It is the color chosen by Pantone for 2020, but its legacy has entered history many centuries ago. With 111 tones, a little goes a long way when it comes to blue in the fashion universe. From red carpets, to catwalks that imitate works of art, it is in harmony that the bluest planet in the solar system is painted.
It is a large canvas (2.77m x 1.94m) in which King Louis XIV (1638-1715), also nicknamed King Sun, appears “proud, omnipotent, magnificent”, as he liked to be portrayed, in a much larger size than his real height. Symbol of protection, moral purity and his incorruptibility, that monarch, from the Court of Versailles, wore a blue mantle lined with ermine skin, a color which, in the Old Testament times, was reserved for great priests. Just like what has been happening throughout the history of Fashion, even at that time, clothing - and its colors - would have a fundamental role in the representation process within society. In that famous work by Hyacinthe Rigaud, dated 1701, Louis XIV, then 63 years old, out-topped his position and reaffirmed his power (it was he who uttered the controversial statement “L'État, c'est moi”, or “The State is me”), through that sumptuous robe embroidered with gold threads and with the profusion of royal blue. In his theory of colors, the poet Goethe (nineteenth century) used to say that blue was a color that “seems to be distant from us, but that we like to contemplate, not because it moves in our direction, but because it incites us to pursue it”. Blue would eventually become, decisively and par excellence, the color of the courts - and only the courts, comme il faut.
Into the blue jeans
In the beginning, the verbs were to resist and last. Created in 1873 by Jacob Davis and Levi Strauss (yes, the person responsible for the same Levi's that you are wearing now), the blue jeans (a term that comes from "bleu de genes" or blue from Genoa), were the bet of people who worked really hard, as would be the case with miners, and who needed sturdy clothes – no outfit of the day whatsoever. Until Fashion discovered them, shook off their dust and transformed them into what they represent today - the material of our lives - a long and hectic journey would be traced. The acceptance of the iconic piece, as a fashion item, would eventually coincide with the cultural movement coined in 1965 by the director of American Vogue, Diana Vreeland.We refer to Youthquake, which announced the widespread acceptance of individuality, and which would be strongly influenced by the streets. According to an issue of the magazine, in 1971 the “look blue denim” was “The uniform of the world”, a “loose and fast” lifestyle. At a glance, the blue jeans would become the American icon par excellence. And in a snap of fingers, in the piece that all wardrobes wished to have - and that they continue to crave today and, surely, tomorrow. Because? The answer may be as simple as that given by the same publication, back in mid-1999: “Jeans are always cool - and they are always evolving”. When in doubt, take a look at your closet and confirm this statement.
CECI N’EST PAS UNE ROBE
If there was something that, last January, had no place in Schiaparelli's Haute Couture presentation, it was a simple succession of luxurious couture looks. We witnessed fantasy. We felt boldness. Surrealism, even, which is after all part of the Maison’s history. But that blue dress coated in jewelry - which would end up being used by actress Regina King, in the (also surreal) delivery of the Emmys, which happened in the days of COVID-19 - took us much further. And it welcomed a non-reality (such as the one we experience today), which has been, throughout its experience, one of the chancels of the French Maison. Schiap, as she was dubbed, was visionary, innovative and daring. She would be responsible for giving body and life to the hot pink - if today you see it in your closet, it’s her you have to thank it for. That couture week, the creative director, Daniel Roseberry, wanted to pay tribute “to the impulse of creating”, at a time when Elsa's eternal fascination “for inverting the reality of everyday life” had never been more opportune. Roseberry, who a year ago had asked the question "how do we dress for the end of the world?", Having no idea what was coming, found in the artwork which is that blue dress, the direct way to heaven.
