Special Report :”Pink: The History of a Punk, Pretty, Powerful Color” at the Museum at FIT

Pink Yourself Up at MFIT’s New Exhibition

All photos Laurel Marcus
Click images for full size-views

A word of warning: leave your rose-colored glasses at home when you visit The Museum at FIT’s new exhibition “Pink: The History of a Punk, Pretty, Powerful Color” (through January 5) or you may suffer from an overindulgence of the happy color.  Dr. Valerie Steele spent two years researching the history of the rosy hue after noting it’s resurgence on men as well as women.

“There is no transcultural truth to color perception…it is society that ‘makes’ color, defines it, gives it meaning,” according to color historian Michel Pastoreau — this is the takeaway that Steele wants to impart, as well as the fact that society can change that perception. The exhibition begins in the 18th century and ends in the present day referencing nearly every pink fashion and cultural touchstone both locally and globally. Make sure you check out the audio tour narrated by Dr. Steele (the next best thing to the press preview that I attended where we got it straight from the horse’s mouth) at bit.ly/historyofpink.

From Baby pink to Barbie pink, Bordello pink, Lingerie Pink, Pompadour pink, Princess pink, Preppy pink to Shocking pink and every shade in between, this exhibition covers (or uncovers) all. Clearly pink fashions run the gamut from sweet and innocent to edgy and erotic as seen here in examples from Christian Dior, Chanel, Jean Patou, Jeremy Scott for Moschino, Zandra Rhodes, Celine, Gucci, Rei Kawakubo, Courreges, Charles James, a YSL bow gown (a gift of Anna Wintour) and more. Molly Ringwald’s “Pretty in Pink” dress may be absent but Gwyneth Paltrow’s polarizing Ralph Lauren gown with the ill-fitting bodice that she wore to accept her 1999 Oscar for “Shakespeare in Love” is here to represent dresses you love to hate.

Pink has not only been dubbed the “official color for girls” (interestingly, pink and blue actually swung back and forth for many years as their “gender identity” changed) — it has also been associated with a lower class character in The Great Gatsby. Elvis Presley wore pink and drove a pink Cadillac after being inspired by Sugar Ray Robinson — Interestingly, pink has always been an important color in all black cultures. Pink has been adopted by punks (Paul Simonon, bass guitarist for The Clash pronounced pink the “only true rock and roll color) –it has also become gender neutral as Millennial pink or “pink without the sugary prettiness.” Like everything else, pink has even gone to the “political or Feminist” (see the glass-enclosed Women’s March Pussyhat). The only pop culture reference missing here is from Mean Girls — “On Wednesdays we wear pink.”

Pink has always played in the fashion big leagues from the 1957 musical film “Funny Face” when a Carmel Snow-like editor Mrs. Prescott (Kay Thompson) sends an edict to “Think Pink”  to her “Quality” Magazine readers while she herself “wouldn’t dream” of doing so. Diana Vreeland famously pronounced pink “the navy blue of India.” Later Madonna would wear a pale pink Jean Paul Gaultier cone bra bustier while other musical/fashion influencers took a piece of the pink pie:  Rihanna used the hue in her first  Fenty collection, hip-hop rapper Cam’ron wore pink mink to New York Fashion Week in 2002, and most recently Janelle Monae’s “Pynk” video features her and her dancers in specially designed “pink parts” pants to simulate female anatomy.

If you come away from the exhibition wanting more, there is an exhibition companion book for you. If you are feeling like you need a Pepto- Bismol cleanse you may want to head over to Bergdorf’s which is celebrating a less controversial more familiar New York wardrobe staple. Yes, you guessed it — it’s the amalgam of colors together known as black, with its Noir collection of designer offerings edited by Senior Vice President and Women’s Fashion Director Linda Fargo. You want to wear pink and black together?  How very ’80s Punk!

