From the sky blue to navy blue and midnight blue... Blue is back as one of the colors of 2018. All shades of blue are timeless in their infinity and in depth.
In the old days, the blue color in clothing was the result of long-term searches and efforts. Gradually it became one of the most expensive colors that was not so widely available. It was unusual and very rare.
Blue is the color of the sky, and therefore blue symbolizes emptiness, the infinite, and the divine. As the deepest color, and the purest apart from white, blue also symbolizes calmness, reflection, and the intellect. Blue is a cold color, it has always been associated with water. Then it induces calmness and reflection. [3. ]
In artistic convention, angel's blue robes symbolize divine wisdom, while the Virgin Mary's blue cloak symbolizes purity. As the color of divinity, blue appears in many ancient cultures and has various colloquial connotations. The Ancient Egyptian god Amun was often depicted in blue, as are the Hindu gods Rama, Shiva, and Krishna. [3.]
Ancient World: Indigo, Woad, and Lapis Lazuli
Beaded Penannular Earring Period:New Kingdom Dynasty:Dynasty 18 Reign:reign of Ahmose–Thutmose III Date:ca. 1550–1425 B.C. Geography:From Egypt, Upper Egypt, Thebes, Dra Abu el-Naga, Mandara, Carnarvon/Carter excavations, 1914 Medium:Gold, lapis-lazuli Location: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
This seems surprising, but the color blue is a relatively modern invention. In Ancient Greece there was no such word for blue as we know the color nowadays. For example, Homer in the Odyssey described the blue sea as "wine-dark"... The word for 'blue' neither can be found in the Icelandic sagas, the Koran, Ancient Chinese texts and many other ancient sources. The only ancient culture that had a word for blue was the Ancient Egyptians...They were also the only one ancient culture that found a way to produce a blue dye. [5.]
The earliest known blue dyes for dyeing clothes were made from plants, such as woad in Europe and indigo in Asia and Africa, while blue pigments were made from minerals - lapis lazuli or azurite.
The Romans also imported indigo dye, but blue was the color of working class clothing while the noble people and rich wore white, black, red or purple. Blue was considered the color of mourning, and the color of barbarians. Julius Caesar reported that the Celts and Germans dyed their faces blue (by using woad) to frighten their enemies, and tinted their hair blue when they grew old.
In temperate climates, including Europe, indigo color was obtained primarily from woad (Isatis tinctoria). It was an indigenous plant of Assyria and the Levant. Woad has been grown in Northern Europe since prehistoric times...Since the 18th century it was mostly replaced by true Indian indigo that was imported by the British East India Company.
Ancient Egyptians widely used lapis lazuli, a semi-precious stone, that has been mined in Afghanistan since ancient days. Then it was exported to all parts of the ancient world. Everywhere lapis lazuli was used to make jewelry. In Egypt, it was used for the eyebrows on the famous funeral mask of King Tutankhamun. Semi-precious stone - lapis lazuli was very expensive as it was imported by caravan routes across the desert from Afghanistan to Egypt.
There was a good reason for inventing the synthetic blue pigment.
THE EGYPTIAN BLUE
In Ancient Egypt blue color, called Egyptian blue, was used for many purposes. Egyptians used it to color a glaze to make faience beads, inlays for jewelry. Blue pigment was particularly used in tomb paintings, funeral statuary and many figurines... Blue dye was also used to color the cloth in which mummies were wrapped.
During the early Middle Ages the color blue did not play a big role in the art and daily life of Europe. Only the poor people wore blue clothes, that were colored with poor quality dyes made from woad. Everything changed in the 12th century (between 1130 and 1140) in Paris when Abbot Suger used cobalt for stained glass windows in the Saint Denis Basilica. Since then the color became known as the "bleu de Saint-Denis". Blue stained glass windows were installed in other famous churches and cathedrals, including Chartres and Sainte-Chapelle in Paris.
The color blue was widely used in the 12th century as a part of the Virgin Mary cult. The colors to depict her clothing in paintings were changed from somber black, grey, violet and dark green to blue. During the 12th century painters in Italy and the rest of Europe consequently painted the Virgin Mary with the new most expensive pigment that was imported from Asia. It was called ultramarine. The color blue became associated with holiness, humility, virtue and protection.