To think about Phoebe Philo's Céline is to sigh, longing for a possible return of the French designer (long pause for that murmur). But to remember Philo’s Céline is also to bring to mind the best of Fashion as Art - or Art at the service of Fashion, you name it. Sizing this nostalgia, we return to spring / summer 2017, and we plunge, almost literally, into pools of Klein blue paint, in a collection that was an ode to Anthropométrie L'Époque Bleue (ANT 82) produced in 1960, by artist Yves Klein. Klein's monochrome works were almost always produced in an intense blue, in such a way who ended up patenting him as International Klein Blue. In that collection for the French house, Phoebe showed dresses that painted themselves from that tone, including the shapes of one of its most famous paintings - such blue spots artistically splashed on a white background, like a canvas. In the invitation to the show (performance?) we could read a quote from the artist and writer, Dan Graham: “I want to show that our bodies are connected to the world, whether we like or not." Evaluating this collection, we risk saying yes, Dan, we like it a lot.
Paradise on earth
Caeiro de Pessoa wrote in a poem: “My look is blue like the sky / It is calm like water in the sun / It is as such, blue and calm”. If there is room for hesitation, it would be clear that in blue - even for the restless Pessoa -, the negative sense does not fit. In the fashion industry, belief is no exception. And we do not refer (only) to the collections, but to the scenarios to which the shows so often take us. Let's go back, placid, to the presentation of the Louis Vuitton fall/winter 2020 men's collection. Entitled Heaven on Earth, the show made the audience emerge into the sky, in a scenario that was painted blue with drawn clouds, a painting that gave way to celestial prints in the items of the collection. More down-to-earth, but also into the blue, was Balenciaga. In the display of its proposals for the past warm season, the maison transformed the Cité du Cinéma into a stage that replicated the seat of the European Parliament, ready to receive a battalion of politicians. With benches arranged in a spiral, the room was painted entirely
blue and reflected the tones of the European Union flag. From heaven and earth, to the depths of the ocean, we reach Versace. As a backdrop for the summer season 2021, the italian house conceived “a world made of vibrant colors and fantastic creatures”, leading
the audience to an imaginary journey to the bottom of the sea, as a metaphor for the moment in which we live - the beginning of an uncertain world. That said, we decree that yes, paradise on earth exists: it's called Fashion.
The devil Wears Cerulean
When Andy, a journalist with zero intentions to avenge in the fashion world, ends up at Runway magazine to be Miranda Priestly's assistant, she can hardly imagine that there are certain things she must never say. For example, refer to Fashion with expressions such as “this stuff”. The scene takes place in The Devil Wears Prada (2006) when, when choosing between two seemingly identical blue belts – and not similar in any way - the young woman, played by Anne Hathaway, omits a cynical laugh accompanied by those two words. Meryl Streep, in the role of Priestly, answers promptly: “I see. You think this has nothing to do with you. You go to your closet and choose ‘the basic blue shirt’ because you try to tell the world that you take yourself too seriously to care about what you wear. What you don't know is that 'This sweater' is not only blue, it is not turquoise, it is not lapis lazuli, it is, in fact, cerulean blue. You also don't know that, in 2002, Oscar de la Renta made a collection of cerulean dresses. And, I believe it was Yves Saint Laurent, who showed cerulean blue military coats? And then, the cerulean spread through the collections of eight more designers, to then reach the stores and slip into a 'corner' where you caught it. However, that blue represents millions of dollars and countless jobs and it is, therefore, comical, that you consider having made a choice that excludes you from the fashion industry when, in fact, you wear a sweater that was selected by the people of this room. From a pile of ‘stuff’. Andy, of course, leaves the scene.
A fashion fairytale
Other colors besides the original blue of Cinderella's dress were considered. But Sandy Powell, the celebrated costume designer who has already collected more than a handful of Oscars for her work, decided that none other came close to the stunning cerulean blue - among other shades of blue that were also far-fetched. In the remake of the Disney classic, which hit the screens in 2015, actress Lily James plays the maid turned princess. And like a princess, she doesn't do it for less. If not, let's see. The dress consists of several layers of fine hand-painted fabric in shades of blue watercolor, between those the cerulean comes in and turquoise, but also other shades, like lilac, lavender and white. The piece featured more than 10,000 Swarovski crystals and took 500 hours to complete, employing 20 tailors. Stitched with six (!) Kilometers of thread, the dress let itself move, effortlessly, floating gracefully with every step Lily-Cinderella took. The actress went on to say that she felt like the princess she had always dreamed of being as a child. Because there is no beautiful-Cinderella without a little setback, James took 45 minutes to get in and out of the dress. The piece, which earned Powell another Oscar for the best wardrobe, also had a special opening in a storefront on Saks Fifth Avenue in New York. I guess you could say that yes, magic happens.
