Ask This Librarian: Black clothing

I got a chance to see the movie Agora in the theatres a month or so ago – it’s the story of Hypatia and the fall of the library of Alexandria. One of my friends asked me a question based on my comment about the movie – that they got lots of the historical details very right, but that I noted that one exception was that the Parabalani (the fanatical sect responsible for her death) are wearing very black black. Which, historically, is not very probable.

(You can, as I point out below, start with wool from a black sheep. In this case, though, I’m pretty sure that wasn’t the case: both the very open weave of the fabric and the way it hung made me fairly sure it was linen, not wool. Also, generally, wool and silk take color better (i.e. darker/richer color for the equivalent amount of dye) than linen, though there are always variables.)

Also, I’m taking this answer a little more conversational than is my usual habit here, because it came out of an existing comment I’d made.

So, my friend asked:

At what level of technology could one get black cloth reasonably cheaply? If other factors come in to either the black dye or the cheapness, which I imagine they do, what are they?

Continue reading Ask This Librarian: Black clothing

Hi, I’m Jen

Librarian, infovore, and general geek, likely to write comments about books, link collections, and other thoughts related to how we find, use, and take joy in information.

I'm the Research Librarian at the Perkins School for the Blind

More about my job and a day in the life

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