T he more we read through fashion publications of the 1880s and 1890s, the more fascinating we find their pronouncements on fashion trends and especially when it comes to color. For example, in the November 1891, Demorest’s Family Magazine, it’s noted that:
Striking combinations of color are a feature of the newest gowns. Dahlia-red with gray, beige with green, heliotrope with brown, dark blue with green, black with yellow, are popular; but perhaps the most novel is billiard-green with a bright blue, the apparently irreconcilable colors harmonized by a profusion of gold embroidery, and the gown made of these is exceedingly rich in effect, and not at all bizarre. Black wool dresses are trimmed with bright colors, and all black dresses of silk or wool. trimmed profusely with jet, are very fashionable. The combination of black and yellow is noticeable in all lines of dress, and hats of yellow velvet with jet trimmings are worn with costumes of all colors.
Just to visualize, here’s a rough idea of the the color combinations (allowing for the fact that they’re computer-generated):
While the above color combinations are reported by the fashion press as being the current “thing”, locating extant examples for the early 1890s is not as easy. However, we did locate some examples from other years such as these two princess line dresses from the late 1870s in combinations of pale greens and daker blues:
And moving on to a bit later, we have this jacket from 1895:
And for some yellow and black, here’s a bodice from the late 1890s:
I was not as successful in locating an example of the heliotrope and brown so you’ll just have to use your imaginations there. 🙂 What’s interesting is that while certain colors were said to be in vogue, it was also obvious that reality didn’t always match was was stated and that these were more in the way of general guidelines. Also, pending a more exhaustive study, it’s hard to say if these colors were utilized in dress styles but we simply don’t have any surviving examples or was this more wishful thinking and/or exaggeration on the part of Demorest’s (after all, they were in the business of selling patterns). But there is one thing that could be said with certainty and that is these color combinations were done at one time or another. We don’t pretend to have the definitive answer here but it’s certainly an interesting area to explore further.