Green has long been my favorite color, but more recently I have come to realize that chartreuse is my favorite shade of green. A bit unusual, but true: my spirit lifts when I see it or wear it (and I just counted 7 chartreuse cardigans in the closet, so apparently I wear it often). How can you beat a color named for a liqueur, the “elixir of life” made by French Carthusian monks from the early eighteenth century? Spring is the time for yellowy greens, and there’s quite a bit of chartreuse in the garden, even though the lady’s mantle has yet to bloom. Even the boring yews, hardly my favorite plants, have a chartreuse gloss at this time of year.
Chartreuse in my garden: yews, creeping jenny (also known as Lysimachia nummularia or moneywort), heuchera, and an artfully-placed bottle.
I’ve been a bit more restrained about using chartreuse in the house; in fact, there is no chartreuse in the house (except for the bottle, when I bring it back inside). But it might sneak in there; I have assembled an entire folder of chartreuse-colored housewares, as well as some tear sheets of interior chartreuse accents. It’s a strong color, obviously you have to be careful with it, but at the same time it seems to be somewhat neutral: is that possible?
Silver Chartreuse “bottle ticket”, early 19th century, Victoria & Albert Museum, London; Ranunculus Swirl Shade in chartreuse, Anthropologie; “Chartreuse” by Mary Heilman, 1988 and chartreuse chandelier by Dale Chihuly,1993, both photographed by Larry Qualls; Milanese melanine plates from House Beautiful ; a chartreuse wall and door from Canadian House and Home.
The use of color in fashion requires its own post, one I’m not quite up to, I think. Given its proximity to gold it must be a color of power, and one that is worn when you want to be in the spotlight: think of Nicole Kidman’s Oscar dress from more than a decade ago and the First Lady’s outfit from the last inauguration. Because it’s the absolute perfect shade of chartreuse (in my opinion), I did want to include this Charles James bodice of an evening gown, from 1951.
Charles James chartreuse velvet bodice, 1951 (Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at the Metropolitan Museum of Art).