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Purple: Royalty only!

A common mistake many authors don’t realize they’re making is characters from ancient ages with low income who wear *purple* clothes. But why would this single color matter so much?

You see, the color purple had been associated with wealth and royalty for centuries. As a matter of fact, Queen Elizabeth the first didn’t allow anyone except close members of the royal family to wear it. Not that everyone could afford it…

Up until the 1800s the dye used to make purple was worth more than its weight in gold. It came from the Phoenician trading city of Tyre, (You may know it from William Shakespeare’s play Pericles, Prince of Tyre.) which is located in modern day Lebanon.

Fabric traders obtained the dye from a very small sea snail, originally known by the name Murex, that could only be found on Tyre’s region of the Mediterranean. The extraction involved tens of thousands of snails and substantial labor (Around 10 thousand snails needed to make a single gram of Tyrian purple.) which gave the dye its high value.

Sometimes the dye was expensive even for royalty. Third century roman emperor Aurelian famously wouldn’t allow his wife to buy a shall made from Tyrian purple silk because it cost three times its weight in gold.

So since the price of purple was so astronomically high, why on earth would your characters wear it if they’re not damn rich?

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