“On the Suitability of Colours for Lining Bonnets.”

From The Handbook of Millinery, by Mary J. Howell. London: Simpkin, 1847

No one article in the whole range of female costume is more important in its effects than that comparatively small piece of satin, silk, or other material, that forms the lining of a bonnet. “From little causes great effects arise”; and the saying is applicable in its fullest sense to the case in point. Let the outside trimming of your bonnet be elegant or tasteless, it only proves more or less the judgment of the wearer; it is the lining that exerts an influence on the complexion.

Hence, our fair readers cannot be too careful in their selections, and should pause before adopting any peculiar shade that may strike their fancy, and ask themselves what effect it would produce. They should remember that the lining, particularly of a close bonnet, throws its hue directly upon the face, and that as much advantage may be derived from the judicious application of a desirable tint, as positive detriment to their appearance is to be apprehended from an ill-directed choice of colours. Take as an instance, one of those ruddy beauties to whose cheeks a superabundance of healthful vigour has imparted that over degree of colour which your fashionable ladies, who give the preference to gentility over nature, would style couleur de rose; you would not give her a pink nor a cherry-coloured bonnet, to increase the fault already too prominent,—in spite of Will Honeycomb’s advocacy of this somewhat homoeopathic system,’ —but sooner follow the precept of an old poet, who says with much naivete:

“The ruddie nymph most charms our wond’ring sight, When, like the leaves of spring, in green she’s dight.”

And either the green advocated by the poet, or dark-blue, would soften down the exuberant bloom that otherwise would have found no corrective to mitigate its effects; while the pink or cherry-coloured lining would throw a slight tinge on a pale cheek, and redeem it from its lifeless appearance; whereas, green or blue would render it void of animation—a charm that Bulwer says is the “best counterfeit beauty possesses.11 Linings, therefore, as well as transparent bonnets, have a great effect on the complexion: they must not be considered only as the frame that is best suited to the picture, but rather as the drapery that is to give it proper light and shade so to supply the tint that is deficient in the face, and steal away any harsh or over-prominent hues. But this must be done artistement, as the French would say; you must perceive the effects without seeing the machinery. We should take care not to overpower what little colour may be found in a lily cheeked blonde, by too glaring a contrast of pink or red. To obviate falling into such an error, we would recommend that the bonnet front should not widen after the fashion of the shape that now goes by the name of Pamela. All bonnets indeed that widen are apt to possess the disadvantage of impairing rather than aiding the complexion, by the very contrast that we advocate.

We would therefore advise that whenever fashion peremptorily compels the adoption of large and wide bonnets, that ample trimmings be inserted towards the edge, as this will tend to diminish the vacant and unbecoming appearance which size is apt to impart; and because the interposition of flowers and tulle of suitable tints will have a softening influence. The latter especially, if tastefully managed, has something light and graceful about it, suggestive of elegance and simplicity.

It is not our purpose in a work so slight to enter into a discussion upon the theory of colours. Our readers are well aware that there are but three primary ones in nature, viz.: yellow, red, and blue; and that all the gorgeous variety of hues that we admire, whether in a rich sunset, or in the exquisite plumage of the feathered tribe, are but so many different combinations where the same tints preponderate in a greater or lesser degree.

On these simple facts a clever modern writer has built a whole system, tending to shew that a due attention to the harmony of colours would be the most certain guide for treating a complexion properly. Thus, according to our author, yellow to a pale face produces a livid hue; red would impart a greenish tint; while blue would render it positively sallow: in which latter assertion we heartily concur.

According to the same authority, all such colours must be entirely discarded for purposes of reflection on the above-mentioned faces. Yet we think not entirely, since the unfavourable tinge may be redeemed by the flowers or ribbons that adorn the inside; and as it would be scarcely reasonable to expect that a lady would wear one particular colour incessantly, even though ever so becoming, some means of this kind must be occasionally resorted to, in order to break through the monotony of one eternal hue—almost as trying to the patience of. the wearer and her friends, as toujours perdrix to the abbe’s palate. Without, therefore, adopting all the conclusions of the clever author alluded to, nor advocating those elaborate classifications which would savour of pendantry when applied to dress, we quite agree with the sweeping precept, that light colours are best suited to the blonde, and dark colours to the brunette; and the reason is obvious. The contrast of a dark colour tends to make even a dark complexion seem fairer by comparison, by the aid, for instance, of a black or somber coloured bonnet; while a fair person who does not require to be rendered more blanche, appears to greater advantage in the lightest colours. That the truth of this system is not universally admitted we are well aware, and that even a directly contrary notion is prevalent, we gather from the preference that fair persons usually shew for black. Thus, in one of Kotzebue’s comedies, a flippant widow, in reply to the remark made by one of the characters, that the length of time she has worn mourning is a proof of her sincere regard for the departed, is made to answer: “Are you not aware that blondes look best in mourning?” And centuries before Kotzebue lived and flourished, Ovid adhered to the same opinion; and in his strictures upon taste (which certainly form a more complete code than a dozen modern handbooks on the toilet or on etiquette), he thus lays down the law:

“If fair the skin, black may become it best;
In black the lovely fair Brise is drest;
If brown the nymph, let her be clothed in white;
Andromeda so charm’d the wond’ring sight.”

In spite however of all authorities, whether ancient or modern, we prefer experience; and let those who doubt us, simply give us a fair trial before that most impartial judge—a looking-glass.

Some of the colours adopted for bonnets allow a great degree of latitude in the choice of trimmings; we mean as regards the hues of the flowers or ribbons selected for that purpose. Rich colours do not allow of much variety in their decorations; grave or sombre ones of still less. Delicate colours are more susceptible of contrast than variety. Dove and pink, oiseau, and the palest of pale blues, or a very light green mixed with lilac, are samples of a pleasing contrast, presenting “not harmony but agreement.”

With regard to the selection of trimmings for bonnets or head-dresses, whenever these are of a dull cast, we should advise the former, whether they be ribbons, flowers, or feathers, to be chosen of what is termed relieving colours. A black bonnet should invariably be lined with some vivid hue; the same as the uniformity of a white one requires being broken by some delicate coloured flowers or ribbons. These trimmings should, however, be rather sparing than profuse, especially when intended for the youthful, who are generally “when unadorned adorned the most.” Nor should these relieving colours be employed otherwise than sparingly, as when too prodigally lavished they are distinctive of each other’s effect.

Were such the case, instead of deserving the name of relieving colours, they would tend to be overpowering ones, and bring to recollection those gaudy mixtures of a celebrated modern painter’s pallet, which he is occasionally facetious enough to pass on the world of connoisseurs for a picture. A well-managed contrast throws up the colour relieved, while opposition would entirely spoil it.

A little attention on the part of our readers to the subject we have been treating, will soon reduce it into a regular system, which will sink into their minds and enable them, at no distant period, to judge all such questions without the aid of a book, and to become adepts in the laws of taste.

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Published in: on April 6, 2013 at 8:00 am  Comments (2)  
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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I’ve nominated you for The Very Inspiring Blogger Award!

    http://quinnmburgess.wordpress.com/2013/04/06/very-inspiring-blogger-award-thanks/

    Best,
    Quinn

  2. Oh my. Thank you very much. I am so glad my blog is inspiring. I’ll get my page together this week.


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