Pink: amongst two thousand men and women inquired, 2% have it as their favorite color; for 17%, this is their least appreciated color. Nonetheless, the world of Fashion – and Art, as well – has loved it with no reservation. It is pure and overwhelming love.
Oh oh, the sweetest thing
In all things that involve Fashion, one of the implicit mottos is that “you either love it or you hate it” – a trend, a dress, you name it. From an alternative universe this evidence reaches us with another doctrine: like it, don’t like, just talk about it. Talk trash about it but talk. Things work more or less like this. In the already far-away 71st edition of the Oscars, Gwyneth Paltrow, nominated for the Actress in a Leading Role Oscar for her performance in Shakespeare in Love, had none of this in mind when she picked her outfit for that night – that same night that would turn out victorious, since it was Paltrow that took the award home. That, plus a bunch of appreciations about her look – a dress signed by Ralph Lauren, that she picked herself for the event. In the red carpet, she commented with a journalist that she considered the commentaries made in those kinds of ceremonies about the worn outfits inutile and that, because of it, she had simply worn a dress she thought was “beautiful”. What ended up happening was like a volcano eruption: that pink princess cut taffeta dress, a shade of pink somewhere between blush and candy pink, became the talk of the town. For weeks, for months, for years. The “beautiful dress” was loved, hated, and never forgotten. Because it remains, to this day, one of the most iconic red-carpet moments when it comes to the color pink. For us, that dress – the whole look, frankly – continues to be the sweetest thing.
Paris, Texas and a fuchsia pink dress
How did a fuchsia dress, in mohair, became a necessity in a movie – or, shall we say, master-piece – that is already in itself breathtakingly beautiful? Paris, Texas (1984), by Wim Wenders, is, first of all, the story of Travis (Harry Dean Stanton), Jane (Nastassja Kinski) and that fuchsia pink dress. He wonders alone on a Texan desert, a vast, desolate and rocky space – Paris, Texas, is not quite a location, but rather a picture and mythology. He looks for Jane and ends up finding her: she works at a peep show. He discovers her radiant, squeezed into a pink mohair dress with a boat neckline, in that phantom and phantasy house. He pretends to be a customer, from the other side of the mirror, where she can’t see him. She says she is a confidante to those who go there. She is not a hooker: she is a woman that listens to men. And that is “the” dress that she wears when she is first seen, by her long-lost lover, who spent years roaming around a lonely purgatory trying to find her. When she realizes who her interlocutor is, Jane simply says: “Oh, Travis”. The emotion is restrained, there is no screaming or loud regrets. She, the woman of his dreams, her back exposed by a deep open cut, is simultaneously sexual and caste, as the love story between the two also is, as everything that Jane had tried to conceal and everything that Travis had tried to find.
When Pink became dark
Right off the bat, there is no judgment connoted with pink that exits the sphere of all things positive and beautiful. Let’s say that in that tone, there is no space for a negative pole – originally. Allow us to take you back to the 22nd of November 1963, more precisely to Dallas, Texas. The day that went down into history for the murder of President John F. Kennedy. His wife, Jackie Kennedy, was wearing a pink wool set, a look from the Chanel 1961 Fall / Winter collection, that had been designed for her by the New-Yorker Chez Ninon, who “replicated” great designer outfits with their permission – at the time it was expected of First Ladies that they would dress only in clothes produced in the US. The set would have been one of the President’s favorites, and it is said that he asked Jackie to wear it on that unusually hot Fall sunny morning. When they paraded the streets of Dallas in their convertible car, crowded with people, Jackie was there when the crossfire that would eventually kill JFK happened. After the shots, that to this day raise questions as to where they came from, the blood of the injuries of the then President infiltrated in her tweed suit. Lady Bird, the wife of Vice-President Lyndon B. Johnson, that was at the time in another vehicle, stated later, how she had seen “in the President’s car a beam of pink, as if it was a bunch of flowers, on the backseat. I believe it was Mrs. Kennedy, laying over the President’s body”. After the official confirmation of her husband’s passing, Jackie refused to take off the drenched in blood ensembled, and wore all the way to Washington, so that the world would “see what they've done”.
