A Gown for Gracie, Mauvine and the power of Aniline dyes.

I will continue spoiling my little niece with pretty dresses.

This week I would like to present a none too subtle stunner, a product of the Industrial Revolution. A color unlike the vegetable based dyes favored by the Reformers, Morris would have cringed in horror, my niece will  squeal  with delight.


United Kingdom 1870-73

Aniline dyed silk, lined with cotton, trimmed with satin and bobbin lace, reinforced with whalebone.

Victoria&Albert Museum

I have long been fascinated and perplexed by the Aniline dyes of the 19th cent., understanding how they stood in sharp contrast to the aesthetics of the Reform movements, I was still drawn to their brazen beauty. Magenta I understood to be a color that was wholly 19th century. As curious as I was I never explored the topic until this evening. In 1856 A British chemist, William Perkins accidently discovered Mauvine, the first of many brilliant aniline colors.

William Henry Perkin


A scrap of  Mauvine dyed silk, with a letter from Perkin’s son.

As I mentioned, other brassy colors would follow, magenta, chrome yellows, pink and blue, but Mauvine was the first.The Queen started a fashion for the color when she wore it to the Royal Exhibition. So if it is good for her Majesty it is most certainly good enough for my niece Grace.


I have much to learn about aniline dyes, the impact they had on the Industrial Revolution, “good” taste, “bad”taste etc.

But until then I plan to purchase the marvelous 1995 film, “Angels and Insects”, directed by Plilip Haas. There are many splendid examples of aniline colored ball gowns, I am eager to relive those moments.

still from “Angels and Insects” 1995


One Response to “A Gown for Gracie, Mauvine and the power of Aniline dyes.”

  1. Little Miss is finally well enough to explore beauty….poor thing seems to think such treasures are attainable via her father. Stunning!

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