Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Guidelines for Form, Style and Colour in 1928 (9)...

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've been  sharing these with you over the 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 :)

Last week's  excerpt was about colour, and I'll continue this today. 

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10.  In a more or less marked degree every colour expresses some characteristic...

11. Black is sombre, sad, lonely.

12.  White is pure, fresh, bright but used in conjunction with other colours it tones down their natural characteristics.

13.  Violet is pensive, fervent, religious, but the lighter shades of violet we call heliotrope and lilac stand for coolness, calmness.  No garment looks as comfortable on a very hot day as a heliotrope muslin.

14.  Blue in pale shades is for brightness, freshness, simplicity, like the fresh morning or the pure country air.

15.  Navy in dark dull tones is almost expressionless, and therefore used for dresses, useful, convenient, and durable, such as are used for shopping or business.

16.  Dark green and brown may be classed with dull navy.

17.  Navy in its brighter tones, and especially with a glossy surface, stands for dignity.

18.  Prune has much the same expression as bright navy, and either of these colours is suitable to be worn by women who do not wish showy colours, yet find black too sombre.

19.  Yellow has been called the elder sister of light, and stands for splendour.  it is said that without yellow no spectacle can be splendid, and that is why a woman's gold ornaments always enhance the beauty of every costume.

20.  Green in its brightest tones is strong, sure, self-sufficient, even aggressive.

21. Green in neutral shades, both dark and light, is bright enough to have a happy expression without being conspicuous, and is therefore more used than any other colour for women's dresses, either for street, for reception, or for evening wear.

22.  Red and orange are for richness, splendour, gorgeousness, and are not modest enough to be worn by a woman excepting when he role is to attract attention or to irritated.  Red is so irritating that a medical man has said if all women wore red hats so much of the colour would drive most of the community mad.

23. Pink is sometimes called a weak red, but it has all the irritating effects smoothed out of it.  It stands for all that is tender, delicate, soft, gentle, even childish.

24.  Grey in dark shades is stiff, unrelenting, unapproachable, but, in lighter shades, especially with a glossy material is the emblem of purity, and is, perhaps, the most beautiful colour a woman can wear.

25.  Fawn is one of those things usually called "colourless" meaning characterless, and yet it can only be worn with a colour contrastingly strongly with it, unless the skin is clear, cheeks rosy, and the eyes brown.  Its chief characteristic is elegance.

image sourced from

I had to chuckle at the medical man's comment about the colour red.  My husband must have gone to the wrong medical school, because he always says he likes my red jumper that I wear in winter.  Perhaps I should  re-educate him.

That's it for today, next week we'll see what some of the ideas for mixing and matching colours were in 1928.

Sarah Liz :)


  1. Thanks for the history lesson, though I love bright colors. For a few years I toned down some because my girlfriend couldn't take it, but now I go for it.

    1. Dorothy, the ideas on colour have quite changed over the last few years, and with your lovely deep colouring, you would look gorgeous in bright colours.

  2. I'm really enjoying this glimpse into the past

  3. Oh, we have come far...though I can hear a bit of my grandmother in these statements.

    1. Yes, I can remember really strict rules too about what could be seen and not seen together!

  4. loving this book, loved the part on "Red" as I love red lol!

    1. Hi Helen, I am so glad you are enjoying it :) I love red as well.