Let it glow, let it glow
We apologize in advance, Lily James, and we are grateful to you for the effort you put in those 45 minutes in order to enter and leave the creation of costume designer Sandy Powell - we guarantee: the effort was worth every second. It turns out that the fashion world had already been jaw-dropping with another princess - we refer to Elsa, the star of Disney's animated film, Frozen - The Kingdom of Ice (2013) - and would return, shortly after, with Blake Lively, who looked incredible, at the premiere of the Steven Spielberg film, The Giant Friend (2016), which took place within the 69th edition of the Festival de Cannes. The actress opted for a chiffon dress, coated with sequins, in the icy blue tone (some consider that blue more turquoise than ice), signed by Atelier Versace (which is, by the way, one of her favorite fashion houses). It is a fact that the imaginary of Disney has already been pointed out as being a constant in the appearances of the former protagonist of Gossip Girl, when the theme is red carpet. However, this time the actress went further, since she also sported a belly that denounced pregnancy. The very tight one-strap dress (despite Lively’s state), also featured a long tail that resembled Princess Elsa’s in every aspect, wandering the intricacies of her ice castle. And, like Elsa, Lively shone bright.
Anna Wintour is feeling blue
When, in 2014, designer Oscar de La Renta died, the director of American Vogue, Anna Wintour, shared, in an open letter shared in the publication, the following words: "Much has been said about how his death yesterday marks the end of an era. Is not true. He was the most democratic man I have ever met and he would have lived happy and defined at any moment in time.” Regarding his dresses, she defended that they were creations that “reflected his extraordinary personality. Optimistic, fun, romantic and sunny.” If there were any doubts, with regard to Wintour's appreciation for the designer's creations, at least three of her appearances wearing the same turquoise dress, part of the Resort 2009 collection, would suffice. These events were: the engagement party of Tommy Hilfiger and Dee Ocleppo, in June 2008; the opening ceremony of the U.S. Open Tennis Championships, also that year (where she was seen sitting side by side with the designer), and also the after party of the premiere of Sex And The City - The Movie, which took place at MoMa, New York, in May 2008. Either Wintour was running out of time - and patience - to choose looks; or wanted to get in the trend that forces us to wear a piece three times, for the sake of the planet. Or, perhaps, she really liked that dress. In uncertainty, we bet on all of them.
Lady Gaga can do anything
Some have referred to that color as being lilac. However, and according to Maison Valentino, the correct name is periwinkle blue, and it is a shade that is part of the lavender and violet family. But let's get down to business. When the topic is the red carpet, Lady Gaga is the personality, par excellence, which needs no introduction. As a rule, her appearances speak for themselves. If there was ever a piece that, being so extravagant, cannot (or should not) be used by anyone, behold, Gaga appears to show that there is always an exception to the rule - herself. Yes, the singer and, now also an actress, can wear anything – absolutely anything. As she could also appear in the 76th edition of the Golden Globes, in 2019, with an Haute Couture dress created by Pierpaolo Piccioli, especially for her, in a tone that sparked gossip. The bulky dress would be a tribute to actress Judy Garland (1922-1969), who worn an identical model in the 1974 version of the film A Star Is Born. As always, Gaga went further and decided to dye her hair the same color as her look, in the best matchy-matchy style, while creating discord among fashion experts - as if she cared. Winner of the red carpet award for the most daring tastes, Gaga also won in the category of best original music, with Shallow, which she wrote exclusively for the remake of A Star Is Born. From Lady to star she’s always - always, always, always - a small step away.