According to EU and US surveys, when we think of pink is reminds us of charm, politeness, sensitivity, tenderness, sweetness, childhood, femininity and the romantic. It is, of course, traditionally associated with girls and women.
Pink is the pale red colour that was named after a flower. The Dianthus family, if you’re interested, were called ‘pinks’ before that became the colour name, sometime in the 1600s.
Originally the word meant ‘to decorate with a perforated pattern’, and that meaning still survives in the ‘pinking shears’ used in dressmaking.
In the 1700s, the colour began to gain popularity through the fashion and interior design worlds, with pastel pink being loved by both the men and women.
Early psychologists were recommending it as the bedroom colour of choice for the business-minded gentleman, thinking it perfect for a restorative and uplifting home base.
Fashion scholar Valerie Steele, director of The Museum at the Fashion Institute Technology, said: “In the 18th century, it was perfectly masculine for a man to wear a pink silk suit with floral embroidery.”
Into the 1800s, there were strong associations with red being seen as ardent and passionate, more active and aggressive. Boys were simply little men, and so reducing the shade level on masculine red just gave you pink. For boys.
These were the days before chemical dyes could produce vibrant colours, or rather, strong colours that would survive multiple boil washes that are necessary for children’s clothes, so in fairness the majority of them were just white.
For well-off folk in particular though, the boys were wearing white and pink, with the girls in white and blue.
For example, the English Queen Victoria was painted in 1850 with her seventh child and third son, Prince Arthur, who looked perfectly charming and sweet in white and pink.
One of the earliest examples of gender coding in media (as we know it now) is Louisa May Alcott’s 1880 book ‘Little Women’, when Amy distinguishes her sister’s newborn twins by giving the baby girl a pink ribbon, the baby boy blue. But it didn’t bed in until much later – there are plenty of examples of pink baby gifts and occasion wear for boys even into the 1950s in America.
In the 1900s, pinks gradually became bolder, brighter, and more assertive, in part because of the invention of chemical dyes which did not fade. The pioneer in the creation of the new wave of pinks was the Italian designer Elsa Schiaparelli.
In 1931 she created a new variety of the colour, called shocking pink, made by mixing magenta with a small amount of white. She launched a perfume called Shocking, sold in a bottle in the shape of a woman’s torso, said to be modelled on that of Mae West. Her fashions featured the new pinks, and things really took off from there.
Pink had been re-purposed, and firmly claimed for girls.
Do you love the colour? Check out the new pink arrivals in Redlane this Season!