The Importance of Color in Dress

My mother in law sent me this vintage “Art of Sewing and Dress Creation” booklet for Christmas. As well as having some cute how-to’s on no-longer-used gussets and decorative stitching, it also has guides for dressing based on your hair color.

“It is possible by the proper use of color in dress to make one appear older or younger, taller or shorter, larger or smaller, to make the skin, hair and eyes lighter or darker and more colorful and interesting.”

Charming, except for the part where apparently only white ladies get to pay attention to color in dress.


  1. I have a total soft spot in my heart for color theory in dressing. They became really popular in the 1910s and continued through to the 1970s. I have a few proscriptive and prescriptive books on dressing and sewing from the teens and 20s. They make me laugh a bit. Especially the fact that they say you aren’t supposed to wear purple because it’ll cast a greenish hue on your skin (I wear a lot of purple).

  2. Color theory was all the rage in the 1980s, too. There was a popular color theory book called Color Me Mine, and the makeup ladies at the department stores would do “color analysis” to determine whether you were a Winter, Spring, Summer or Fall. Then you would get a color swatch book like a paint chip fan book that was supposed to help you when you went shopping for clothes or makeup. I might still have my color swatch book somewhere.

  3. I love this illustration. But I’m a brunette and these are NOT my colors. Yellow? Oh, no. I guess the color theories around dressing have changed. But the charm of the illustrations are undeniable. Thanks for sharing this.

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