Pink. Pretty, Punk AND Powerful?

Photo courtesy The Museum at FIT

Photo courtesy The Museum at FIT

According to the latest exhibition at The Museum at FIT, the color pink is in fact all of the above.

And thanks to Valerie Steele, The Museum at FIT exhibit curator and friend to the University of Fashion, we’ve not only stopped in to smell (and see) the roses at FIT, but we also got a bit of inside scoop on the exhibit from Dr. Steele herself.

When we first learned about Pink: The History of a Punk, Pretty, Powerful Color (which runs through January 5, 2019 by the way), we thought, “Why?”

Of all the colors to choose from, why choose to focus on a hue that has notoriously separated the genders, created a divide between femininity and feminism and is the favorite color of…Barbie?

So we simply asked Dr. Steele, “What inspired you to want to do a show on the color pink?”

And we loved her personal answer, “I was seeing a lot of people wearing pink, and since I had been reading all Michel Pastoureau’s wonderful books on color, I thought, ‘He doesn’t pay much attention to pink, why don’t I do it?!’” Side note, we also loved this introduction to Michel Pastoureau—who proposes, “There is no transcultural truth to color perception…It is society that ‘makes’ color, defines it, gives it meaning.”

While Dr. Steele’s state of thinking pink may have served as the initial inspiration for this exhibit, as soon as you step inside The Museum at FIT, you will realize that all those topics we were wondering about were certainly addressed as you wander from one rosy room to the next. Dr. Steele has taken Pastoureau’s lead and uncovered the meanings societies near and far have given to the color pink.

For example, remember our concern about pink being a color that separated the genders? This topic is explored early on, and we learn that “pink for girls and blue for boys” was largely a marketing campaign in the early 1900s to sell children’s clothes. Prior to the commercialization of pink and blue, both Euro-American men and women donned pink. And it wasn’t until the Peacock Revolution of the 1960s that some men in the U.S. added pink back into their wardrobes.

Pink prior to Pink is only for girls...

Pink prior to “Pink is for girls and blue is for boys…”

Marketing at its Pink-est

Marketing at its Pink-est

Dr. Steele tells us she researched and curated the Pink exhibit for two and a half years. In that time, she collected pieces and information from around the world and throughout history. Pink used in garments to represent traditional scarification in Africa, pink as a representation of childish femininity in Japan, and pink used to express modernity in Mexico are just a few of the new meanings you will perhaps take away and recall when you next see the color pink.

Pink representing childish femininity in Japanese fashion

Pink representing childish femininity in Japanese fashion

As our ideas about pink were expanded, we couldn’t help but wonder what findings most surprised Dr. Steele during her research. Dr. Steele references the pink triangles used to identify gay men and women during the Holocaust. She commented, “The Nazi pink was definitely creepy, but it came out of the same identification of the color with the pink parts of the body and hence with sex.”

Photo courtesy of The Museum at FIT

Photo courtesy of The Museum at FIT

But it was in these “creepy” uses of pink that Dr. Steele shows Pink’s power. The pink triangle has become a symbol of pride and survival in the gay community. And the once pink saved only for little girls was adopted as a symbol of unity and power amongst women during the Women’s March in January 2017 as thousands wore the now famous pink pussy hats as they advocated for women’s rights.

For more on Dr. Steele’s thoughts on Pink: The History of a Punk, Pretty, Powerful Color take a look:

And if you are a pink lover but cannot make it to the exhibit, you are still in luck. Dr. Steele included her research in a book that accompanies her latest exhibit. We’ve linked it below in case you would like to add it to your holiday list or treat a fashion lover on your list this season.

Speaking of holiday gifts, the University of Fashion is also offering something pretty special—amazing savings on a yearly or monthly subscription. Thinking of subscribing to University of Fashion? Or, looking for a gift for that fashionista in your life? Click on this link to take advantage of our special Holiday offer while it lasts!

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Finally, if you are curious about what it’s like to be the incredible Dr. Valerie Steele, take a look at the interview below. Dr. Steele graciously sat down with the UoF and gave us a peek into her curating world. Any questions about the exhibit? Comment below and we will do our best to answer!

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Kara Laricks is a regular contributor to the University of Fashion. She’s also a New York based women's wear and accessories designer. As the first winner of NBC's Fashion Star, Kara has designed collections for H&M, Macy's and Saks Fifth Avenue. Her masculine meets feminine line, Kara Laricks, debuted at New York Fashion Week in 2012 and her S/S 2013 collection sold exclusively at Saks Fifth Avenue. Kara's designs have been featured on the Today Show and HBO's True Blood as well as covered in Women's Wear Daily and on Style.com. Kara holds Master's degrees in both Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Kansas and in Fashion Design from the Academy of Art in San Francisco. An educator turned designer, Kara is dedicated to supporting emerging designers and inspiring others to follow where dreams lead.