Colours of the Regency

LastWomanStanding3x5   In my novella, “Last Woman Standing,” which is to be a part of a Christmas anthology, the heroine’s father is a horticulturalist. He has an unusual monkey flower species called the “Calico” in the book. In case you are interested, here is what the website Calscape says of the flower: “Mimulus pictus is a species of monkey flower known by the common name calico monkey flower. It is endemic to central California, where it is known only from the southernmost Sierra Nevada and adjacent Tehachapi Mountains in Tulare and Kern Counties. It grows in forest and woodland habitat, in open, bare, rocky, and often disturbed areas. This is an annual herb growing in a small patch at ground level or erect to a maximum height of about 38 centimeters. The stem is hairy and rectangular in cross-section. The oppositely arranged leaves are somewhat oval in shape and up to 4.5 centimeters long. The tubular base of the flower is encapsulated in a dark reddish calyx of sepals with uneven lobes. The five-lobed flower has a maroon throat and the circular face is white with stark maroon veining.” The last line of this description is the one that drove me a bit batty while describing the flower in the book, for “maroon” was not a termed commonly used during the Regency. It was just becoming popular at the end of the 18th Century. 

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From Dictionary. com
ma·roon1
/məˈro͞on/
adjective
adjective: maroon
  1. 1.
    of a brownish-crimson color.
    “ornate maroon and gold wallpaper”
noun
noun: maroon; plural noun: maroons
  1. 1.
    a brownish-crimson color.
    “the hat is available in either white or maroon”
  2. 2.
    BRITISH
    a firework that makes a loud bang, used mainly as a signal or warning.
Origin
late 17th century (in the sense ‘chestnut’): from French marron ‘chestnut’, via Italian from medieval Greek maraon . The sense relating to color dates from the late 18th century.

It seems like the Regency was the era for colorful names and names for colors. However, many only lasted a season or two. Some colors were dictated by events of the day (battles won, allied countries, etc.). But one of the reasons the Regency era is so fascinating is due to the many descriptive colors, etc.

I am not sure certain whether there were specific color names confined just to the Regency. However, if you would like a list of colors used across the Regency and the longer Georgian eras, accompanied by swatches, you might want to have a look at Sarah Waldock’s post at her blog, Renaissance and Regency Ruminations. If you read my story, you will notice I use both the terms “chestnut” and “Egyptian brown” to describe the veining in the flower pictured above. 

This color list was primarily prepared by Sarah, who also dyes fabrics using old techniques and formulas, augmented by information provided to her by Charles Bazalgette, who recently published a biography of his ancestor, Louis Bazalgette, entitled Prinny’s Taylor. It is important to keep in mind that most of the colors on this list came primarily from colors used for garments and accessories, rather than interior decor. Which is not to say that such colors were not used for such purposes, just that the sources of these color names are based upon garment colors.

51jyow5S1BL.jpg In case you want to know more of the book Prinny’s Taylor: The Life and Times of Louis Bazalgette (1750-1830)The Prince of Wales, later George IV, is probably the most written-about of all British monarchs, and his excesses, his debts and the huge sums that he expended on his wardrobe are legendary. It is therefore strange that the man who was the Prince’s tailor for over thirty-two years, and his principal tailor for over half of that time, should have been named, and then only in passing, in just two other books. 
The reason why Louis Bazalgette has been a shadowy figure until now is that the relationship between the two men was discreet and almost clandestine. This biography presents a detailed picture of an extraordinary man, of humble origins, whose influence on gentlemen’s tailoring, and upon the Prince himself, must have been far-reaching. 
This fascinating story presents a new angle on Georgian and Regency life, as seen through the eyes of a little French tailor who by his own efforts became a very wealthy propertied merchant. There is also a great deal of information on gentlemen’s tailoring of the period, a subject sparsely covered in other publications, and we are regaled in detail with the clothes that were made for Prinny, when and where he wore them and how much they cost. Many of the anecdotes about George are included, but given new meaning because of the fresh information that the author has discovered.
Some of Louis Bazalgette’s descendants also enter the story. His eldest son Joseph William Bazalgette, R.N, served with distinction during the Napoleonic wars, and his grandson of the same name was the noted civil engineer who made such a difference to London. The author is Louis’ great-great-great-great-grandson.
Lovers of the period will be delighted by many previously unpublished items which have been uncovered during over twenty years of painstaking research.

