MORE THAN PRETTY IN PINK: The Museum at FIT will be giving visitors a lot to consider with this fall’s opening of “Pink: The History of a Punk, Pretty, Powerful Color.”
In what museum officials described as being called “the most divisive of colors,” the shade will be explored from the 18th century through today.
Many now associate the color with last year’s Women’s March, where thousands took to the streets wearing pink pussy hats. While that association might conjure up a feeling of empowerment for some, others link it to plastic dolls, young girls, ballerinas, princess costumes and ultra-femininity. The pink-for-girls and blue-for-boys stereotype settled into the American psyche in the mid-20th century. The premise of the show, which bows Sept. 7 and runs through Jan. 5, is to correct misconceptions and encourage attendees to question cliches. The whole experience is meant to be a reminder that, “’It is society that “makes” color, defines it, gives it meaning’ — to quote the great color historian Michel Pastoureau,” according to the show notes.
About 80 ensembles will be divided into two sections with the first area addressing the “Pretty in Pink” phenomena with 35 classic examples. To highlight the feminization of the color, an 1857 bright pink crinoline dress will be displayed opposite a black 1860s men’s suit. Although the Twenties ushered in the Little Black Dress, that period also saw greater interest for a range of pinks. In the late Thirties, Elsa Schiaparelli amped up the color with her signature Shocking Pink. By the Fifties, the pink-for-girls, blue-for-boys dictum was entrenched in society. As a sign of the more genderless color palettes that lay ahead, Brooks Brothers offered a pink shirt for men at the time.
A 1937 Charles James dress with an abundance of pink rose motifs on the bodice, a 1960 bulbous Christian Dior dress and a 1978 Zandra Rhodes ensemble with cutouts will be among the pieces on view. The exhibition will also examine how pink has been adopted by non Western countries such as India, where men and women have worn the color for years. (As Diana Vreeland once famously said, “Pink is the navy blue of India.”) And in Mexico the color “Rosa Mexicano” is tied to the country’s national identity.
Pink’s erotic connotations are also addressed with “Rose/Eros” and “Pink: The Exposed Color” platforms in the center of the gallery. Pink’s role in political protests and popular music will also be addressed in the second gallery. There, examples by Gucci, Comme des Garçons’ Rei Kawakubo, Valentino and others will be on view.
MFIT’s director Valerie Steele will lead a symposium on Oct. 19, and she has edited a companion book that will be published by Thames & Hudson on Sept. 4.