Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Color Theory: Purple

Color Theory: Purple

I've never exactly thought of purple as a favorite color of mine, but then I noticed so many places in my life where I'd chosen it, like the lovely Anthropologie quilt on our bed and the satin comforter I had on my bed in high school and college. Or the velvet throw pillow on our couch, or the "Lilacism" nail polish by Essie that I love so dearly.

Maybe I've resisted the idea of myself as a "purple person" (that is, a person who likes purple, not a person who is purple) because I've always thought of purple as being next to pink in terms of colors girls are supposed to like. More on our culture's complicated relationship with pink here.

Purple is again one of those colors that men, in general aren't supposed to like. But, purple has such a rich history and so many varied associations, we really shouldn't sell it short.

Positive purple associations and/or fun facts are as follows...

01. The most regal of all colors, purple is still associated with royalty because it used to be a shade that only royals wore. Why? It was such a difficult color to produce in the days before synthetic dye, that purple garments were very, very expensive. As such, royals wore purple along with jewels and precious metals to show off their wealth, grandeur, and power.

02. Purple represents "Spirit" on the LGBT flag. That's why every October 20th people show their support of LGBT youth by wearing purple on Spirit Day. Here's what I wore this past Spirit Day.

03. Painters will tell you that, although they look gray, shadows are actually a shade of purple. It makes sense because sunlight is vaguely yellow and the opposite of yellow is purple. Pretty cool, right? Does it make you think shadows are prettier now? I hope so, though I love the color gray as well; it's so soft and makes me think of clouds and stones. Also, would you guess that this dress is actually purple, even though it looks fairly gray?

04. Cincinnati has a "Purple People Bridge," a pedestrian-only bridge in a pretty shade of lavender that crosses the Ohio River into Newport, Kentucky.

05. J. K. Rowling wrote in Pottermore that "Wizards at large in the Muggle community may reveal themselves to each other by wearing the colours of purple and green, often in combination." Long before this little tidbit of Harry-Potter-universe knowledge surfaced, I'd been obsessed with this particular color combination, painting the walls in my bedroom green and accenting them with the aforementioned purple satin comforter. Later, I discovered that my aunt and cousin were also obsessed with the color combination and had decorated several rooms in their house with a green and purple color scheme. My mother is also mad about purple and green together. Maybe we are all magic at heart and don't even know it. Here's a purple and green outfit I wore recently. I wonder if any passing wizards thought I was one of them. ;)

06. In the poem "Warning," Jenny Joseph warns the reader that, "When I am an old woman I shall wear purple / With a red hat which doesn't go, and doesn't suit me. The poem (which you can read it its entirety here -- and really should, as it's hilarious and lovely) inspired The Red Hat Society, that ladies club you sometimes see lunching together always clad in purple dresses and red hats.

07. Gogol Bordello likes to play their song "Start Wearing Purple" (see below), which is a bit of a reference to Jenny Joseph's poem, to kickoff their shows. It's a way to introduce themselves as something unusual and to invite the audience to join them in their silliness, if only for one night. When they say, "start wearing purple," they mean, "start acting crazy."

08. The book "The Color Purple" gets its title from a bit of philosophy the character Shug shares: "I think it pisses God off when you walk past the color purple in a field and don't notice it."

It's a funny thought that such a thing would "piss God off," but then, purple is such a magical thing, maybe we should make sure to notice it every time we pass it in a field.

I mean, wow! One color that represents royalty and magic, mischievousness in old age and the indestructible spirit of LGBT youth. Is there any color better prepared to handle with grace and humor whatever associations society throws at it?

Without further ado (I mean, that was a lot of ado -- not that purple doesn't deserve such a spotlight), here are some of the ways I've worn purple lately. As usual, you can click any image to bring up the full outfit post. Here's your soundtrack...

Start Wearing Purple by Gogol Bordello on Grooveshark

Mint green and lavender outfit: BDG mint green jeans from Urban Outfitters, vintage saddle oxfords, black and white striped tank from Gap, thrifted sparkly lavender v-neck sweater, DIY Amélie "Où et Quand?" necklace
Neon and neutral outfit: Anthropologie dress, heather gray blazer, neon yellow bag and belt
Purple outfit: purple tights, studded ankle boots, '90s mini skirt, cashmere sweater, grape necklace
Me on the trampoline
Tennis outfit: Versace for H&M silk pleated skirt, Brooks running shoes, Champion sports bra, vintage Wilson tennis racket
Outfit - early 1960s party dress, nude shoes, vintage swing coat
spirit day outfit - purple dress, vintage camisole, blue sky umbrella
Outfit - floral dress, ruffled cardigan, gladiator sandals, Kelly bag
Join me on: facebook // twitter // bloglovin // pinterest // instagram


  1. That grape necklace is unspeakably adorable. Love it.

    The Undercover Dress-Up Lover x

  2. Great post! All those purple facts are really interesting - no wonder I've always liked purple & green together! I love all your adorable purple outfits too!

  3. Thanks you. When I saw it, I though it was too cute how each grape was a rhinestone. I just had to have it.

  4. Thank you so much. Yeah, I didn't realize how many amazing things there are about purple until I started to write the post. Once I got going, though, I realized there was SO MUCH! :)