The theme for the Historical Sew Monthly Challenge #9 is Brown: make something in any shade of brown.
Brown is not generally my favourite colour, but I’m getting quite ambitious about this challenge, and have actually gotten very excited as I’ve researched it, so I may come around to brown yet! And I’ve found so many beautiful things in finding pieces for the inspiration post!
Brown should be an easy one for everyone to do, because brown has been such a popular colour throughout history: there is almost no period, no people, no rank or station that hasn’t worn brown. Hopefully there will be entries to represent all sorts of periods, places, levels of stations, and all shades of brown!
And now, for some inspiration…
True browns are less common in Medieval illustrations than they were in Medieval clothing, simply because the illustrators went for bright shades for visual effect, and coloured illuminations are more likely to depict the upper classes, where brighter colours were a status symbol. Plus, some colours have faded to brown over time. But I’m pretty sure Atalante’s frock was always brown, and isn’t it beautiful with her red under-gown!
For another high-status brown, here is Jan Janz Mostaert’s beautiful Portrait of a Lady. I love the way the rich brown brocade of her over-dress mirrors the rich brown of the fur lining, and complements the pinks of her under-dress. Delicious!
Fawn and copper were both very popular colours in the mid 17th century, as these two Lely portraits show admirably:
I absolutely adore this early 18th century jacket, the beautiful bizarre silk it is made from, and the masterful use of the fabrics pattern in its design:
I’m still obsessed with 18th century chine a la branche silks, and I’ve noticed that they all come in shades of palest tan and the most classic 18th century shade of all, the pink-brown known as puce.
18th century menswear can be a bit over the top, but this jacket is both severe and fabulous.
Brown was, of course, a common colour for stays and other under-things in the 18th century, and the working classes made all manner of garments, including shifts, from unbleached brown linen.
As with all colour challenges, the item doesn’t have to be exclusively brown, as long as the brown component is a significant part of it. This dress may be predominantly lilac, but the beige flowers give it interest and visual impact, and even the briefest description is likely to say that it is lilac and light brown.
And because gorgeous mid-19th century flowers aren’t just for women….
Accessories are a great way to bring brown into an outfit if a whole brown garment is too much. I love this little bonnet:
This ensemble got rather ravaged in Rate the Dress, but I still think it’s fascinating, and has distinct possibilities:
For an example of brown linen, not the 18th century kind, this brown linen summer ensemble:
In more recent decades, brown has become a popular autumn colour, and is seen a lot in coats and tweeds, as in this chic 1935 number with matching cape:
Gorgeous! Happy sewing!