Can women who wear pink be taken seriously?

It’s the hot colour for spring/summer 2015 but far from being too ‘girlie’ it can pack a powerful punch, says Tanya Sweeney.

Can women who wear pink be taken seriously?

AMID the cavalcade of gowns coming down this year’s Oscars red carpet, it’s not easy to stand out. Yet one or two did, albeit for the wrong reasons.

Gwyneth Paltrow was slammed as a ‘homemade fashion Barbie’ in her Ralph & Russo Couture creation, while Khloe Kardshian sniffed at Anna Kendrick’s Thakoon gown: “I don’t think it’s an Oscar colour.

"It’s more like a daytime wedding dress.” Jennifer Lopez’s Elie Saab dress and Viola Davis’ Zac Posen design didn’t fare too well with the critics either. What these outfits did have in common was one colour; they were all shades of pink.

Certainly, there appears to be an element of fashion snobbery around the colour pink (remember Rihanna’s sugary Grammy’s dress?). Still, when it comes to spring/summer ’15, top designers have deemed it very much back in vogue. Louise Kennedy showcased her latest collection earlier this month, shot through with delicate blossom pinks.

Likewise, Oscar De La Renta, Victoria Beckham and Valentino have followed suit with their latest designs.

For decades seen as a lightweight and frivolous colour, synonymous with airheads and Barbie dolls, pink’s fashion comeback has been a long time coming.

But for all their love of the hue, not every designer got it right: Moschino’s spring/summer ’15 caused quite a stir during Milan Fashion Week, featuring as it did an all-pink collection inspired by Barbie’s figure-hugging wardrobe — see Feelgood’s cover shoot.

The Jeremy Scott-designed collection split opinion, with some lauding it as brave and cheeky; others denouncing it as insulting to grown women.

Research suggests that women have long reached pink overdrive: according to a report in the Harvard Business Review, published in 2011, women really don’t like the colour at all.

Even more disconcertingly, the publication also reported that the colour pink may be counterproductive for breast cancer awareness.

Pink has, after all, been the theme of the universal breast cancer campaign; a campaign that celebrates the strength, inner grace and true grit of those who have faced the disease head-on.

Rotterdam School of Management professor Stefano Puntoni showed in a series of experiments that women were less likely to think themselves at risk and less likely to say they would donate to breast or ovarian cancer advertisements if they employed a pink colour scheme.

Perhaps our aversion to pink has something to do with the fact that all women have been somehow lumped in with the colour. It’s assumed, simply by dint of gender, that women love it. Which makes some of us really, really dislike it and the patronising cultural conditioning that dictates it’s the ultimate girlie colour.

Some of us balk at the bubblegum chick-lit covers, the girly cocktails spiked with paper umbrellas, the teenage fragrances in their hot pink boxes. It’s the colour of blushed cheeks, and of Valentine’s Day cards, the ultimate in youthful girlishness.

When English politician Harriet Harman took to a pink bus to reach out to female voters, the stunt backfired spectacularly. It was largely regarded as a crass, condescending way to get women on side and to address more weighty issues like childcare and domestic violence.

Pink is used as lazy cultural shorthand in the movies, too: Elle Woods in Legally Blonde, clad head to toe in cerise with nary a care for actual taste, was an archetypal indelicate bimbo, though she surprised with her sharp brain.

Add to all of this the idea that as youngsters we were crazy about all things pink, a colour many of us outgrew before we got as far as secondary school. Neutrals — black, navy, beige, white — ooze simplicity and sophistication, and have done for years. Pink, meanwhile… well, it’s for girls as opposed to women.

The delicious irony is that in Victorian times, and up until the Second World War, young boys were dressed in pink and girls in blue. According to Time Magazine, pink was a stronger colour and more suited to males.

No-one knows when this got flipped on its head, but when Marilyn Monroe sashayed onto screens in a strapless candy-pink number in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, she kick-started a lasting trend.

While we think of pink as frivolous and lightweight, colour therapist Marcia O’Regan says pink is a colour favoured by those who are truly strong-hearted. It is the colour the brain see as representing compassion, nurturing and true love; the perfect blend of passionate, powerful red and purifying white.

“Pink is a great heart-opener,” she says.

“If someone has emotional heart issues, is feeling hurt or is not happy after a breakup, they might be drawn to the colour pink.

"Someone with an aversion to pink, I’ve found, suggests unresolved issues with their mother or father. If you didn’t have much luck in the love department, I would suggest visualising a pink colour, or carrying a rose quartz around.”

Intriguingly, O’Regan notes that pink has its uses as a healing colour.

“Kylie Minogue used colour therapy as part of her cancer treatment and painted her hospital room pink,” she says.

“One juvenile jail in the US painted one of their cells bubblegum pink and the officers noticed that the inmates stopped banging and yelling almost immediately.”

For her part, O’Regan believes that powerful women don’t see pink as a girlie, sophomore colour, but as a symbol of their feminine power.

“You definitely see women in high positions of power wearing pink these days,” she notes. “It’s a huge part of their femininity, and they tap more into feminine power in the business world. And if you’re aware of what colour can do, you can really use it to empower you.”

Galway-based designer Delilah Bouakkaz also believes in the power of pink: “At first I would agree that pink is very girly, but look at someone like Amal Clooney, who is very powerful. When she wears pink dresses, she’s anything but girly. It’s can be quite powerful if you wear it with confidence.”

