Fabric Colors in the Renaissance

copyright Historical Novelists Center 1999

Many of the colors that we have nowadays for cloth simply did not exist in the Renaissance -- notably, the aniline dyes of the mid-1800s and those chemical dyes developed since. All of the hues of fabric were organic colors -- madder or cochineal for reds, blues from wode or indigo, and so on. This meant that the colors were generally softer, and almost incapable of clashing as the harsh, vibrant shades of today can.

Whatever the colors may have been, some of them had names so obscure we cannot possibly relate them to any hue. Really, any color could be called Ape's Laugh or Love-Longing! For the writer of fiction, these can add a certain atmosphere, as gallants or lady wrangle over the color for the upholstery or a new doublet. Certainly, men still thought it manly to want to look well, and therefore worried about such things, so it will matter to anyone of the better classes, not merely ladies. To not care is the mark of a peasant lout.

For your ease, we have assembled the names under general hues, with dates for when they were first known or when they were notably fashionable.


YELLOW-REDS: (the old word for "orange")







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