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Alice Wore Blue

An interesting and surprising history lies behind the colour Alice blue. As the name might suggest, it is linked to the title character of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, and her iconic blue dress. But there is also another Alice who gave her name to a shade of blue: the daughter of Theodore Roosevelt who loved a very pale tint of azure, and who sparked a craze in America. But this shade of blue is quite different to that of the fairytale Alice, being a very pale icy shade.

An online search on ‘Alice blue’ will turn up varying shades of light- to mid-blue of warm and cool shades; comparing them to an original illustration from 1927, a mid-tone certainly is correct, but the shade hovers on a fine line between warm and cool.

One early illustration drawn by Tenniel and approved by Carroll himself shows Alice wearing a red dress.

John Macfarlane recoloured Tenniel’s illustrations for the 1927 Macmillan Children’s Edition, maintaining Alice in a blue dress but with a red trim to her apron.The first editions of Alice in Wonderland featured no coloured illustrations – it was rather associated products that were printed with chromolithography. One early example was the cover of pianoforte sheet music: the illustration was drawn by Tenniel, approved by Carroll himself, and shows Alice wearing a red dress. 

After this came a yellow dress, and then finally the famous blue dress appeared in 1903. Alice wears a blue dress and headband, white apron with yellow trimmings and yellow striped stockings. In 1907 Alice is back to red again, and it is not until 1911 that Alice dons blue once more.

Tenniel’s eyesight was failing by this time, and Harry G. Theaker was commissioned to colour Tenniel’s illustrations. The blue Theaker chose for Alice’s dress, with a white apron and blue striped stockings established the iconic colour that was later also adopted by Walt Disney. Over a hundred years later, it’s hard to imagine Alice could ever have worn another colour.

Fashion Notes

I am wearing a vintage 1950s dress I bought last summer in a thrft store. It is actually my second least favourite era for clothing (I dislike the 1960s the most), but I really like the simplicity of the cut of this dress, the fitted waist, the pleats, and the fabric has a lovely swishy weight to it. The lack of embellishment makes the dress seem quite modern, yet it would be perfect for an Alice costume too.

Photos: April 2016

Modern and vintage inspirations

Mia Waskikowska as Tim Burton’s Alice. I loved the multiple versions of her blue dress!Alice Blue chocolates! Darling vintage 1940s packaging from SIP of Sarsaparilla on Etsy.A very pretty Alice blue tea set from Fox Mirror Vintage on EtsyTriple layer lace and chiffon Octopus Infinity wrap wedding gown from Coralie Beatrix, on EtsyLilly Dache ‘Lilly's Dillys’ cocktail hat, 1960 from Etsy store Frou Frou 4 You YouThis is what I think of as a true Alice shade of blue; a sterling silver and stone pendant necklace from Etsy's The Bonny Boutique

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