Enjoy a new costume display featuring and encapsulating the colour blue. Including a wide range of items such as shawls, dresses, swimsuits and jeans!
The colour blue has long been associated with royalty and the rich, and symbolic of trust, loyalty and sadness. For instance, blue flowers such as forget-me-nots symbolise faithfulness. English custom suggests a bride should wear something blue on her wedding day, and the phrase ‘feeling blue’ originated from sailing ships - if a captain died at sea, a blue flag would be flown on the return to port.
Blue is also chosen in advertising to denote a dependable brand such as the NHS, Nivea and the Conservative party! Also, surveys in Europe and America show that half those asked chose blue as their favourite colour.
Historically, the colour blue was produced by plant dyes. Woad (Isatis tinctoria) has been used since the Stone Age to create a blue fabric dye. The plant was adaptable to colder climates; leaves were dried, crushed and mixed with urine. However the colour was not very intense and did not prove to be colour fast.
In warmer climes, mainly Asia and Africa, the heat-loving perennial indigo (Indigofera tinctora) was the preferred dye source. Indigo pigment was used for dyeing denim blue: the blue colour is laid on the surface of the cotton fibres rather than penetrating them, and over time the colour is rubbed off to produce a faded look. This wearing-off of the colour is called ‘crocking’ when the white fibres are revealed.
Over time, blue pigments were discovered by grinding minerals and semi-precious stones; these were used for paints, but would not work in dyes as they were not water-soluble.
Englishman William Henry Perkin discovered the first synthetic dye ‘mauveine’ in 1856, while trying to synthesise quinine. He was closely followed by German chemist Adolf von Baeyer, who in 1865 started to develop a synthetic indigo dye. This was launched in 1897; he won the Nobel Prize in chemistry in 1905 for this work.
However, man’s need for brightly coloured textiles has created one of the most severe pollutant problems in modern times, due to the waste water produced during the chemical dyeing process.