In the Middle Ages, blue also became the color of the royal clothing. Everything started when King Louis IX of France, also known as Saint Louis (1214 - 1270) started regularly wear blue clothes. He became the first king of France who made this color as a sign royal status. Blue clothing became the symbol of nobility. The coat of arms of the kings of France became an azure or light blue, depicting a shield, sprinkled with golden lilies, better known in heraldry as fleur-de-lis. Blue had come from obscurity to become the royal color. Once blue became the color of the king, it also became the color of the wealth and power.
The rise of the color blue in fashion costumes in the 12th and 13th centuries led to a blue dye industry in many cities, including Amiens, Toulouse, and Erfurt. They made a dye called pastel. It was derived from woad, a plant that was common in ancient Europe. The Celts, the German and the tribes in Europe once widely used woad to make blue dye for their clothing.
At the end of 16th century blue color in clothing was considered very common and widespread.
Blue gradually returned to court fashion in the 17th century, as part of a palette of peacock-bright colors shown off in extremely elaborate costumes. The modern blue business suit has its roots in England in the middle of the 17th century.
Military Navy Blue
In the 17th century, blue color got its uniform color status. Frederick William, Elector of Brandenburg is mentioned in sources as one of the first rulers who introduced blue uniforms as he gave such uniforms to his army. The German states were trying to protect their own pastel dye industry against competitors who imported indigo dye.
Indigo dye became more available in the 18th century and it became the most common color of the military uniforms. Over time, blue color became the color of the costumes of officials of various ranks. Also in the late 18th century, the blue uniform became a symbol of liberty and revolution.
Forget-Me-Not Of Madame de Pompadour & The Bluestocking Of The 18th Century
Madame de Pompadour the mistress of King Louis XV of France, frequently wore blue forget-me-not flowers in her hair and adorned her gowns as a symbol of faithfulness to the king. Already since medieval times, it was often worn by ladies as a sign of faithfulness and enduring love. In the different cultures these little flowers are attributed to a wide variety of symbolic meanings.
One of the most important quality is blue color that has been mentioned in sources as "true blue". One of the Greek legends tells, that when Creator thought he had finished giving the flowers their colors, he heard a whisper..."Forget me not!"... There was nothing left but a very small amount of blue, but the forget-me-not was very happy to wear such a light blue shade. It seems especially important in the context of the 18th century Rococo fashion, as the pale pastels became the component of the style of the era.
The blue color in the clothing was not just a frivolous sign of the court fashions. Have you heard of Bluestockings? It turns out that, bluestocking was an unflattering expression in the 18th century for upper-class women who cared about culture and intellectual life and disregarded fashion. Originally it referred to men and women who wore plain blue wool stockings instead of the black silk stockings worn in society. In the broader sense bluestocking is an educated, intellectual woman. More specifically it refers to a member of the 18th-century Blue Stockings Society led by the hostess and critic Elizabeth Montagu (1720 - 1800). She was known as the "Queen of the Blues". As seen in the portrait which is painted by Thomas Gainsborough, Elizabeth Montagu is wearing pastel blue ribbons on her gown and in her hair, which is a clear reflection of Rococo fashion aesthetics.
Interesting enough, that the reference to blue stockings may arise from the time when woolen worsted stockings were informal dress items, in contrast to formal, fashionable black silk stockings.
In the early 19th century, during the era of Regency, the blue suit was converted to a sign of dandy. George Beau Brummel was a dandy who created a suit that closely fitted the human form. He used plain colors, such as blue and grey, to concentrate attention on the form of the body, not the clothes.
Then again by the late 19th century the black suit had become the uniform of businessmen in England and America. In the 20th century, the black suit was largely replaced by the dark blue or grey suit.
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My name is Edīte Parute and I am a fashion historian and researcher from Latvia, association member at "The Association of Dress Historians" (UK) and author of the book "Stila un modes enciklopēdija"/"Encyclopedia of Style and Fashion" (2010) as well as author of many publications.