Fashion in Colors: Multicolor

The Kyoto Costume Institute

Multicolor—A kaleidoscope of colors
In the past, colors held powerful symbolic meaning, with each one possessing its own nuance or taboo. Today, with such restrictions having faded away, people are free to use and combine any colors they want. Diversity is encouraged. This freedom is an expression of both the color pallete and of modern society.


Mid-18th century menswear. Both have gorgeous weave patterns, with silver thread used for the coat, and the waistcoat using gold thread and various colors of silk thread. Before the modern period, Men's clothing worn by Western royalty and nobles was at least as splendid and gorgeous as that for women, as men dressed in a manner that would maintain class distinctions, flaunting their privileged status.

A gown made from a stunning textile featuring multi-colored bouquets and fur patterns elaborately interwoven into the ground textile canelé. This textile with its complex weave pattern shows of the outstanding skills made in Lyons, famed in the height of quality and design.

The fabric with the water-blotting pattern was called chiné à la branche in French. The pattern was printed onto the warp prior to weaving. In Europe, the chiné technique was extremely difficult, so the large chiné patterns were produced only in Lyon.

Light pastel coloring and fluffy texture are characteristic of chiné. Since Madame de Pompadour strongly preferred wearing dresses of chiné, it was often called "Pompadour taffeta."


This dress' stylized Indian floral pattern has the colored as its focus. Red, along with blue, green, yellow, and other various colors, were applied both by hand paint and by woodblock prints. Indian printed cotton textiles (Indian chintz) became well known and hugely popular in the West during the 17th century.

The cape on the left is "indienne-type" floral patterns were printed on a dark brown color, called ramoneur (the chimney sweeper), made in Alsace. The robe à l'anglaise on the right is English printed cotton with all-over floral patterns. In 18th century Europe, the printing industry had been developed and the French Alsace region, Jouy in a town near Versailles became a major center of the printing industry.

Indian chintz was introduced to Europe from India in the 17th century, and highly valued under the names of indienne (French) and chintz (English). Printed dresses became widely popular in the mid-1830s, and afterwards, prints continued to be used extensively for clothes and decorations.

Perrotine printing

In the 1840s, when it became possible to print color gradations onto wool fabric, printed wool were popular in women's dress and countless variations were created. Printing techniques evolved rapidly, and polychrome patterns which were previously only possible in woven silk could now be created by the cheaper method of printings.

Blended fabric of silk and wool in fact is hard to print on. The bright colors of this dress give prove of the rapid progress in cloth printing techniques that had been achieved.

Colors from around the world

A dressing gown with printed cashmere pattern. The frenzy for cashmere shawls broke out in Europe at the beginning of the 19th century and revived again around the middle of the century.

Extremely expensive originals from India's Kashmir region and luxury goods from Lyon that were based on Indian designs and woven on newly developed, sophisticated weaving machines, marked the top range of available products. Cheaper items with printed cashmere patterns came from Scotland's Paisley and circulated widely on the market. This is the origin of the word "Paisley design."

This dress was remade from a Japanese kimono in London. In the late 19th century kimonos and textiles from Japan captured of the interest of many people in Western countries. Women in America and Europe made dresses from Japanese kimono fabrics and sometimes unstitched kimonos to make new dresses. They also wore kimonos as indoor wear. They especially favored kimonos for women in the highly ranked warrior families at the end of the Edo Period, like the source material for this dress.

Distinctive, vivid colors on delicate materials such as silk chiffon were achieved in this period by use of synthetic dyes. These hues can be also found in the highly exotic, strong colors used in the costume of the Ballets Russes, which first performed in Paris in 1909. Those colors immediately influenced fashion circles, and in the early 1910s, the streets were filled with vivid colors like those seen in these dresses.

The excavation of Tutankhamen's tomb in 1922 led to the widely popular civilization-of-Ancient-Egypt fad. This craze quickly influenced the fashion. The Orientalism trend that first appeared in the 1910s remained popular along with the 1920s with the influence of Ancient Egyptian styles, Aztec art that spurred on a fascination with Mexico, and interest in other foreign countries.

Art of colors

Print dresses, a trend in the 1930s, became pop and unique in the hands of Schiaparelli. The print was possibly designed by a popular illustrator, Marcel Vertès. As artists were challenged to employ usual scenes and utilitarian objects in everyday life as their main subject, Schiaparelli brought such objects to haute couture, where dignity and elegance had been considered important.

This dress is a masterpiece by Yves Saint-Laurent, a leading designer of the 20th century. A straight A-line dress with boldly set primary colors, bordered by black straight lines, was created after Compositions, famous paintings by the Dutch painter Piet Mondrian. Saint-Laurent was known as an art collector. Compositions was in his possession as well.

This vivid silk-screen print shows motifs of African masks. Emilio Pucci, a Florentine aristocrat, began his fashion career in 1947. He started his business at his family home parazzo, and opened his boutique in Capri in 1950. With brilliant prints making use of the advanced Italian techniques, he swept the world, starting from the U.S. market.

One-piece dress using chirimen, a traditional Japanese silk crêpe, with big oni-shibo wrinkles. Hanae Mori was one of the pioneers who first took Japanese fashion to the international market. The fabric was mainly produced for traditional cushion covers, but she used it to create an evening dress. The prints of large dahlias in distinctive pink, yellow, and green coloring on a bright orange background produced a dignified effect much like ceremonial kimono.

Colors are universal!

This "paper dress" represents the 1960s, the era of mass consumption. Simple form, mini length, and graphical motifs were in vogue for fabrics at that time, and are incorporated into this low-price disposable dress made in the U.S. This disposable dress is printed with images of Campbell's Soup cans. It was inspired by the use of the cans by Andy Warhol (1928–1987), the central figure in pop art.

One of the most important works of Issey Miyake's early days. This jersey dress was named "Tattoo" featured a print modeled after Japanese-style tattoos. The print was designed by the textile designer Makiko Minagawa, who joined Miyake's activities in 1971.

The vivid colors, the large check pattern and the big patch pockets create a youthful impression. Hechter polished up aspects of casual street fashion to transform fashionable daily wear.

These dresses are "Pleats Please Guest Artist Series" (1996-98) by Issey Miyake. Works by a famous Japanese photographer, Nobuyoshi Araki (1940–), are printed on them. On the left is "Iro-shōjo," and on the right is the "Araki" print. The contrast between the clean and crisp shape and pop coloring of Pleats Please with the images of ennui in Araki's photographs gives the series an interesting twist.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
Translate with Google