Monday, 24 April 2017

Colours of elite clothing in the first half of the seventeenth century



Modern watered silk ribbons

Introduction

My first posting on the colours of clothing in the first half of the seventeenth century related to the 90% of the population below the nobility and gentry. This looks at the colours of the top 10% to see if there is a difference and, as you can see from the list below, there is a far wider range of names for colours. While there were only 18 named colours for the lower classes, here we have 48 names of colours. These are only colours for main garments: breeches, cloaks, coats, doublets, gowns, kirtles, petticoats and waistcoats.

The sources

Bear in mind that this information is all from written sources. We have not yet looked in detail at portraits and other images. Much of the information here does not come from wills and inventories, but from account books. The account books used range from the gentry through to the King himself.  There are some wills and inventories but, whereas the lower classes listed clothes because they were an important part of their estate, often the richer you get the less clothes are listed, for example in 1648 the will of Baronet Edmund Bacon mentions only, “eleven dozen and six buttons of gold that are sett upon a sute that I weare.” 

For women, most of whom are listed in wills and inventories simply as widow, it is difficult to know their rank, unless you know who their husband was, so we have the “widow of the Auditor General of Ireland” and Elizabeth Wrenn, who is the widow of a knight. 

For men and their wills there is also the problem of how they perceive themselves, and how those who take their inventories perceive them, one man describes himself in his will as a gentleman, the inventory says he is a tanner.  Some will include the fact that they are aldermen of their town to raise their status, so Francis Burrell in 1622 is merchant and alderman. 

This is an ongoing project so the figures and colours will go up as more data is added.

The colours

For the list below I have left out those garments described as wrought, embroidered, figured, or flowered. Among other items, two of the petticoats are flowered and one is figured, a gown and a chamber gown are wrought and a man’s waistcoat is figured, so there are some patterned fabrics. Also you have fabrics with effects, such as watered taffeta (see top right for the effect produced), although a little later the pink stays in the Victoria and Albert Museum are of watered silk.  I have also left out where a fabric is more than one colour, for example “White and red Norwich damask for a petticoat”. (Whittle & Griffiths, 2012)

The top colour is pretty obviously black, which was used for everything. The second colour is white, but 15 of these are men’s waistcoats and three are women’s white flannel under petticoats. The lack of red, compared to the non elite, may be because the list has more men than women; however half of the petticoats are still red, crimson or scarlet. You can group some colours together, red with crimson and scarlet, the browns could include cinnamon, deer, faune and possibly honey. The greys could encompass dove, hair, lead, marble and possibly pearl.

 As some period colour names are not obvious, a description and source has been put next to them. However for many colours we are not sure what the name signified at the time.

aurora  -a yellow with light red tones. (Lowengard, 2006)
1
beazar  - probably a soft beige (Arnold, 1988)`
1
black
66
blue
2
brick
2
brown
3
carnation – “a kind of colour resembling raw flesh” (Phillips, 1658)
5
cinnamon
12
crimson
7
deer
5
dove
1
faune
7
gold
3
grass green
2
green
13
grey –one suit is described as mist grey (Strong, 1980)
17
hair - Markham (1631 (1986)) describes dying a bright hair colour using alum, lye and chimney soot. Arnold (1988) considers it was a pale grey or beige
1
honey
1
Isabella -  greyish yellow; light buff. Early references just give an Isabella colour, an 1805 quote says, “Isabella yellow, now called cream yellow “, while an 1811 quote has “a yellowish grey, verging on Isabella colour”. (OED, 2017)
1
lead
5
lemon
2
liver
1
marble
1
minume - dark brownish grey or dun colour (Phillips, 1658) A 1630/1 Norwich Minute Book referring to a local ordinance has “He had forbidden all Dyers in this City to dye any other Tawnyes then Mynnams.” (OED, 2017)
2
murrey – a deep red purple (OED, 2017), though Hexham has the Dutch equivalent as also meaning “diep kastanie-bruyne” a deep chestnut brown. (Slive, 1961)
1
musk
1
parricito  -in margin “a greenish coloured cloth” (Strong, 1980)
1
peach
1
pearl
2
pinck cullored - “Pinke, a kind of yellowish-green, a colour used by painters.” (Holme, 1688) It was used to underpaint skin tones.
3
primrose
1
purple
4
red
3
rose
2
russet – quotes in the OED include 1562 “the colour Russet, whiche is somewhat lighter then blacke.” In 1573 “If you will mingle a litle portion of white with a good quantitie of redde, you may make thereof a Russet, or a sadde Browne, at your discretion.” Holme (1688) gives “Rosset, a soft and fadeing colour which will not continue long, it is a rich carnation or peach colour”, a definition possibly more of rose than russet.
1
sage
2
sad – virtually any dark shade, so elsewhere you have references to sad yellow, sad red, sad green, etc. The garments here are all described simply as sad coloured, doublets, cloaks, etc. without an amending colour. An example James Master 1649 “for making my sad colour cloth sute & cloake with points £3” (Robertson, 1883)
8
sand
4
scarlet
8
silver
5
skie
5
straw
1
tawny –“Tawney, a compound of red and much yellow” (Holme, 1688)
5
Turkey – Slive (1961) says that Hexham wisely refused to take a stand on “turkie colour”, and quotes Peacham as saying that Turkey colour is a blue “but others will have it red”
1
watchet - light greenish blue. There are references  from “of a watcheth or pale blewe colour” (1578) to “of a watchet or greenish colour” (1635) (OED)
3
white
27
willow
4
wormwood
1


References

Arnold, J., 1988. Queen Elizabeth's Wardrobe Unlock'd. Leeds: Maney.
Holme, R., 1688. Academie of Armourie. s.l.:s.n.
Lowengard, S., 2006. The Creation of Color in Eighteenth-Century Europe. s.l.:Columbia University Press.
Markham, G., 1631 (1986). The English housewife.. Montreal: McGill-Queens U.P..
OED, 2017. Oxford English Dictionary Online, s.l.: s.n.
Phillips, E., 1658. The new world of English words: or A general dictionary. London: Brooks.
Robertson, S., 1883. The expense Book of James Master 1646-1676 [Part 1, 1646-1655], transcribed by Mrs Dallison.. Archaeologia Cantiana, pp. 152-216.
Slive, S., 1961. Henry Hexham's "Of colours": a note on a seventeenth century list of colours. Burlington Magazine, 103(702).
Strong, R., 1980. Charles I's clothes for the years 1633 to 1635.. Costume, Volume 14.
Whittle, J. & Griffiths, E., 2012. Consumption and gender in the early seventeenth century household: the world of Alice Le Strange.. Oxford: O.U.P.

3 comments:

  1. 'pinck' a kind of yellowish green. Isn't it interesting how colour perception changes?

    ReplyDelete
  2. Have you had a look in the Middlesex Court Records at http://www.british-history.ac.uk/search/series/middx-sessions ? Some interesting details there.

    ReplyDelete
  3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    ReplyDelete