The power of purple


25 November 2018

After pink, today we will trace the evolution of a controversial color, purple. Purple is a rich color, that doesn’t go unnoticed. I know because for this Winter I purchased an extraordinary purple coat. Some people detest the color, others possess it as a fetish.

On the color wheel, purple is right between blue and red. It can be called purple, violet or mauve.

Historically, purple was actually very exclusive and used primarily for creating outfits for royalty. This exclusivity was due to the fact that creating this color was so complex. Cleopatra was said to need 20.000 sea snails soaked for 10 days to create an ounce of dye for her clothing. It was a luxury then, worth its weight in gold! Tyrian purple, as it was called, came from Tyre, what is now Lebanon, and it is where these sea snails live, along the coastline of the Mediterranean Sea.

According to The Guardian Hercules, or rather his dog, discovered it when picking up some mucous off the snails on the beach and his drool came out purple.

Roman Emperors used the Tyrian purple togas, but purple became mainstream thanks to William Henry Perkin in 1856 when he accidentally discovered the secret to producing synthetic purple. When studying chemistry at the Royal College of Chemistry, he was given the task of finding a cheap way to make quinine (used against malaria) in his home lab. When adding hydrogen and oxygen to coal tar, the residue in his glass jars was...purple! Though it was the same tone as Tyrian purple, he called it “Mauve” or “mauveine”.

In the Spring of 1856, purple appeared in fashion in various shades including lilac, mauve, pink and rose. Not only that, but Perkins had lain the foundations of synthetic organic chemicals that revolutionized the world of fashion. This also meant color became cheaper and therefore everyone could afford to buy clothes in printed bright colors that didn’t fade in the sun or wash away when washed.

As if to mark a trend, Queen Victoria wore a silk gown dyed with mauveine to the Royal Exhibition of 1862.

In the 1920s, purple was very popular among the Art Nouveau circles, and was already mainstream. In the latest film, “Fantastic Beasts: Crimes of Grindelwald”, Leta Lestrange (Zoe Kravitz), wears a beautiful deep purple cape gown inspired by the Parisian high fashion of the 1920s.

More recently, purple has been the symbol of bohemian and groove, marked in music with Jimi Hendrix’s “Purple Haze” and Prince’s “Purple Rain” both in song and costume.

After Pantone declared Ultra Purple the Color of the Year for 2018, runways re-embraced the color, especially in New York Fashion Week.

The lesson is that, after finding your ideal hue of purple, it can be matched and mixed in plenty of ways.

You can mix it with prints, like tartan for example. You can also easily mix textures or wear it with other bold colors like red, orange or blue. Purple works in the shape of a maxi-dress or a sharp suit or mini-skirt.

If you like the color and are not sure about how to combine it with others, monochrome! See the @refinery29 article for inspiration.

If you want to know more about are colors and access looks that could suit you, go and discover our Colorbird Styling Coach:

©I-DYLIC. Article by Eleonore Vadon

Sources: Refinery29