Light, colour and language in mid-nineteenth century women’s fashion

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In October 1851, the fashion news report in the American periodical Godey’s Lady’s Book and Magazine described autumn dress textiles and ribbons, asserting: ‘all the colors of the rainbow seem to meet and mingle in the gay living stream of afternoon promenaders.’ This chapter examines the language of colour employed to discuss dress textiles in the mid-nineteenth century, paying special attention to textures and surface effects. The intersections between fashion, science, and technology relevant to colour and textile surfaces will be considered. These connections demonstrate the period’s nuanced appreciation of and the complexity of these surfaces, as part of a rhetoric of female fashionability that saw external surfaces representing interior moral and intellectual qualities.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationSurface tensions: surface, finish and the meaning of objects
EditorsVictoria Kelley, Glenn Adamson
PublisherManchester University Press
ISBN (Print)9780719087516
Publication statusPublished - 2013


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