Think Shocking Pink
Elsa Schiaparelli and Coco Chanel. Two women who, since the 1920s, revolutionized Fashion. Two visionary women, way ahead of their time. And yet, two “dear frenemies”. It is told that the French refused to pronounce the name of the Italian, and that would address her as “that Italian dress-maker”, with a strong touch of disdain. And it’s because we’re speaking of tone – pink, to be exact – that the Schiaparelli name rises. The thing is that, more than to any other designer, it is to Schiaparelli that the origin of shocking pink is attributed (which, word has it, revolted Coco). Bold and creative, it was after her order that a chemist invented the color, the same one that the designer would end up using on the packaging of her perfume, Shocking. The bottle had the shape of the body of famous actress Mae West, who personified the boldness of Schiap’s style. Shocking pink became a regular in dresses, accessories and even the figurine of Moulin Rouge, the 1952 movie starring Zsa Zsa Gabor. The shade was used in multiple creations by the designer and became a milestone in the world of Fashion. Schiaparelli became then known as the mother of bright pink, and, later on, the tone (which was her favorite) won the official title of “shocking pink” amongst the industry’s professionals. Pink remains a constant in everything that has a label from the Italian maison, whether on the catwalk or the red carpet. And if by any chance you have it in your closet, then it’s Schiaparelli you have to thank for that.
Let them eat cupcakes
Let’s set the record straight: Marie Antoinette, the last pre-revolution queen of France, did not exactly say “let them eat cake” when confronted with the news that Parisians were so poor, they couldn’t afford bread. Originally, she would have mentioned sweet bread brioche – and even this version was questioned. However, macarons and pink pastries are a constant in the movie Marie Antoinette, directed by Sophia Coppola in 2006. Naturally, the tones of the pink candy also reached the wardrobe. It’s important to note that this color, especially bubblegum pink, that colored a certain iconic feather dress, is something the monarch might have perfectly used, centuries before. That is why a good wardrobe is capable of telling a story while requiring nothing but the pieces that the characters are wearing. Mission accomplished for Milena Canonero, an Italian wardrobe designer, who received an Oscar for Best Wardrobe due to her beautiful work in this film. And perhaps, wherever she is, Marie Antoinette might be smiling because pink would have been, in fact, one of her fetish colors. There are several paintings that prove it. And if there would have been photographs of her countless parties, the polaroids would have probably been splashed all around with candy pink.
2019: The year the red-carpet was pink
“Life should always be lived in pink”, a statement by Jean-Paul Gautier when talking with Vogue US. Everything indicates that, in the year 2019, the guests that stepped on two of the most respected red-carpets in the world – pardon, pink carpets – were, let’s say, aligned with the train of thought of the French designer. Let’s start with the seventh art, most precisely by the 91st ceremony of the Oscars, a carpet that was kept red and an infinity of stars that chose to shine on it in pink. As a highlight, we have the Schiaparelli tailor-made dress worn by Helen Mirren, which ended up becoming one of the biggest style moments of the evening. As they climbed the stage to announce one of the categories, Mirren and the actor Jason Momoa made it a point to consider: “All we wanted was to reach this point, where a mature English woman and a young Hawaiian actor can be dress in the same color. We swear we didn’t talk about what we would be wearing tonight, and look! We’re both dressed in pink! Isn’t that great?” Yes, it definitely is. Fast-forward to May, at the Met Gala, where the theme was Camp: Notes on Fashion, and it led to the literally-pink-carpet a legion of guests that more than perfectly coordinated their outfits with its shade. From Lady Gaga (always, Lady Gaga), in Brandon Maxwell, to Naomi Campbell, a diva in Valentino Couture, what we saw was a powerful – and not at all indifferent – explosion of pink that elevated the color to the category of new black.
Gentlemen prefer Blondes (wearing bright pink)
Created by the wardrobe designer William Travilla, the dress that became famous as the “bright pink dress that Marylin Monroe wore in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953)” – because there is really no other way of describing it – was a landmark in the history of Fashion. If it was due to being worn by Norma Jeane, probably the biggest sex symbol in the history of cinema, or because it was worn in that sensual scene where the actress sings Diamonds are a Girl’s best friend, and whose choreography counted with various suiters wearing tuxedos, we don’t know. No one knows. What we do know is that that maxi satin strapless dress with a straight decolletage was auctioned in June 2010 and sold for an approximate figure of 300.000 euros – and there are still people claiming it wasn’t the one originally worn in the movie. A Fashion and cinema icon, the dress became a target for imitation countless times. One of the most obvious ones was the homage paid by the North American singer Madonna in her music video Material Girl (1984), in a fair tribute to the number Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend, “one of her favorite scenes of all Marylin Monroe’s films”, as she explained to the New York Daily News. It goes without saying that any resemblance between the two is pure coincidence.