Renowned stylist Cathy O’Connor has never experienced a powerful women shy away from pink.

“I’ve never heard a woman say, ‘I won’t wear that because it’s too feminine’,” she says. “People might feel a certain colour is too young, like a hot pink.

"I’m not a mother, though I’m sure that if you have an eight-year-old daughter whose bedroom is painted pink, that probably does kick in when you’re choosing a colour to wear”.

TV3 stylist Lisa Fitzpatrick, meanwhile, has an 11-year-old daughter who adores pink.

“Sophie will buy anything in pink and I do think, ‘will she outgrow it?’” she says. “I’ve tried to get her to buy a black or grey jacket, but she’s rebelling against me trying to style her.”

Still, Fitzpatrick agrees that pink is a colour that women who are anything but girlie are open to wearing.

“I think any woman powerful enough in her own right and confident in her abilities, doesn’t feel she has to ‘power dress’ in a traditional sense,” she says.

“I’ve dressed a number of mothers of the brides in pink, and they’ve loved it. Every woman wants to look wealthy and well, but [successful]women who got to where they are with brains and enthusiasm, they are comfortable enough wearing whatever they want.”

Where Amal Clooney blazes a trail, others are sure to follow. This leaves us with one question: are women about to hijack the colour pink back from the girlie brigade? It’s looking increasingly likely.

As designers clamour for the new and the next, expect to see plenty more of the hue, albeit in more structured, architectural pieces. And if pink is good enough for the strong of heart… well, then it’s good enough for the rest of us.

WHAT THE FASHION EXPERTS SAY ...

“Blossom Pink is one of my most favourite colour hues, it is so delicate, romantic and feminine. One of the key stories in my SS15 collection is based on exquisite florals inspired by the cherry blossom — an iconic feature of Japanese landscape, and also my love for the city Osaka.” Louise Kennedy, designer

“Once you know what to wear pink with, it’s really easy to wear. I think Irish women in general are very good with colours, and I’m seeing a lot of it in their wardrobes this spring. “We shouldn’t be afraid of wearing pink. Go for a shade that flatters your skin tone: fair skin suits paler tones, and if you’re in your 20s or 30s, go for a strong, bright pink. “If it doesn’t suit your personality, keep it very minimalistic and wear it as a print or accessory. If you’re a little more extroverted, wear it as a coat or a power piece. “It’s definitely the colour of the moment, and looks much more confident than many neutral colours.” Delilah Bouakkaz, stylist

“There’s something so approachable and utterly feminine about pink. We think of it as a young girl’s colour a lot of the time but there’s a lovely romantic softness to it. “I’d happily wear pink. I’m not sure I have anything pink in my wardrobe but I’d love to wear more of it. There is something very tactile about the colour. Cathy O’Connor, stylist

WHAT THE CELEBS SAY ...

“I came from an executive background so would have worn a lot of black, navy and grey. Working in TV, where bright colours work better, was a massive learning curve.

I’m not a pink girl at all — there’s something juvenile and a bit ‘kiddie’ about it. I do have a bit of a downer on it, and I shouldn’t.

For me, red is stronger and more powerful. I was in a sports shop complaining recently that all the women’s stuff was pink. Where is the cool black stuff for girls?”

Sinead Desmond, TV3 presenter

“I was 21 when I became self-employed and it was important for me to hide my femininity back then by dying my hair brown and wearing dark suits to meet with suppliers.

Nowadays, I do business as myself, and there’s a big decal on my office wall that says, ‘pink isn’t just a colour, it’s an attitude.

When I started out creating the Cocoa Brown brand I wanted the packaging to be a true reflection of my personality.

It wasn’t a soft baby pink which would have a connotation of fluffiness or weakness… I call it ‘unashamedly feminine’.

I’ve come up against criticism for it as I’ve been told men use fake tan as well, but they can like it or lump it!”

Marissa Carter, businesswoman

“I’ve been coming at pink differently since I’ve had two little boys. I tried to buy my son a kitchen, but it was hard to find one that wasn’t pink. I do consider myself quite a girlie girl.

"I had pink bridesmaid dresses, but they were pale pink chiffon, so they were very feminine, elegant and fresh. I love to wear the colour, but I’m not sure that if I saw a candy-coloured dress in the shops I’d choose it first.

"If I saw a nice salmon pink top or something cerise, it wouldn’t put me off. I’d have no pre-conceived notions that it would make me look like a bimbo. That’s the beauty of getting older.”

Laura Woods, RTE presenter (left)

MEN WHO BLUSH

Elvis Presley — if pink was okay with the King, it should be okay for everyone else.

Andre 3000 — the Outkast singer is known for his sartorial wild side, and pink features regularly in his rainbow-brite wardrobe.

Mark Ronson — not for nothing does the hit maker top those ‘most stylish men’ lists, time and time again, and he’s clearly in touch with his feminine side.

Kanye West — it may or may not have been Kim’s idea, but Kanye looks pretty smart in pink, too.

David Beckham — he has worn a sarong, so a pink T-shirt is probably considered a safe choice for Becks.

Brad Pitt — he pulled off an off-white blush suit in front of the shutterbugs at Cannes. A brave choice.

Rory McIlroy — from pink trousers to t-shirt and matching hat, the ace golfer has got the colour covered.

Prince George — so the pink dungarees probably weren’t his idea, but it’s never too early to make some brave fashion statements.

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