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Yes, New York City. I   NY. I can’t think of a more vibrant exposé of American culture than in the Big Apple. My recent visit provided the diversity only NYC could supply.

The Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) was a must do item on my itinerary. Founded in 1969, the Museum at FIT is a museum famous for its innovative and award-winning fashion exhibitions. The museum has hosted more than 200 exhibitions since the 1970s.

I was so excited to see its most recent exhibit, Pink: The History of a Punk, Pretty, Powerful Color. 

The show is organized by the museum’s director and chief curator, Dr. Valerie Steele.  I am interested in the psychology of color; this exhibit did not dim my enthusiasm. The exhibit’s mission is the presentation of pink in a historical context. Approximately 80 ensembles from the 18th century to current times are on display.

Since the mid-20th century, the color was stereotyped as a symbolic representation of little girls, ballerinas, and anything feminine.  However, pink’s symbolism has varied greatly across world history. This exhibit corrects popular misconceptions, encourages viewers to question clichés and perceived opinions, and demonstrates society’s role in the definition of color. Attitudes towards pink are changing, and the color is increasingly regarded as cool and androgynous.

Here I am at FIT in NYC!!

In the 18th century, pink was extremely fashionable. A new dye was discovered in Brazil making the color brighter.  Madame de Pompadour loved pink as displayed in several 18th-century ensembles. A woman’s pink robe à la française, a man’s pink habit à la française display pink as a new and highly fashionable unisex color in 18th-century Europe. The color was not associated with either masculinity or femininity but elegance, novelty, and aristocracy. This vision is so unlike the color’s stereotype in the 19th and 20th centuries.

18th-Century Ensembles

The feminization of pink evolved in 19th-century western fashion. Euro-American men wore somber colors of blue and black leaving the brighter colors for women’s fashion.  An 1857 bright pink crinoline dress is displayed opposite a black 1860s men’s suit. Here is the two-piece silk taffeta dress, circa 1857.

Pink Taffeta Dress, circa 1857

Subsequent dresses demonstrate how different shades of pink came in and out of fashion, evoking different ideas about femininity. The 1920s, famous for the Little Black Dress, saw a rise in popularity for a range of pinks. Even Coco Chanel designed Little Pink Dresses to accompany LBDs.

1920 Versions of Little Black and Pink Dresses

Chanel’s rival, Elsa Schiaparelli, popularized an intense magenta-infused pink aptly named Shocking Pink in the late 1930s.

Schiaparelli’s Shocking Pink, circa 1930


Balenciaga Dress circ 1958

In the 1950s, Christian Dior often used a soft pink in his couture. Here is Dior’s silk moire evening dress from the late 1950s. Cristobal Balenciaga often used shades of pink for his designs. This silk evening ensemble shows his love of vibrant pink in fall 1958.

Dior’s Silk Dress, circa the late 1950s.

     The 1960s continued to witness the popularity of many “pretty in pink” dresses, such as a 1960 cocktail dress by Yves Saint Laurent for Christian Dior.

Yves Saint Laurent, circa 1960

The 1970s saw a decline in pink fashion, although fluorescent pink appeared. By the 1980s, pink was back in fashion, although often, as with a 1980 hot pink “power suit” by Claude Montana, it also served to acknowledge women’s growing social authority.

Power Pink Suit, circa the 1980s

 A decade later, Madonna embraced the erotic appeal of pink by performing in a soft pink cone-cupped bustier by Jean Paul Gaultier. Pink became the emblem of  American club crawlers.

More recently, the hip-hop culture has taken the color on a wild ride. Turned out in pink mink and diamonds at New York Fashion Week in 2003, the hip-hop artist Cam’ron rocked the ultimate vote of acceptance.

Pink is now a political statement. The infamous pink triangle of the Nazi era was repurposed by gay rights activists as a symbol of protest. At the 2017 inauguration, feminists asserted their pride by wearing quaintly homespun-looking pink hats.

A final word from Valerie Steele…

“In terms of its meaning new things, pink has acquired the charisma and complexity of black,” Dr. Steele said. “Once it’s been interpreted as an androgynous and political color that speaks to young men and women of all races, there is no going back.”

My favorite pink dress: Ralph Lauren, 1999

I hope you enjoyed our visit to the Fashion Institute of Technology. Anytime you are in NYC, check out the latest exhibit. I was so glad I did.

Till next time.

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