Tuesday, August 28, 2012

In Search of Ramona

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Loretta reports:

Doing one of my favorite research things, reading old magazines—I mean really old, not “old” as in the ones in the waiting room—I encountered the following:


I look it up, first, in the dictionary because the simplest solution is usually the best.

Peering into my trusty volume of Elephant’s Breath and London Smoke, I find only this cryptic bit: “Ramona – fashionable colours are . . . ramona and various shades of brown, Court Magazine*, December 1835.”

In English Women’s Clothing of the Nineteenth Century, the color listing offers, "Ramoneur (1833)," whose modern day equivalent is "Brazil Nut."

Sadie Wendell Mitchell,"Dig"
Googling “ramoneur” brings me to a rock band and chimney sweeps.  Searching in Google Books is, as it is so often, an exercise in frustration:  It often lies to me, saying it can’t find something, when I know it’s got the word or phrase I want but prefers to be lazy and/or obtuse.

I try to leave it alone, but my inner Nerd has taken hold, and I keep looking.

“The favourite colours are ramona, violet, emerald, and light green, rose, ponceau,** and some fancy hues.”  —[French] Fashions for February 1835, La Belle Assemblée.

Then one day, when I’m looking for something else entirely, I happen upon this:

"Velvet and satin hats of a new colour called ramoneur (it is a dingy shade of brown approaching nearly to black) are now very fashionable; they are trimmed under the brim next the face with coques of rose, blue, or green riband, which descend down the sides of the face. —Fashions for January 1835, La Belle Assemblée.

Now you know.  And you can just call me Sherlock.

*It turns into the Court Magazine and Belle Assemblée in the course of its long career, and is often referenced as the Court Magazine.  But the expert on the subject of ladies' magazines and their history is not me but author Candice Hern, to whom I refer you.

**A vivid red

Illustration, "Dig" by Sadie Wendell Mitchell, courtesy  Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA.


Anonymous said...

Focus on the journey, not the destination. Joy is found not in finishing an activity but in doing it.

Greg Anderson

I do like your nerdy-part :)

I've a nerdy streak myselve: Living in Holland, I have recently discovered we celebrate Waterloo-day. THat's because the United Kingdom of the Netherlands only in 1830 let Belgium be independent of the more northern part, the Netherlands. But in 'Miss Wonderful' you say that Alistair has been in Belgium.(which page I forgot).

Kat Sheridan said...

I love your nerdy side. And I love new words! You need to submit this to the dictionary people. Or do a quick Wiki article on it, so folks in the future won't have the trouble you did!

Kat Sheridan said...

OK, looking around, ramoneur, as you mentioned, is French for 'chimney sweep'. Perhaps that's what this color was meant to indicate--the permanantly sooty/nutbrown skin of a sweep. At least that's how *I'm* going to remember it!

looloolooweez said...

I second Kat's call for a Wikipedia article!

Don't you just love little research like this? It's not like some kind of thesis upon which one's future success rests, but it is still important for your peace of mind to be able to find these things. It is fun!

LorettaChase said...

Schone, thank you! Re Miss Wonderful: The term "Belgium" was used long before it became the official name of the kingdom. Here's just one of several examples of books written on the subject pre-1830:http://books.google.com/books?id=a1gVAAAAQAAJ&dq=Belgium&source=gbs_navlinks_s
I do make mistakes—many more than I like—but I don't believe this is one of them.
Kat & looloolooweez, thank you for the compliment, but I haven't even had time to correct my own Wiki page!

Cindy said...

I like to do research and can be randomly inspired to look things up. (Much to my daughter's consternation.) So, I went in a different direction and looked up ramon, which led to a Wikipedia citation for the Ramón tree, or bread nut tree, also Maya nut. The skin of these edible nuts is described as orange. In the pictures they look sort of pumpkin or persimmon colored. Just a thought.

Kathy said...

"ramoneur (it is a dingy shade of brown approaching nearly to black)"

Taupe! That sounds a lot like taupe: a mix of silver & gold, or brown & grey. Looks good with black.

Candice Hern said...

I was just putting together my FB post for next Friday (ie "Friday Fashion Print") and the trim for the dress in the print is described as being root-colored. Root? Seriously? What is that ... dirty brown?

Love your nerdy forays into history, Loretta. :-)

Ana said...

Colour names are a captivating theme in Serbian and this was like reading a mini detective story :D .

Hello, Sherlock!

Elizabeth Varadan, Author said...

That was so interesting! I've never heard of that color. I've never even imagined it AS a color. It was the title of a very famous novel in the thirties about a half-Indian girl named Ramona.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your reaction about Belgium, you dig deep Loretta, very deep :) GO on with it and it was the first not-mistake I ever found in one of your novels, but I'll read all of them again :)

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