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“On Wednesdays, we wear pink,” says Karen Smith (Amanda Seyfried) in Mean Girls. But at Love Happens Mag, pink is a beloved color that is celebrated every day of the week. So we decided to dig into the history of the color pink! And in particular, its ties to women throughout history, from art and fashion to social statements and beyond.

When one thinks of pink, visions of bubblegum, the shimmer of Marilyn Monroe, or the most reliable item of clothing in your closet may appear. Pink might be all these things, but it also represents the deeper emotions in life. Femininity, empowerment, and love are all generational ideals that are preserved throughout history alongside the color pink.

In honor of our love for pink and women, read on as we chronicle the history of the color pink through the women who have made it the color it is today.

A Divine Embodiment

The first woman highlighted in this color category truly transcends womanhood. Her divineness never made her human. Venus, the goddess of love and beauty, is usually decorated in her nakedness alongside pink adornments. In one of the most famous depictions of her, The Birth of Venus by Botticelli, her skin is pale pink, borderline white, with blush accents on her cheeks—a testament to her connotation to intimacy and love.

Popularization

While Venus may embody the color pink, a French mistress made the color popular amongst the upper-class masses. In the 1700s, Madame de Pompadour, a mistress to King Louis XV, adored and adopted pinks into her lifestyle. As her affection for the color grew, so did the color’s popularity in the French court. Aristocratic men and women then saw pink as an even more luxurious color and thus a symbol of class and status. Sèvres, a French porcelain company, notes her deep affection for the color. The company even named a color, ‘Rose Pompadour,’ after her.

Pink lover Madame de Pompadour painted by François Boucher in 1759, at the Wallace Collection, London, UK.
Pink lover Madame de Pompadour painted by François Boucher in 1759, at the Wallace Collection, London, UK.

This combination of nakedness, love, and delicacy from the upper classes continued into the 1800s. Then, the shift from a gender-neutral color to the embodiment of femininity began. Masculine colors became darker and darker. Feminine colors focused on bright, light, and pastel shades. Similarly, these blush tones reverted to nakedness and exposedness, possibly even an ode to Venus.

The People’s Color

At the dawn of the 1900s, the age of industrialization was here. Pink became popular among middle and lower-class people. Now, pink was the people’s color. Light pink’s popularity moved into other hues. Bright pinks, like magenta and fuchsia, were bountiful as the dyes were cheaper.

Throughout the 1900s, the color pink constantly evolved. In the 1940s, pink was reserved exclusively for women, often highlighting the (forced) lack of military service. Dark colors reflected military involvement. Pink was now for the homemakers.

The 1960s marked a revolutionary time in the history of pink. Much like Madame de Pompadour, former first lady Mamie Eisenhower rang in a new era of pink into the White House. She also had a color named for her: “Mamie Pink.” Pink home decor entered the scene, as well as her wardrobe. One of her most famous pink looks consisted of an inaugural gown—studded in stunning 2,000 rhinestones.

Mamie Eisenhower White House portrait painted by Thomas E. Stephens, 1959
Mamie Eisenhower White House portrait painted by Thomas E. Stephens, 1959

During the 1960s, Jackie Kennedy turned heads as another model of pink. Before her husband John F. Kennedy’s assassination, the infamous pink suits were a staple in her closet. Her wardrobe always included light pink gowns and matching sets. Kennedy’s refinement and poise of the color contradicted one Hollywood blonde: Marilyn Monroe. Monore chose bright, flashy shades of pink over lighter hues. Both of these women debuted the practical use of pink in the 60s.

Jacqueline kennedy in pink suit
Jackie Kennedy in her iconic pink Chanel suit
Marilyn Monroe in 'Gentlemen Prefer Blondes'
Marilyn Monroe in ‘Gentlemen Prefer Blondes’

Modern Times

In 1999, Monica Helms, a U.S. Navy veteran, created the “Transgender Pride Flag.” The flag contains stripes of blue, pink, and white stacked upon each other. The colors represent blue for boys, pink for girls, and white for those transitioning, gender neutral, or intersex. Helms created the flag after serving closeted for eight years.

Today, the color pink is associated with fashion and celebrity icons like Paris Hilton (a real-life Barbie), Ariana Grande, and singer-songwriter Pink. These women embody the color pink while still maintaining their individual styles in their respective industries.

Pink Symbols, Icons, and Representation

Since its conception, pink has been a color of love and comfort, intimacy and realness. In the 1980s, Susan G. Komen for the Cure adopted pink as the universal color for breast cancer awareness. Today, this symbol is still endorsed via pink ribbons—a sign of comfort and healing for all those affected by breast cancer.

More recently, pink has captured the struggle of women and those who are still fighting for equality. Pussyhats: pinkly colored knit hats in a vague shape of cat ears. These iconic pink hats are derived from the 2017 Women’s March. The hat was a subtle nod against former President Donald Trump—an attempt to turn around his injurious words towards women.

woman wearing a pink knit Pussyhat at the 2017 Women's March on Washington (Photo by Thirty Two / Wikimedia)
Pussyhat at the 2017 Women’s March on Washington (Photo by Thirty Two / Wikimedia)

Another facet of the color’s role in women’s fight for equality comes in the form of the “pink tax.” The pink tax is a form of gender-based priced discrimination. This means that products that are marketed toward women are often sold for higher prices than those of their masculine counterparts. While pink has long been a symbol of femininity and women’s rights, it’s also a sign of how far society has come and how far it has to go.

Wrapping Up with Amusing Pink Facts

Diamonds are a girl’s best friend: One of the largest diamonds–sizing up at 170 carats–was recently uncovered in Angola. The color? Pink of quartz!

Lucapa Diamond Company new pink diamond
The newly discovered pink diamond by Lucapa Diamond Company

Old reliable: There’s a reason why the gorgeous color pink is so loved and revered in history. In 2018, researchers in the Sahara Desert found 1.1 billion-year-old rocks that contained the world’s oldest known pigment: pink! The bright pink hues are now known as one of the oldest colors in the world.

The Australian National University researched first pink pigment
These pops of pink are believed to be the oldest pigments in history by The Australian National University.

It’s a girl’s color: During the 1980s, ultrasound technology soared. Since then, parents have been able to determine the sex of the baby before his or her arrival. This new technology brought about color coding based on gender; blue for boys and pink for girls.

AFK Furniture
A dreamy little girls’ room interior by AFK Furniture

How it’s made: Pink dye is derived from natural ingredients like the plant “rubia tinctorum” and “brazilwood.” Another older technique derives the color from an insect called the cochineal. 

Pink power dye by Sandeep Singh
Back to your roots: before the beloved pink comes in the form of shoes, bags, or furniture, it often starts its life as a pink dye.

Love Pink? Bring the Color Into Your World!


Words by Patricia McGee
Feature Image: Birth of Venus by Sandro Botticelli, Uffizi Gallery Florence, Italy, Remastered for the Google Art Project


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