– Laurel Marcus

Opening Cocktail Reception at the Museum at FIT in Honor of “Pink: The History of a Punk, Pretty, Powerful Color”

Daphne de Baat, Anna V, Galaxia Lorenzo
All photos Marilyn Kirschner
Click images for full-size views

Last night, the Museum at FIT was bathed in pink light, decorated with pink balloons, and the rose was flowing, at the opening cocktail reception in honor of the new exhibition, Pink: The History of a Punk, Pretty, Powerful Color. Organized by Dr. Valerie Steele, it explores the significance of the color through the lens of gender, culture, social class and in both Hollywood and the music industry.

Mary Kay Cosmetics goody bags

It is supported by the Couture Council of The Museum at FIT, the Coby Foundation, the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature, and Mary Kay cosmetics who provided the pink goody bags awaiting guests as they exited (pink lipstick anyone?). The only thing missing was Pink herself lol!

Schiaparelli chiffon gown 2015-1018

I will preface this by admitting that I am one of those people who prefer to see little girls dressed in black biker jackets and black leggings instead of pink, which is so predictable. My personal preference is when the color goes against type and is shown in a bold modern way, making it not so delicate and prissy, as exemplified by the Comme des Garcons ensemble from the 18th-century Punk Collection, Fall/Winter 2016. Other favorites are the Schiaparelli chiffon gown, 2015- 2016, the pink Celine synthetic knit jersey dress from spring 2017, and Thebe Magugu’s pale pink faux ostrich trench, 2018.

Jean Shafiroff in Oscar de la Renta

Unsurprisingly, many guests in attendance took the theme to heart and echoed the various shades, looks, and moods of this popular hue that shows no signs of going away; reports of its demise are greatly overstated. When is a color ever ‘in’ or ‘out’? What a preposterous notion. One true standout was Jean Shafiroff wearing an Oscar de la Renta, 2011, from her collection. This gown was on exhibit at the de Young Museum in San Francisco a few years ago.  Andrea Leon Tally has requested it for a retrospective exhibit on Oscar de la Renta and she loaned to to the Museum.

One trio that was hard to miss was Designer Victor dE Souza, wearing a pink jacket of his own design, arriving with Tanya Dreiding Wallace and Erika Katz, both of whom wore the designer’s dresses.

The Baroness in her own latex design

One woman whose pink hair matched her ensemble was The Baroness, who wore one of her own latex designs. She has a website, www.baroness.com, a shop in the East Village and her motto is “You’ll have to beat them off with a stick!” Ouch!

Tziporah Salamon didn’t have pink hair but she did arrive with a pale pink hat. She said it was too hot to wear hot pink.

But that didn’t stop Museum at FIT Deputy Director Patricia Mears, who opted for a minimal hot pink dress by Jean Yu.

Dr. Valerie Steele covered her chic black dress with a large pink stole. As Dr. Steele knows, one good way to take the sweet out of pink is to use it with black, a timeless combination and one that was touched upon in the exhibition (one YSL dress, in particular, was a standout). Speaking of black, last night Bergdorf Goodman and Brandon Maxwell celebrated the opening of Noir, a boutique filled with powerful black clothes curated by Linda Fargo.

Liz Friedman

Jewelry designer Liz Friedman effectively used her own pink accessories to add interest to her simple black shirt and pants.

Pink satin boots are a good way to rev up a black ensemble, as one attendee proved (she capped her look off with a fuchsia baseball cap).

Fred Dennis

And then there were the men. Forget about “Men in Black”, how about “Men in Pink”?  There were quite a few. In addition to designer Victor dE Souza, I spotted Fred Dennis, Senior Curator of Costume Collections at the Museum at FIT, in a pale pink seersucker suit from John Bartlett worn with a tie-dyed t-shirt he said he bought on Amazon.

Robert Di Mauro & Marilyn

I had to laugh because my pink t-shirt also came from Amazon (they have everything) and we compared notes on using Amazon’s Buy Now with 1- Click option with delivery guaranteed the next day. Instant gratification.

–  Marilyn Kirschner

Laurel Marcus

OG journo major who thought Strunk & White's "The Elements of Style" was a fashion guide. Desktop comedienne -- the world of fashion gives me no shortage of material.

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