Prettiest in Pink
Fashion has this unique ability to signal a moment and transform pieces into historic icons. We’ve gone through the bright-pink ensemble worn by Marylin Monroe in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, therefore it would be impossible to carry on without mentioning Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961) – the movie, but even more so its wardrobe. Firstly, because it had Huber de Givenchy’s signature, and lastly, because Audrey Hepburn, at least to this day, is the only actress we can think of to represent the delicate, though irreverent, Holly Golightly. The crossover between the actress and the designer cause quite the stir in Hollywood: after being warned that Mrs. Hepburn was in his shop, he welcomed her thinking she was Katherine Hepburn. After the initial disappointment, he realized that in front of him stood her who would become his best model – and, as it turned out later, his friend and confidante. Audrey was not yet ultra-famous, she didn’t have a tone of curves, but possessed the necessary refined elegance to wear his clothes. Beyond the acclaimed black dress we see on the first scene of the film, there is yet another one that shouldn’t be ignored: the bright pink silk cocktail dress, covered in strass, with a pink bow at the waist. It was the sublime combination of natural beauty, the (apparent) fragility, and the unquestionable charm of Holly Golightly, pardon, Audrey Hepburn. She really was the prettiest in pink.
La vie en rose of Maison Chanel
When one thinks of Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel, a powerful woman, obstinate, the same one that invented that simple black dress that became known as “le petite robe noir”, the notable representative of female gender that stole the monopoly of trousers from men, pink is not exactly that obvious. Perhaps because we might continue to associate this color with the epitome of innocence. Simultaneously, it is worth remembering that Coco Chanel was considered the driving force of the feminist movement at the beginning of the XX century. Cut to 1983, when the creations of the maison started receiving the signature of Karl Lagerfeld, who cared since the beginning, to keep the essence and DNA of Chanel intact – and giving them a touch of the future. Hence why what happened in 1996, could have happened today. Claudia Schiffer, at the time the muse of Lagerfeld, breaks through the catwalk wearing a bright pink bikini and bright pink velvet sweatpants – Juicy Couture, who? – in a rebel claim (it was the 90s after all) of the Czar of Fashion. The continuous presence of this color in the history of Chanel, has been, for various times, the mother-tone of countless collections: fabrics in pastel-pink colors, corals with touches of fuchsia here and there, shocking pink jeans… And the actress Lily-Rose Depp closing, majestically, the 2017 Spring/ Summer Haute Couture show with a long dress, with an unforgettable train, pastel pink, hyper-voluminous, and unquestionably… Chanel.
Sweet, delicate, shocking and kitsch. We could be talking about pink. But it wouldn’t be odd that we were also referring to Diana Spencer – Princess Diana, Lady Di, Princess of Wales, “People’s Princess” … Lady Pink? It is believed that the color pink symbolizes the strength of the weak, such as charm and kindness. A description that would most naturally fit with the woman whose life was taken away from her far too soon. Out of pure coincidence – or maybe not, since pink was, in fact, her favorite color -, many were the times the princess wore pink in public. And the looks are so many in number that it is hard to pick just one. Let’s recall a few, from the sweetest to the most charming one, not necessarily in that order. In March 1983, the iconic polka-dot dress, signed by Donald Campbell, wore on a visit to Perth, in Australia, put a lot of ink to paper. In a more delicate version, we evoke the baby pink outfit, by Catherine Walker – “the very pink of courtesy”, as Shakespeare wrote in his Romeo and Juliet. Also in the year 1983, the fuchsia dress by Victor Edelstein could not ever be missed, distinctively coordinated with the Spencer family tiara. Diana could make any apparently basic pink look into something cool: a tailleur, add sunglasses and let her incomparable natural-born charm do the rest. Because when it comes to style, you either have it or you don’t. And Diana had tones of it.
Translated from the original on the "Pink Issue", from may 2021.
Full credits and story on the print version.