Shocking Chartreuse: The Love It/Hate It Color of the Late 19th Century

There are just some colors that you either love or hate. My friend Candice, for example, is enamored with orange. According to this bit of fun reading, her favorite color is ranked the least loved by the general population. Poor orange!

Oranges can’t catch a break! Even consumption of the fruit is down

Another polarizing color is chartreuse. Chartreuse was originally the name of a naturally green liqueur, but beginning in the late 1880s, the term popped up describing the latest emerging color trend:

“At the Toilet Table” by Gunnar Berndtson, circa 1889

Harper’s Poster, January 1895

Ladies’ Demi-Evening Toilet Paper Doll Dress, circa 1896

House of Worth Evening Dress, circa 1899

Visiting or Dinner Dress, circa 1900

Shoes, circa 1895

Victorians had always loved sometimes garish colors, but the chartreuse of the 1890s is one of the most polarizing colors in historical fashion, likely because there are so many variations to love or hate, including “yellow-green,” green gold, and a the original dusky color of chartreuse liqueur. It can range of dark (like the Worth gown above) to a lighter pastel color sometimes called “nyanza.”  The bright florescent-yellow version has recently had a modern revival since neon tones have entered the scene again, and the term chartreuse is used to describe a highly saturated, green-tinged yellow.

I recently came across a chartreuse silk shirt at the thrift shop. Normally, I’m not a chartreuse lover– not by a long shot! But this golden-green is so liquid and fabulous! It makes me want to party, 1890s style…


One sleeve has already been sacrificed to the project gods. The rest trembles in fear (mostly because my sewing machine insists on eating it. Slipping a bit of tissue paper underneath helps).

Chris and I will be attending Frontier Days with the DFW Costumer’s Guild tomorrow, so say prayers, light candles, and keep your fingers crossed that we have good weather and my skirt doesn’t billow up over my head in the Texas wind!

8 thoughts on “Shocking Chartreuse: The Love It/Hate It Color of the Late 19th Century

  1. Re: your last comment in your piece– skirt weights are the trick. Your skirt will stay down nicely even in a wind. Sew them into your hem. Not too many though you want to be able to walk.

  2. I was wondering where you found that amazing fabric! I was lusting over it all day yesterday. I thought it was absolutely gorgeous!

    1. Try Google using keywords like your city or state along with the words “costumers” or “historical society.” Another good place to check is the Historical Sew Fortnightly page on Facebook:
      Finding a group can be hard. I was fortunate enough to get an invite from Jen of Festive Attyre when I moved to Fort Worth. My home state of New Mexico, though, doesn’t have any active groups that I am aware of. So, if you can’t find a group, sometimes you have to get plucky and start one! I wish there was an online group directory…perhaps that would be a good project to work on next…

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