Guidelines for Form, Style and Colour in 1928 (8)...

Hello everyone,

I found an old book a few years ago "THE CUTTER'S GUIDE" A MANUAL OF DRESSCUTTING AND LADIES' TAILORING, by M.E. Roberts, published in Sydney in 1928.  At the back of the book, I found guidelines for form (what we now call style) and colour, and I'm sharing these with you over the next few weeks.

This guide was written specifically for women's styling. The language used is so different from our very direct way of speaking ninety years later, but the principles outlined  are as sound now as they were then (with the exception of some, which just amuse us now.  So, whatever you think of the ideas,  please enjoy them :)

image sourced from

This week I'll be sharing some of the ideas about colour that were current in 1928.

The first part of the section talks about the art and science of colour from  theoretical, philosophical and practical perspectives and is probably not so useful or fun to read as the sections I have chosen.  It goes into how to colour mix yarns in weaving, as colour is light rays and nothing substantial as such.  The author writes that  a knowledge of the theoretical basis of colour and how to create harmony is necessary to create attractive garments.

So, starting  the excerpt from Chapter XX1 at 6.

6.  When any colours that are out of harmony are used in dress material the eye naturally makes up the defect of itself, and the task of doing that is so painful to the sight of a sensitive person as the placing of some nauseous stuff on the tongue is to the taste of another; and just as one can hardly explain why she likes the taste of one thing on her palate more than another, so it is difficult to explain taste in colours.  Many people make beautiful harmonies in colours simply because they trust nature's own prisms and please their own eyes.

7.  As red, yellow, and blue cannot be used together in a garment - unless woven in tiny threads into one piece of material - with anything but a crude effect, the laws governing the harmony and contrast of coloured rays are not the only aspect of the subject to be considered by those who wish to dress suitably.

8.  Each colour has an expression and character of its own, and the colour of a garment should be chosen with a view to the character which the wearer wishes to present.  For instance, pink stands for tenderness, innocence, softness, gentleness - especially when the material is soft and woolly.  Therefor a woman does not wear a gown of bright pink cashmere or other woollen material in the street any more than she would wear her heart on her sleeve.

9.  The only people so clothed are those who quite apparently have no gentleness, or softness in their squalid home surroundings, and the attraction of such a garment is  the contrast to their sordid lives.  Some pinks, made less soft by the cotton foundation and a toning down of white mixture, are permissible, but are not worn by women whose lives have made them strong and vigorous.

image sourced from  ....the colour of the year was emerald perhaps???   

Well, strong words indeed!  I must admit to a little smile from time to time, but also glad that perhaps we are not so judgemental nowadays as to think that a bright pink means that the person is a harsh sort of slothful harridan.
And I don't know what Ms Roberts would think of colour blocking. Not much I suspect.

( I remember the phrase blue and green must not be seen together when I was very young, but it can look quite stunning).

More next week on the characteristics of colour according to one of the 1928 worldviews.

Sarah Liz


  1. Oh, this is soooo interesting! I will be attentive to this series of posts, they are fun.

    1. Hi Rosy, yes, they are fun, I agree, I am so glad you are enjoying them.

  2. this makes me want to go look in my closet lol!looking forward to these fun post!

    1. Hi Helen - what lurks in there, lol's? Glad you are enjoying them, see you at the wardrobe challenge.


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