Haute Culture

In French, the word for pink is rose, a flower-inspired moniker that goes back to the Latin of Roman times (and those pleasure-loving Romans, with their decadent petal-laden parties).

Paris Pink History

But, as a shade, pink wasn’t really a ‘thing’ in France until the 18th century. Before that, it was simply a lighter version of red — the colour of power and virility — and as such usually linked to men rather than women, who were more often dressed in blue, the colour of the Virgin Mary.

(By the way, it was around the turn of the eighteenth century that pale red came to be known as ‘pink’ in English; it was named after the then-popular flower dianthus, also called pinks, whose petals have a zig-zagged edge — which is why we say ‘pinking shears.’)

Paris Pink History
Madame de Pompadour by François Boucher, 1757

It was Madame de Pompadour, also a lover of roses, who made pink a feminine phenomenon in the western world.

Paris Pink History

Her favourite porcelain company Sèvres, in 1757, concocted a specific pink for her, adding dashes of blue, black and yellow to red and white (above). It’s still known as Rose Pompadour.

Paris Pink History
Musée Carnavalet

In those Rococo years, pink was a popular colour for interior decoration, as well as in whimsical, pastel-hued paintings by the likes of François Boucher and Jean-Honoré Fragonard.

Paris Pink History
The Swing, Jean-Honoré Fragonard, 1767

By the following century, pink was in serious fashion.

Fashion Plate, 1830

Which is not surprising, because it was an era when women were dressed as delicate dolls or frilly flowers.

Paris Pink History
Eugénie de Montijo, Franz Xaver Winterhalter, 1850-60
Paris Pink History
James Tissot, L’Ambitieuse, 1885

Painters continued to lavish their canvases in soft shades of pink, especially the Impressionists.

The Pink Dress, Berthe Morisot, 1870
Dancers in Pink, Edgard Degas, 1885

It wasn’t until 1937 that pink became modern, thanks to surrealist designer Elsa Schiaparelli, whose packaging for her perfume Shocking inspired a new shade, Shocking Pink, a magenta mixed with a dash of white.

Paris Pink History

‘I gave to pink the nerve of the red, a neon pink, an unreal pink,’ the designer proclaimed.

By the 1950s, pink had become the unofficial colour of girls (and blue of boys) in the west. And for women, too.

Paris Pink History

Dior (above) and Givenchy whipped up gorgeous gowns in the shade, while Chanel’s pink tweed suit was an iconic look for the 1960s.

In the bigger-is-best 1980s, Yves Saint Laurent had a hit with fuchsia-bow dresses (below) and Christian Lacroix’s pouf dresses sold like hot(-pink) cakes.

Paris Pink History

Another fabulous moment in pink Parisian fashion was in 1991, when Azzedine Alaïa launched his ‘Tati Collection’ (below) — with the pink-and-white ‘vichy’ check of the popular cut-price clothing chain.

Paris Pink History

All shades of pink come and go from the Parisian catwalks these days, but there’s a shade of pink that evergreen in Paris. It’s a soft blush. Like the colour of some of Paris’s most covetable buys. Think the satiny shade of Repetto ballet slippers. The hue of the fondant icing on a Ladurée Réligieuse à la Rose (which has, happily, just been brought back) …

Paris Pink History
ph: Ladurée

… The pale-pink of the prettiest flower at the marché aux fleurs: the peony, Paris’s latest favourite flower.

Paris Pink History

Sorry, rose! At least, as a colour, you’ll always be in fashion.

Of all of Paris’s bridges, the Pont des Arts must surely be the loveliest, with its iron arches rendered so light and lacy, leaping across the Seine as daintily as a ballerina. But it’s also because of the way the bridge seems to pull Paris together so effortlessly. When you linger there, in the middle, […]

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The only silver lining about not being able to travel to Paris physically is that it is surely the easiest city to visit virtually. No other place has, arguably, been as covered and celebrated in art, on the big and small screens, and, perhaps most notably of all, in literature. Fortunately, while we’ve been waiting […]

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