1920s Orange and Black: Not Just for Halloween

It isn’t news that certain colors — and color combinations — go in and out of fashion. But the combination of orange and black is now so strongly linked to Halloween that it’s a surprise to find it on dresses for spring in the mid-1920s.

Dresses for women aged 14 to 20, February 1925. Butterick pattern illustrations from Delineator.

Dresses for women aged 14 to 20, February 1925. Butterick pattern illustrations from Delineator magazine.

These young women are enjoying a box of Valentine’s Day candy. Early twentieth century color printing was not based on the CMYK [Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black] inks we use today, so illustrations from the twenties often have an autumnal quality compared to the bright colors we are used to. Nevertheless, the red valentine hearts show that the dress on the right, above, is definitely orange, with black trim. The same color combination was suggested for older women, too:

Fashions from Delineator, April, 1924. Butterick pattern illustrations.

Fashions from Delineator, April, 1924. Butterick pattern illustrations.

Orange was also worn with dark blue in 1924 and 1925, but the woman on the left is wearing [burnt?] orange and black in this April pattern illustration.

This lovely illustration for a Holeproof Hosiery advertisement, by McClelland Barclay, appeared in May, 1925:

Holeproof Hosiery ad, illustration by McClelland Barclay, May 1925 Delineator.

Holeproof Hosiery ad, illustration by McClelland Barclay, May 1925 Delineator.

The dress on the right may be trimmed with dark brown, matching the dress on the left, but this is another suggestion that orange is an appropriate color for May. Note the orange-y stockings on the right. Both women wear almost-opaque silk stockings.

Left, April 1925; right, June 1925. Butterick pattern illustrations from Delineator.

Left, April 1925; right, June 1925. Butterick pattern illustrations from Delineator.

The dress on the left looks more coral (or cadmium red) than orange, but the sporty dress on the right is unquestionably orange and black. (There’s also a glimpse of an orange, black & white plaid dress behind the woman at left.) The orange striped dress is from a June issue, and orange and white is still a summer combination. But we’re more used to seeing orange combined with other bright colors, like yellow or lime or watermelon pink — not alone with black.

This lady is decorating her kitchen (with Valspar paint) while wearing a black and orange top, with a coordinating black and orange trimmed apron:

Valspar paint ad, 1925. Delineator magazine.

Valspar paint ad, 1925. Delineator magazine.

These girls are wearing back-to-school clothes, so it is autumn; the little girl is dressed in orange and white plaid, with black trim:

Back to school clothes, 1925. Delineator.

Back to school clothes, 1925. Delineator.

[Digression: The Chanel-influenced outfit on the left is knee-length on a schoolgirl in 1925; adult women would be wearing this length within two years.]

This is another illustration by McClelland Barclay for Holeproof Hosiery.

Holeproof Hosiery Ad, October 1925 Delineator. Illustrator is McClelland Barclay.

Holeproof Hosiery Ad, October 1925 Delineator. Illustrator is McClelland Barclay.

The caption read “First — Artistry in Silk, then the vividness of Paris Colors.” Her satin bodice may be navy, rather than black, but the combination — not to mention her orange silk stockings — is not one we’re used to seeing today, except around October 31.  A little less jarring – because the orange is not combined with black — is this suggestion for an October wedding, from 1924:

Bride, Maid of Honor, and Bridesmaids. Butterick Pattern illustration from Delineator magazine, October 1924.

Bride, Maid of Honor, and Bridesmaids. Butterick Pattern illustration from Delineator magazine, October 1924.

I notice that most of the wedding party are rosy-cheeked brunettes. Presumably the bride chose colors she was used to wearing. [ P.S. This is one of those illustrations that always made me ask, “How is it possible for women that young to have busts that low?” See Underpinning the Twenties:  Brassieres, Bandeaux, and Bust Flatteners for the answer.]

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15 Comments

Filed under 1920s, Children's Vintage styles, Hats, Hosiery & Stockings, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Vintage patterns

15 responses to “1920s Orange and Black: Not Just for Halloween

  1. As a lover of orange, I am delighted to see that it has a long history in fashion. I don’t think ever I would attempt an orange wedding–but someone was thinking about it in the 1920s.

  2. Christina

    What a lovely post. A synthetic orange dye was created in the 1920’s so I imagine that is why we see this colour used a lot. I find the McClelland illustrations interesting. I’ve noticed in many of his illustrations he does some strange hand shapes and they are sometimes really odly drawn. In the 1925 ad shown the hands are like webbed feet. They might be gloves but even so… The colour combination in that ad is quite stunning though.

    • Thank you for that information about orange dye. There was so much discussion of the brilliant violet hues derived from coal-tar dyes in the Victorian period — I’ll be on the lookout for mentions of orange dyes now. And, yes, McClelland’s fondness for drawing hands with the fingers splayed is … odd. The hand in the lap of the navy/orange outfit looked weird till I realized it’s palm up. Of course, the original illustration was printed much larger– Those old Delineators were huge by modern magazine standards. For some reason, when I post an illustration larger than 500 dpi, it disappears a few days later, so I haven’t figured out how to get actual size.

  3. So interesting! So nice to see some original uses of orange with black that aren’t screaming Halloween!

    I love orange but I do have trouble combining it with black trim without feeling too “halloweeny”. I have really started liking orange with grey though. And navy or brown with orange has always been a combo I liked – love the navy and orange in the illustrations above!

  4. Pingback: Do Your Christmas Sewing Early: Gifts for 1925 | witness2fashion

  5. Pingback: Orange and Blue in the Mid-Twenties | witness2fashion

  6. Reblogged this on Pinned & Penned and commented:
    In my recent post featuring a sympathy card I commented on the inspiration of Downton Abbey’s ruddy and wine hued dresses for my piece; the year is 1924 in Season 5 and I had been noticing the frequency of reds, oranges, as well as deep blues in the long, tubular, Grecian-style dresses worn by many of the characters. Curious about this and knowing that the fashion will change pretty dramatically by 1926 (including hairstyles), I decided to seek out some historical photos and information about the designs of the time. That search led me to this wonderful website, Witness2Fashion. It is beyond exciting to find this wealth of research and these primary source images, including patterns, covering a variety of eras. I just had to reblog the entry that follows as an addendum to my most recent post. Enjoy and do check out this fabulous site if you love history and fashion!

  7. Phenomenal and just what I was looking for. I did a recent post regarding the Downton fashion of 1924 as it was inspiration for a card I just made. Curious about the fashion and specific changes that take place in, as you note in other posts, a VERY short time, I happened upon your site. What a goldmine!! I wrote a post last year, also stemming from Downton, as I was curious about the use of purple in the late Victorian and Edwardian fashion. I came to learn that it was a half-mourning color, as well as a color used for the Suffragettes in England. You can see it here https://pinnednpenned.wordpress.com/2014/01/31/a-window-to-the-world-of-purple/ Thank you so much for your site and research. I am looking to sew a 1924 or 1926 inspired dress for a wedding in late 2015. I will be frequenting your site for sure! I have reblogged this entry as an addendum to my most recent post. 🙂

  8. Pingback: 1920s Orange and Black: Not Just for Halloween | Pinned & Penned

  9. Pingback: Ensembles for April, 1929 | witness2fashion

  10. Pingback: Cloche Hats from Paris Illustrated by Dynevor Rhys, April 1928 | witness2fashion

  11. Pingback: Summer Dresses from Butterick, June 1926 | witness2fashion

  12. Pingback: Dresses for Teens and Young Women, October 1924 | witness2fashion

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