday sun may look absolutely horrible when viewed in a gas-lit ballroom at night. In short, context is everything when selecting a suitable color or color combination for a particular dress and it’s one of the fundamental principles that drives our designs. However, this is not simply us reciting a fashion truism- From the January 1875 edition of Le Follet, Journal Du Grand Monde:

It is necessary to be very careful in the selection of shades for evening-dress, as they are so very different by day and gaslight. Many of the best shades for day wear have quite a faded or dull appearance by night. Thus, the peacock-green, so beautiful in the sunlight, takes a yellowish tinge by gaslight. Those greens with the most yellow in them are the best for evening toilette. Yellows of different shades- buttercup, sulphur, and, above all, maize- are all good for this purpose. Reds gain in brightness; rubies also become more brilliant; nacarat [a shade of pale red-orange] appears lighter; cerise changes to ponceau  {a red poppy color]. A rather yellow white is preferable to the purer white, and silver-grey looks well; but the bluish-grey is not a good shade for night.

Here’s an example of nacarat:

And cerise:

Image result for cerise color

And finally ponceau:

This is just one example but it makes an important point in that one must always be mindful of context when recreating historical fashions.

Fabric Safari In Montmarte…

Montmarte is a fascinating area of Paris and it also is a major fabric shopping center and so we were naturally attracted to the area. Montmarte is a bit of a hike from where we were staying in the 8 ème Arrondissement but we were able to easily travel there via the Paris Metro.

Our first stop was Les Coupons de Saint Pierre, a stop that was purely by chance- yep, we were taken in by the window displays. 🙂 A note about fabric shopping in France- much of the fabric is sold in the form of coupons which are 3-meter pieces (usually) and in fact, this seems to be the predominant method of selling and many stores only sell fabric this way. However, one can find places that sell by the meter. Les Coupons is one of those places that only sell by the coupon; for our purposes this can be an issue since we usually need dress lengths for our fabric.

Next, we took a look at Marché Saint Pierre, one of the largest fabric stores in Montmarte. Featuring six floors of fabrics and notions, this is a good place to start your fabric search. Unfortunately for us, there was really nothing that stood out as a “must-have” but if we lived locally, this would definitely be a “go-to” fabric store.

Image result for marche saint pierre fabric

We then found these interesting fabrics in red, copper/bronze, and blue-green at La Folie des Tissues:

Finally, we found this exquisite silk lampas at Karin Sajo Collection:

This store is small but features an exquisite selection of specialty fabrics that will work for a variety of projects. It’s not cheap but it’s definitely worth it. 🙂 Finally, just for completeness, we also visited several specialty shops outside of Montmarte but they had nothing that was practical for what we do.

So how’s the fabric shopping in Paris? Overall, from our brief visit, it seemed that there wasn’t as great a selection as we found in London and what we did come across had a limited selection outside of the more common fabrics that one can find anywhere in the world. I suspect that there’s probably a lot of specialty shops that we missed and so we’ll certainly be more alert on our next trip- there has to be more out there, especially given that Paris is the center of haute couture.  🙂 Au revoir!