V6: Favorite Yellow Things of the 18th Century

I decided yesterday to make my Williamsburg jacket and petticoat in bright-ass yellow, a color that was extremely popular in the 18th century.

With the boom of all-things-Chinese and far-East in 18th century Europe, painted silks and Chinese textiles became incredibly popular for clothing.  Yellow was a color associated with Imperial China, and represented royal palaces, temples, and emperors. (source)

There were all kinds of yellow, described in various terms such as “sulphur,” “canary,” chamois,” “citrine,” and “saffron.”  The yellow that comes to my mind, when I think of 18th century yellow, is a deep, bold, strong yellow, so that is the goal while searching for fabrics.

Click “read more” for my favorite yellow gowns, jackets, and accessories:

The Met, 1780-85; a Chinese painted silk Robe a l’Anglaise that has been pulled up in the polonaise style
Kyoto Costume Institute, gown of silk; English, 1760
The Met, 1770s, an English jacket of silk
KCI, 1770, English gown of silk
KCI, 1780, French polonaise in striped silk. yummy!
The Met, 1760, robe a la Francaise in gorgeous silk
LACMA Robe a la Franciase 1760
LACMA, Italian petticoat, 1725-60.

So as you can see, yellow was quite a represented color in the 18th century.  It was used on petticoats, gown, mittens, shoes, pockets, hats (I’m sure), you name it, and continued its popularity into the 19th century as well.

More yellow fever to come, as I source my materials and get to work on the jacket and flounced petticoat for this coming October.


  • ColeV

    January 6, 2012 at 5:16 PM

    Oooo….my favorite 18th century color range. As noted by the yellow Brunswick, yellow shoes, Polonaise with yellow trim, and soon to be yellow saque gown. So pretty!

  • Laurence

    January 6, 2012 at 6:27 PM

    Those dresses are really incredible thinking that they were full handmade are even more amazing! See all the details! How can they wore that everyday??? I think sometimes that wearing a 50's dress is not fully comfortable ut what why a dress like this!
    Yellow is a great color you are right!

  • Lauren R

    January 6, 2012 at 8:41 PM

    Nicole, I could tell it was one of your faves, and it looks GREAT on you. Wear yellow to Prelude to Victory, one so I can find you, two so we are twins, lol 🙂

    MrsC, finding the fabric is going to be hard, definitely. I may have to source it online, but I'm hoping my local mill end fabric warehouse will have something taffeta-ey.

  • Cassidy

    January 7, 2012 at 2:52 AM

    I always like the idea of making yellow 18th century clothes, because it was such a popular color! (It's just … not one I want to wear.) I'm eager to follow the progress of this project.

  • Lauren R

    January 7, 2012 at 4:10 AM

    Hehehe, yellow doesn't work on everybody. It might not work on me, but I don't know it yet, lol. It seems to be a very particular color of yellow, even though they ran the gamut. It's a very gold, rich, deep yellow. I found some silks today that might work…more on that tomorrow 🙂

  • Anonymous

    January 7, 2012 at 11:50 PM

    Your timing is perfect. I am embarking on my first project, a canary yellow robe a l'anglaise. Your blog inspired me to go for it at long last, now this appears to be a sign that I chose the correct fabric color! XD

  • Brittany

    March 10, 2021 at 9:04 PM

    Lauren, I love the yellow! I'm looking for extant examples of printed yellow cotton in 18th century gowns, and I haven't seen any so far. Maybe because the silk Chinese influence didn't cross over to cotton printed in India?

    I found some pretty yellow cotton fabric from Cider by Moda and I'm wondering if it works for a gown. I also really like the Jane Austen at Home fabric line from Riley Blake Designs. (Not yellow.) A few seem to work for an 18th century gown…or almost work, if they were less busy? I'm sweeping every fabric store in my area and combing through all the sheets sets I come across as well (including at Ikea, but the best lightweight fabric I can find there right now is pale brown floral on white, and I was hoping for at least a little color).

    Moda's Cider:
    https://photos.app.goo.gl/ckKjgU8dtECryEt16 (these also come in a deep turquoise)

    Riley Blake's Jane Austen at Home:
    These are inspired by an actual coverlet quilt she made, which I presume could contain some late 18th century fabric.

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