People who are experienced in working with vintage and historical clothing will tell you that there is no magic formula to putting a date on when a garment was made. Of course, there are those lucky times when the label is dated, or you find the exact garment pictured in a vintage magazine, but that is usually not the case. That’s when you go to the clues: the styling, the label, the construction methods, the materials. But a clue that is sometimes over-looked is the color.
Knowing which colors were used in which eras is just like knowing the styles – you have to study them. I’ve never run cross a book on the subject, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t one. So in the absence of a color bible, you go to the primary sources. Studying the fashion magazines of a season will give you a pretty good idea of what colors were “in”. Even better are home sewing catalogs. All the major pattern companies put out a home catalog magazine from the 1920s through the present day, and most of them have a feature on popular fabrics and colors.
The best print source I’ve found is American Fabrics magazine. It was a trade publication, with its audience being the many US clothing makers. The magazine started publication in the late 1940s and is like a time capsule of the trends in fabrics, prints and colors.
Harder to find are fabric merchant samples like the ones pictured here. I got these through a bit of luck, included in a batch of other fashion advertising junk in an ebay auction. These are from the late 1920s. Can’t you picture 1920s outfits in these color combinations?