The Power of Colour

The Power of Colour

Saturday 16 March 2019

Please note that after the cancellation of the February AGM event, we will be holding a brief AGM during this study day. It will be in two parts: the first will be at the start of the day when the bulk of the AGM business will take place. The second part, immediately after lunch, will be the election of officers.

The history and meaning of colour is a fascinating one. Did you know that blue is the most common colour, think of all those blue jeans, It also has a calming effect and fashion consultants recommend wearing blue when going for an interview. It apparently symbolises loyalty and may be why it is used in so many uniforms.

The Pantone Colour Institute produces a Fashion Colour Trend Report which highlights the top colours that will feature in the future fashion designer collections at the New York Fashion Week and according to Vogue the fashionable colours for Autumn 2018 – 2019 include whisky brown, cherry red, digital blue, fuchsia pink, lavender, orange, sapphire yellow and olive green. Today the mysterious world of colour trend forecasting is vital to fashion as well as all other branches of the design industry where colour plays a part, but how and why did colour become so powerful especially in the world of textiles and dress? This study day looks at how power and consumption have influenced the colours we wear.

Dressing in colour: the social history of dyes in clothing Dr Susan Kay-Williams

This talk will explore some of the history of dyes, natural and synthetic, their social significance and even the hierarchy of who could wear what colours and why. The history of dyeing is a story of sex, science, money, power, war, fashion and even serendipity.

Power Dressing: Queen Alexandra and the Colours of Royal Style Dr Kate Strasdin

In the second half of the 19th century, Alexandra Princess of Wales and later Queen Consort to King Edward VII, was one of the most recognisable women in the world. Taking a prominent position in the British monarchy and, following Prince Albert’s death, its most visible female, Alexandra was arguably responsible for reinvigorating public perceptions of the royal family. Without any kind of public voice, she achieved this largely through her appearance and her shrewd choices in dress. This paper will consider how Alexandra used colour in dress to establish her position in society, to convey certain aspects of her life and to make powerful, unspoken statements to both press and public. Using wardrobe accounts, photographs, paintings and the garments themselves, it is a narrative of one woman’s understanding of the power of her appearance.

The Secret Lives of Colour Kassia St. Claire

‘The Secret Lives of Colour’ tells the stories of 75 unusual colours, from amber to absinthe, puce to pitch black, and from shocking pink to acid yellow. Kassia St Clair is a writer based in London. Her best-selling first book, The Secret Lives of Colour, was Radio 4’s Book of the Week and The Golden Thread: How Fabric Changed History has just been published

She is a regular contributor to NPR’s Marketplace and has appeared on BBC Radio 4’s Saturday Live, Woman’s Hour, Monocle 24 and BBC Radio 5 Live and CNN. She co-hosts a podcast Always take notes about writers and writing, and gives talks about colour and design at international venues including the Dallas Art Museum, the V&A and Soho House. In 2018 she collaborated with Colour Factory to create an exhibit at their site in New York.

Indigo: Nature’s gift of Blue Dr Jenny Balfour-Paul

The story of Indigo is as a commodity at the time of the East India Company, and its huge impact on the world of fashion and commerce.

Dr Jenny Balfour-Paul, writer, artist, traveller, curator and international lecturer, has researched and worked with indigo for over three decades. She is an Honorary Research Fellow at Exeter University; Trustee of the Royal Geographical Society; Fellow of the Royal Asiatic Society; and President of the UK’s Association of Guilds of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers. Author of Indigo in the Arab World (1997), Indigo: Egyptian Mummies to Blue Jeans (1998), and Deeper than Indigo (2015), she was consultant curator for the Whitworth Art Gallery’s 2007 touring exhibition Indigo, a Blue to Dye For, consultant for documentary fims and for the ‘Indigo Sutra’ event held in Kolkata in 2017.

She promotes revivals of natural dyes worldwide and her collections of Arab and indigo-dyed textiles and related artefacts are held in major UK museums.

Event Programme

9.30 Registration with coffee
10:10 AGM (Approval of last year's minutes, highlights of the financial statement and its approval, subs increase and donation(s), key points from webmaster's report, date of next AGM)

10.30 Dr Susan Kay-Williams Dressing in Colour: the social history of dyes in clothing
11.25 Coffee
11.55 Dr Kate Strasdin Queen Alexandra and the colours of Royal Style
12.50 Lunch
14.05 AGM (election of officers and programme for 2019)
14:20 Kassia St Claire The Secret Lives of Colour
15.15 Tea/Coffee and Raffle Draw
15.50 Dr Jenny Balfour-Paul Indigo
16.45 Close

Event Details

Event Date: Saturday 16 March 2019

Event Location: Somerdale Pavilion Conference Centre, Tiberius Road, Keynsham, Bristol BS31 2FF

Included: Mid morning and mid afternoon teas & coffees.

Not included: Lunch
Anything not listed in the 'Included' section above.

Price Per Person: Member £25.00, Non Member £35.00, Junior TBA, Lunch £8.00

Bus - 9.19 from Bristol Temple Meads takes 26 minutes.
Train - 9.08 from Bath Spa takes 10 minutes
9.49 from Bristol TM takes 6 minutes
All require a short walk at the end

Sorry, the deadline for on-line booking for this event has passed. Please email us at