Medieval Clothing Dyes - Life in Medieval DaysIn modern times we can choose clothes in any color we choose. We don't even think that some colors might be hard to make. In medieval times, however, all clothes started out in a bland color. They had to find specific raw materials to make dyes. That meant some colors were easy to make - and others were quite rare.
Those who made dyes were often extremely proud of the colors they could create. There were even "guilds of dyers" where they taught only certain people how to make those colors. That would ensure that their outfits could get high prices. If everyone else was in brown, and one special person was in bright green, that bright green person might be happy about their exclusive outfit.
Red was an extremely popular color in the medieval times. Knights loved to use the color red to represent battle and blood. You see red crosses on a variety of uniforms. Red was the "male" color at the time, while blue was the "female" color. Madder - a root - was used in Greek and Roman times and had definitely spread to England by the medieval period. There was also a special red which came from a rare insect; this specific red would have been for nobles only.
Dyers would need to find specific mushrooms to attempt to achieve a rust-orange type of color.
Yellow could be made from a number of sources - buckthorn berries, dyer's green weed, and weld being three of them. Turning something yellow wasns't much of a problem for the medieval folk. Some mushrooms will turn fabric yellow as well.
There are few things in medieval times that could make a green dye - but luckily they knew how to make blue and yellow in great abundance. Medieval times were well known for green outfits, to blend into the forests. Just look at Robin Hood in his green outfits!
Woad was famous for its use by the Celts. They would paint their faces, their bodies, their clothes, everything with this color.
Purple is famous for being a hard-to-get color in medieval times, and it was often reserved for royalty. Locals could get some approximation of purple if they had just the right lichen around. The expensive style came from shellfish. One could also attempt a purple by mixing blue and red.
As you might imagine, turning something brown was fairly easy. Brown is the result if you mix various colors together, or just get something dirty :). Many mushrooms and lichens will turn fabric brown as well.
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