Colorless

"Setting aside the ideals of subtlety and restraint that many fashion manuals had advocated in the 1840s and 1850s, ladies of standing vied to be the most brilliant figure in the room. Throughout the 1860s, parlors and ballrooms glowed with crinolines in emerald green, bright blue, and magenta. In both England and France, the fever for color burned so brightly that there was even a revival of the fifteenth-century fashion for parti-colored clothes. Sleeves, bodice, and skirt were made with three or four different materials, all the better to display the new dyes.

"Compagnie de la Calza", Venice, c. 1400. From the Costumer's Manifesto.
In a further throwback to Renaissance times, some Parisians even colored their hair with the new [synthetic] dyes; the preferred shade (à la Princess Eugénie) was strawberry blonde. Significantly, the English word colorless, which had until then only been a synonym for pale, took on a new and less flattering meaning during this period: it became a derogatory adjective describing a person or object 'without distinctive character, vividness, or picturesqueness.'" (248-9)



Greenfield, Amy Butler. A Perfect Red: Empire, Espionage and the Quest for the Color of Desire. New York: Harper Collins Publishers, 2005.