Monday, October 11, 2021

Red Dresses (and Pink)


Variations on pink---Augusta Auctions

October 22 is Wear Pink Day to raise awareness and funding for breast cancer research.

I have friends (you may be one of them) who
have refused to wear pink since they were 4 years old.
But it's a show of solidarity.

Maybe you could find a pink outfit that defines your personal identity.

Back of a pink calico dress from American & Whimsy

The problem with pink is it has been stereotyped as girly since at least the 19th century.

Color has meaning in clothing and I have been getting some feedback from a few Know-It-Alls after I made a bald statement in Episode #8, which will be aired on Wednesday, October 13.

Episode 8 is our Halloween special where I will be talking about bleeding and red dyes.

Buy tickets here:

My generalization was that adult women did not wear red clothing.
I was barraged with photos of red clothing.

A welcome barrage, thank you, Alden.

But, I sputtered, I was talking about cotton day wear....

And didn't you all see the movie Jezebel in which Bette Davis destroys her relationship with the 
huffy Henry Fonda with a dress so red it came across in a black and white 1938 movie?

They ignored my historical information based on Civil War nostalgic movies and looked in costume collections for examples.

"It was stated that grown women didn't wear Turkey red print dresses. I offer these two examples for your consideration. Both from about 1830." Lynne.

I had a better reference than a movie:

In 1856 Sara Tappan Doolittle Robinson of Massachusetts
encountered a country Southerner on a trip in Kansas.
The implication: Red NOT worn in Massachusetts.

Tara wondered if red was "seen as an unrespectable color to wear beginning mid-19th-century? Reserved for tarts and ladies of the evening, perhaps?" She has a point.

Lynne noted that the Connecticut Historical Society owns "a well-documented 1820s RED (I capitalize it because it's bright RED) silk dress. The history that came with it, and which was corroborated with written records of the period, is that a teen-aged girl wore it to church, and the family received a visit from the deacon afterward to chastise her."

We saw red calico dresses before 1840 but none afterwards for adults. Alden noted: "I'm seeing a trend! But it disappears! Can scarcely think of red dresses, in silk or calico, after 1840 and maybe not much after 30??"

Lynne: "Right. Not even in the late 1860s-1870s when those bright jewel-tone aniline colors were in vogue. No red (that I can recall). I did find a couple of solid red cotton girls' dresses in the CHS collection from the 1890s. But those are for girls, not women or even teenagers. More like 10-12 year olds."

Chester County Historical Society
Red dresses for children survive.

So what happened in 1840? Queen Victoria was crowned in 1838; she married the prudish Prince Albert in 1840. Say goodbye to Jezebel.

He looks huffier than Henry Fonda.

Standards for morality (and the perception of morality) in the U.K and U.S. really underwent a
change in the Victorian era. 

However, Americans were still wearing red for dressing up.

Virginia sent a Dior.

We have started a new Facebook group
Just for this kind of discussion. We think it might work better than a live Q&A because it give you time to make your point with a picture (or ten.)

Ask to join. Show us your quilts (and red dresses.)


  1. Just look at how Rhett Butler made Scarlett wear a red dress to Ashley and Melanie's party. The inference was anything but complimentary!!!