All posts filed under: Learn

Miniature, late 1770s

18th century purple

Every once in a while when I post a purple 18th century dress on Instagram someone comments in surprise that they didn’t think there were purple fabrics in the 18th century. The fame of mauvine, and the story of the first aniline dye, means that people sometimes think that it was so exciting because it was the first purple dye.  Not at all!  All shades of purple were already wildly popular before Perkin’s found mauvine, because Queen Victoria had chosen to wear purple at her oldest daughter’s wedding in January 1858, and lilac was fashion trendsetter Empress Eugenie’s favourite colour. Mauvine was exciting because it was a shade that was incredibly hard to dye with natural dyes, and was cheaper and faster than natural alternatives. There were indeed natural alternatives, and purple fabrics were absolutely available before 1859, and in the 18th century. Here’s a quick survey of extant garments, paintings, and fashion plates from the second half of the 18th century showing purple garments, as well as some fabric samples.  I’ve arranged them chronologically. …

What’s for dinner?

Who has been doing way more cooking at home than usual? Raises hand We don’t do a lot of eating out or getting takeaways, but with all restaurants closed for the 4+ weeks of Level 4 lockdown in NZ, cooking every meal showed how much premade food we do eat – and how much work it is to plan every menu in advance because you can only go shopping once a week. I don’t mind cooking. I do mind menu planning. Figuring out what to eat is hard work! Here are some of our favourites which have been in heavy rotation in the last few months. Bonus: they are all vegetarian or vegan, which is great if you’re trying to lower your carbon footprint. Spinach & Chickpea Curry I’m obsessed with this curry. It only has one major flaw: it uses a weird amount of coconut milk, and then you are left with half a can of coconut milk, and have to figure out what to do with it. I always use fresh spinach, and …

Dust coat, England or France, 1905-1908, Tussah silk, satin, floss silk, Victoria & Albert Museum, T.333-1987

Terminology: Tussah Silk

This post didn’t start out as a terminology post! I was going to show you more images from my Spring 1915 Standard Mail order catalogue – and thought I would do some terminology explorations along with it. I started writing about the dresses and the terms mentioned, and the post got longer, and longer, and longer… So I’ve cut it apart, and will just focus on one term: tussah silk. It’s featured in my least favourite dress on the page: the brown floral number with the ruched midriff. Tussah Silk (also  Tussar silk, Tushar silk, Tassar silk, Tusser silk or kosa silk) Tussah silk comes from a variety of silkworms that eat oak leaves, and other leaves high in tannin, rather than mulberry leaves. The tannin in the leaves gives tussah silk its characteristic pale gold colour. The filaments of tussah silk are much thicker and stronger than standard silk, and are oval instead of round. Because the initial threads aren’t as fine, tussah silk cloth has a coarser hand than regular silk, and often …