The earliest reference I have found of Navy Blue comes in 1814. (from the Oxford English Dictionary). Forest Green dates to 1810. Navy Blue might have been already in use at the time because the reference refers to a vat of dye. Forest Green was used by a Scot in reference to a color called Lincoln green. Some of the names of colors used in house paint  were very odd. Farrow and Ball used to have a sample card for historic colors like dead salmon and mouseback. We can also discover color names in the descriptions of fashion prints in the magazines. Some color terms date from after the Regency, such as Mauve. Colors and fashion details were also named after events. A fashion color was stone. I wondered it there was a difference between stone and Bath stone, field stone, or flagstone. Fruits and flowers were names often used. Navy blue was the color of the British naval uniform. Navy bean attested from 1856, so called because they were grown to be used by the Navy. (From etymonline.com) But it does not say when they began using the term as a color rather than a noun. I have seen “cerulean blue,” “Pomona green,” and “primrose yellow,” to name a few.

There were common Regency/Georgian terms for various hues within each color. Someone on the Beau Monde loop (sorry, I cannot discover who provided this list) tells us about “greens.” 

Greens, for instance, were:

Bottle green

Bronze Green

Corbeau coloured

Emerald green

Olive (green)

Parrot green

Pomona green

Rifle green

Saxon green

Spring (green)

This table reads as: the title of the color, the year the term was first used, the modern color description/name as per the British Color Council,

Aurora, 1809. Chilli.

Aurora, 1829.  Shell-Pink.

Eminence, 1829.  Crushed Strawberry.

Japanese Rose, 1826.  Crushed Strawberry.

Marsh Mallow, 1829. Crocus or Old Rose.

Morone, 1811. Peony Red.

Naccarat, 1800. Tangerine.

Terre D’Egypt, 1824. Brick Red.

In the Regency period, there certainly are more colors for white/cream/shades thereof than for red/pink/orange.

51mvL3GneQL.jpg  You might consider an investment in C. Willett Cunningham’s, English Women’s Clothing in the Ninetheeth Century: A Comprehensive Guide with 1,117 Illustrations. At 576 pages, it is well worth the nearly $20 cost, for it has information on hair styles, hats, prices on yardage, undergarments, etc. 

Book Blurb:

The nineteenth century was a period of continuous change for women’s clothing in England. The growing prosperity of the merchant class meant an ever-larger number of women for whom “dress” was a principal function in life, while the increasing availability of lower-priced ready-made garments enabled women of moderate means to purchase the fashions of the day. In addition, the development of the railways spurred the spread of new goods, while the removal of the tax on papers in 1854 produced an abundance of fashion magazines at cheap prices, bringing news of the latest styles to the multitudes.
The magnificent array of ladies’ fashions that characterized the century are on display in this remarkably complete decade-by-decade overview. Drawing almost exclusively on contemporary sources — fashion magazines, newspapers, rare period photographs, memoirs, Victorian novels, periodicals, and other publications, as well as firsthand observation of actual garments — the author describes and explains the couture that evolved in response to changing social conditions, technological innovations, and cultural developments.
Over 1,100 line and tone drawings and photographs depict hundreds of outfits ranging from lovely morning dresses and starkly attractive riding outfits to elegant carriage costumes, opulent evening dresses, and exquisite bridal gowns. Full-page plates also depict period millinery, footwear, underclothing, and other apparel, while three useful glossaries provide descriptions of materials, definitions of technical terms, and more.
Museum curators, vintage clothes collectors, and fashion historians will find this carefully researched and well-written book an indispensable tool for dating, identifying, and authenticating vintage clothing. Not only are styles described and illustrated in detail for each year; all the small details of construction by which specimens can be dated are given wherever possible. Moreover, designers, illustrators, and fashion enthusiasts will be delighted by the superbly detailed illustrations, which painstakingly document the fashionable finery of the Victorian era.

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About reginajeffers

Regina Jeffers is the award-winning author of Austenesque, Regency and contemporary novels.
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3 Responses to Colours of the Regency

  1. Jennifer Redlarczyk says:

    The flower is beautiful and I love what you had to say about colors and fabric dying. One year I went out to the Botanic Gardens north of Chicago and did some “craft” type classes. One happened to be natural yarn dying using flowers. Fascinating. And of course I love the books on dress. In college I was able to take a class called History of the Costume for the stage. Loved it. Thanks.

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