Fabric colors are one of the properties to choose to place in your wardrobe. Due to the modern dyeing process, we find several textiles with numerous shades and prints with uncountable variations. In ancient civilizations, people also used to dye clothing, however, those handmade dyed clothes were limited to colors and design prints.
Eventually, dyed colors of clothes became a phenomenal mark of one’s individuality and professional rank in society.
The Creation of Colors in Old Civilizations
In primitive societies, people started to create colors from various vegetative and animal sources. You can find the trace of red, black, and yellow pigments invented by men between the New Stone Age to the Neolithic period, around 10,000 to 15,000 BCE. Along with the development of fixed settlements with the formation of civilized societies, fabric dyeing developed more within 2000 BC.
The primitive cotton-made clothes were white and whitish in color as the manufacturers used to keep them as it is with the cotton’s color. Later, more shades were invented from natural sources, and shades were made to be the mark of status symbols of people in society with different positions.
Dyeing Sources in Old Civilizations:
In old civilizations, people used to dye clothes with colors from different natural resources like plant bodies, leaves, flowers, roots, animal bodies, insects, and mineral sources from stones and naturally colored water.
- Vegetable Dyes:
As discussed, different plants and their parts were used to make color shades for fabrication. Even some parts were boiled and dried to keep them preserved. Plant stems, skins, fresh and dried petals, roots, and seeds were used to make different colors and combinations.
Most commonly, Indigos were used to create different blue and purple shades, saffron petals and seeds were used to create saffron, and yellow shades and madders were used to create red. Many different shades were made from different colored dried petals and leaves.
- Animal Dyes:
The first instance we got from North American natives as they used to create different yellow shades by boiling lichens. In the Mediterranean, there was an expensive dye called Tyrian purple, made of murex sea shells, highly demanded by Roman, Macedonian, and Egyptian Royals and statesmen. Sometimes, orchil dyes from lichens also were used to replace them.
Other insects, like kermes, were used to make scarlet shades and cochineals for crimson red shades to dye clothes.
- Mineral Dyes:
From ancient times to medieval civilization, minerals from stones and earth were a good source of dyeing fabrics. Lazurite was used to create blue, limonite for yellow, and hematite for red. There have been several mineral and color-rich soils that were also used to bring color to fabrics. The saffron, red, or yellow-rich stone crushed soils were also used to soak fabrics in their dust water to bring different yellow and saffron shades. The basic rule was to crush and make powders of the desired color stone or soil and soak the cloth into them for hours in moderately hot water.
- Design Cloth Dyeing:
In many instances, we have seen that in older civilizations, different color shades were formed by absorbing different dyes. When people started to make hand-made blocks and soak them in different colors with different bindings, many different dyeing arts with designs came into the fabrics. When making the handloom fiber movement, permutations and combinations produced different textures with threads with different dyed colors.
Industrial Revolution and Modern Era
At the beginning of the twentieth century, with the touch of the industrial revolution in Europe, synthetic colors and dyeing processes were started with machines and machine-operated chemical processes. The revolution in this industry began with the creation of synthetic colors with chemicals. Within a few decades, the process of producing synthetic fabric colors for dyeing in thousands of shades became popular, and it bought a revolution to the clothing industry.
Nowadays, it is easier to make any shade of your choice by mixing it with the right synthetic colors in the proper measurement ratio with the help of a computerized system for dying fabrics and clothes. However, old civilizations started the process of making colorful fabrics to wear thousands of years ago with the help of colors extracted from natural sources. Our modern efforts enrich this taste with more color options through more developed chemical processes.