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Friday Frock Talk - Wearing Yellow in Victorian Times

Updated: Sep 21, 2022

During the Victorian era, yellow was believed to be the color most similar to light. With shades ranging from the palest butter to the liveliest lemon, it was suitable for morning dresses, day dresses, evening gowns, and seaside wear. Fashion magazines and color experts of the day recommended restricting clear, bright yellows to spring and summer. However, shades of yellow could be seen in fashionable dress throughout the years, often in the form of gloves, a decorative fan, a frilly parasol, or a stylish hat.

In his 1870 book Color in Dress, author George Audsley calls yellow “the color nearest approaching to light.” As such, he advises that true, brilliant yellow should be used quite sparingly in dress lest it overpower its wearer. Instead, he recommends that Victorian ladies wear a modified hue of yellow, such as gold, maize, or primrose. Soft, buttery yellows could also be flattering.

Yellow was considered to be particularly becoming to brunettes and ladies with dark hair as it neutralized the yellow and orange undertones in their skin, thereby whitening and brightening the complexion. In fact, and 1855 article in Godey’s Lady’s Book state that, for brunettes with orange undertones, “there is no color superior to yellow.” That was why I chose this shade of yello for this colourisation as I believe it would have been an excellent choice for a dark-haired Victorian lady.

Furthermore, for fair blondes, Audsley calls true yellow a color that is “particularly to be avoided.” Deeper and darker shades of yellow, such as gold and maize, were much more flattering to blondes, especially when combined with other complementary shades.


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