A History of Pink

Sonya runs us through the history of pink and explains why it is such a powerful colour in one’s wardrobe.

Love it or hate it, pink is bold. Former First Lady Mamie Eisenhower frequented the shade First Lady Pink, a soft, light pink colour which in her gorgeous, monochromatic outfits outdoes Paris Hilton and her pink Bentley any day. Elle Woods’ daring wardrobe in Legally Blonde garners an infectious fearlessness. Drake liked Kanye’s pink polo look so much he tried to steal it for himself. Mamie Eisenhower, Paris Hilton, Elle Woods, and Kanye all have very different styles, but their outfits prove that one can never wear too much pink. Yet for a colour that can turn any outfit into the biggest fashion statement in the room, the history of the colour has been brief, yet eventful.

Source: Pinterest

A colour, rarely seen in nature, the English noun for “pink” was not introduced until the end of the 17th century. Western culture did not see the rise of pink until the mid-18th century. The pastel colour palette was a favourite of Europe’s bourgeoise. This popularised colour theme introduced pale pink into courts across Europe. From Louis XVI’s pink, silk shoes to Mary, Countess of Howe’s beautiful, peachy dress painted by Thomas Gainsborough, the West finally made pink fashionable. King Louis XV’s mistress (Madame de Pompadour) created her own shade of pink—Rose Pompadour—which cascaded into courts for the rest of the era. All over Rococo artwork, pastel pinks were painted on portraits of the elite. However, pink’s time in the limelight of the late modern period’s fashion was short-lived. By the time the 19th century came around, pink lost its appeal.

Source: Pinterest

Despite its drop of popularity in clothing, pink was still seen through art in the French Impressionist, Neo-Impressionist, and Post-Impressionist movements. The light, pale pinks of the 18th century started to translate into more vibrant pinks. Think Claude Monet’s water lilies and Edgar Degas’s pink tutus. The strawberry pink with orange undertones foreshadowed what was yet to come in the 20th century.

The 20th century redefined the colour pink. For the past two centuries, the colour did not represent anything specific; it was just another colour. But in the 1940’s Western culture assigned pink to the role of femininity. Suddenly everyone was obsessed with displaying the sex of their child through colour, a marketing scheme devised by major department stores in the United States. Blue and pink were assigned the role of masculinity and femininity respectively, and western society has not been able to part with it since.

While the 1900’s changed the meaning of the colour, it’s hard to look past how Elsa Schiaparelli forever revolutionised pink. Schiaparelli was one of the biggest names in fashion between the World Wars. In 1937, Schiaparelli created Shocking Pink—now more commonly known as Hot Pink. Shocking ink blew the pale, peachy pinks away. At the time, fashion was dominated by restrained colour palettes which were representative of the global conflict at the time. Schiaparelli decided to create a disconnect from the horror in the world and create a stunning, saturated, bright pink that was never seen before.

Pink is still everywhere. From “Think Pink!” in Funny Face to Barbie’s pink ensembles, from Marilyn Monroe’s wardrobe in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes to the Plastics owning Wednesdays with pink, we owe it all to Schiaparelli.

Source: The Poster Corp

With the fashion industry’s move towards gender neutrality, now is the perfect time to redefine pink. The invention of Millennial Pink is a step in the right direction. In a world where the gender dichotomy limits us, Millennial Pink is using the colour most closely associated with femininity to re-evaluate it. This dusty hue has an almost calamine quality that absolutely everyone fell for. Acne Studios made clothes in this shade for both their menswear and womenswear line. Apple came out with its rose gold iPhone. Millennial Pink strengthened and revolutionised the colour associated with the “fragility” of femininity.

However, the problem is not with pink itself. It is with the values our society has assigned it. We should not abandon the colour but use it like Schiaparelli: a weapon.

Pink’s popularity in fashion has fluctuated over the ages. Using Elsa Schiaparelli as an inspiration, let’s keep it in the spotlight. Without Schiaparelli, there would be no hot pinks. Without hot pink, Juicy Couture would not exist. Maybe Juicy Couture is the most dangerous thing in your wardrobe. Regardless, pink is a force to be reckoned with in any designers’ arsenal.

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