This section is from the book "Clothing And Health. An Elementary Textbook Of Home Making", by Helen Kinne. Also available from Amazon: Clothing And Health.
Miss James thinks that the Pleasant Valley girls have learned so much about color in relation to general design in their art classes that they will be able to understand easily about color in dress too. Colors, they have learned, have value, with gradations from light to dark. In black and white the contrast is striking, but when values are closer together the harmony is closer and less conspicuous.
In choosing your new spring dress be sure to think of your own characteristics. Your appearance may be injured or improved according to the color chosen. Color even more than design may spoil the appearance, and is important to the wearer and to all who come in contact with her, for color is expression of one's refinement and culture. Every girl of Pleasant Valley will wish to know how to look her best. Color in which there has been mixed much gray, as dull blue or dull red rather than pure bright color, is apt to make the individual characteristics stand out. This grayness in color forms a background as it were, or a setting, for the face and shows the figure to best advantage.
Artists have a way of expressing this brilliancy of color. Miss James says they call it intensity. Do you understand what is meant by color when it is strongest and loudest and most intense? Think of red of the most vivid brilliant kind; gradually think of it growing grayer and grayer until it is pure gray. By intensity of a color is meant this difference in grayness. Very few people can wear very bright red. Miss James says she must have the "grayed" colors, in dahlia tones of red if she wishes a dark dress of this color, or in old rose if she wishes a dress which will be less somber. This is true of all colors; only red is perhaps the most difficult to use. One learns to use color in its full intensity only for touches here and there on a gown or a hat, which is itself not intense in color.
Large people should not wear red. Blue or green are cooling, quieting colors and so are better adapted to large figures than red and also better for those whose features are not very pronounced. Blues which are not very strong, or so grayed that they have lost half or more than half of their strength, are more interesting and becoming for large figures for a whole dress.
Fig. 134. - Can you find the middle values of gray?
Yellow is nearest light, and in combination with red gives the oranges from which we get browns of all kinds and degrees, rich and warm in effect. Try mixing these colors in your paint box. Green combines yellow and blue. It is a light, cheerful, and calm color, always restful and soothing. The yellow-greens are perhaps more cheerful; that is, when more yellow than blue is used. When more blue is introduced, the greens are more soothing and cool. Violet is red and blue mixed ; a cool and exciting color, which can be very intense or very subdued.
Choosing color for a dress. Do you think the Pleasant Valley girls will think before choosing their new gowns whether it is for school, or for a best dress, for a party or for the house? Even apron material can be chosen which will make the wearer look unattractive. Why not look pretty and clean when one is at work too?
Miss Willing says that quiet color in dress is an evidence of good taste. In combining colors in dress one must aim to obtain the right balance in color. Miss Willing says, in planning the color scheme for a costume, think about the dominant or most prominent color and endeavor to bring the others into harmony with it. Harmony is the result of colors being brought together. Touches of black help to bring colors together and so harmonize them. Miss Willing gave several other suggestions for harmony. Cousin Ann put them down in her notebook and sent them to Marjorie.
1. When one wishes to use contrasting colors, as yellow and violet, one can get pleasing harmony by using a large quantity of one color and a small amount of the other. This subordinate relationship of one color to the other gives harmony; the more grayed the tone of the large mass of color, the greater the intensity of color in contrast that can be used.
2. In combining colors of weak intensity for harmony, a harmony of costume of one mode, that is one color used in different values, is safe but is not always so interesting as the contrasting colors.
3. To emphasize a color, a touch of the same may be added to some part of the costume. Blue eyes seem even more blue with a blue necktie around the shirt waist collar.
4. Another way to make a good harmony is to use complementary colors. Red and blue; green, violet, and yellow; green and plum ; blue and orange; purple and yellow-green. One should be used intense, and the other in a gray tone. For example, in combining color with hair, greens, particularly gray greens, are very pleasing with auburn hair. Barbara Oakes discovered that fact with her auburn hair. Violet tends to make yellow hair look more golden, so care must be taken to have a gray violet so the gold color in the hair will not be overpowered. "Red" hair is made to look brighter when a blue costume is worn. So you see one can avoid unfortunate combinations if one studies the strength of the color of the hair in relation to the colors to be used.
Learning to combine colors. Miss James had many samples of gauzy chiffons which the girls learned to handle and to combine so as to get artistic results, for combinations of complementary and contrasting colors as well as for combinations of "one hue." It is only through trying that one learns. This, too, is a matter of appreciation. Some people have finer appreciation for color than others. By thinking about this and learning all you can in school and from books, you too may come to have real color appreciation.
In choosing the best colors for your figure or for mother's or for auntie's, you must think about the value and intensity as well as the other characteristics of color.
Our costumes, as a rule, are worn for different occasions and are seen against different backgrounds. We say that the backgrounds, as in rooms, or against rocks or grass or hillside, are of about middle value - halfway between white and black; in other words, gray. Black and white costumes, then, will always stand out. White tends to make the figure appear large; black calls attention to the outlines of figure and looks best on people with good figures because of this emphasis of outline. Blue, blue green, and blue violet - if of middle value, very "gray" - or gray itself are best adapted to stout figures as they are retiring colors. They seem to melt into the background and do not give prominence to the figure. A little brighter color may be added and make the costume more becoming to the face. This should be used through the center of the gown, not at the edge to draw the eye to the boundaries of the stout figure. A rose or a flower of contrast at the center of the belt is an example.
Studying lines of a costume. Miss James says the best way to get an effect of height is to place the longest possible vertical lines through the center of the figure with no points of emphasis as trimming on the outer parts (Fig. 135). For a slim figure, when one wishes to appear stout, the outline of the figure should be emphasized at the outer sides of sleeves or shoulders or skirts, by such arrangement of trimming that the eye is carried across the figure (Fig. 136). Miss Willing and the girls had a good laugh about the use of large plaids and broad stripes for stout people. Plaids or squares certainly tend to emphasize stoutness, as do bold designs or conspicuous color combinations.
So many things to remember - line, value, color; all-important, if one is to be attractively dressed. Miss James has decided to permit the girls to work out the color combinations at school for their new spring dresses. The subject of color in choosing hats is equally important. Let us study next lesson about it.
Fig. 135. - Vertical lines through the center of the costume make the figure appear thinner.
Fig. 136. - Notice how the emphasis on the outside of the costume makes the figure appear larger.
1. Study your own characterisics. Write them down. Decide what predominating color you would like for a spring dress. From the chiffon colors which your teacher has, combine the appropriate color combination which you would like.
2. Arrange with the chiffon samples, combinations of complementary colors, of contrasting colors.
3. Write a composition on the subject of "What makes a girl well dressed."