Fashion today is based on a continuous cycle of new trends in which colour plays a key role. We often hear the mantra: ‘[Insert colour] is the new black’. Yet colour in fashion changed most radically in the nineteenth century, following the accidental discovery of aniline purple (later named mauveine) in 1856 by a young Scottish chemist, William Henry Perkin (1838–1907), while he was searching for a cure for malaria. Perkin’s find was the catalyst for the emergence of a low-cost, artificial dyestuffs industry, which produced colours that rapidly replaced traditional dyes made from plants and insects. Within a decade, silk textiles saturated with the gaudy chemical hues of synthetic colours such as magenta, fuchsia, violet, aniline black, Bismark brown, methyl blue and malachite green were in widespread use.
silk (satin), cotton, metal
Gift of Joycelyn Nixon and her family in memory of their mother Onnie Jean Nixon, 2010