You know it’s truly spring in the city when the cherry trees sprout their first pink and white blossoms. New York awakens from its winter grey slumber and starts to see in color again. Dark cloaks are traded in for summer sheaths, people take the subway less and walk more, and picnickers take to Central Park. We begin to see in pink as we celebrate with cherry blossom festivals from east coast cities like Macon, Georgia and Washington D.C. to San Francisco and Pasadena on the west coast.
Cherry blossom season is celebrated as Far East as Japan and China. For centuries in Japan “Hanami” was a tradition of picnicking under a sakura or ume tree. This practice started in the Nara Period, when ume blossoms were the most admired. However, by the Heian Period, cherry blossoms captured the attention of the Japanese Imperial court, and this fascination with the pink flowers trickled down to the common people. From that point on, in waka and in haiku, the terms “flowers” referenced cherry blossoms.
Cherry blooms are certainly brightening up our color palates in the physical world, where pink is a welcomed hue, but what else does the color represent to our culture? Pink has long been a color associated with femininity. When babies are born, boys wear blue and girls wear, you know, that other color. In past generations, pink may have signified girlishness and in a sense weakness, but those ideas were certainly thwarted by icons such as Lilly Pulitzer, known for her brightly-colored and printed shift dresses, and celebrities like Nicki Minaj, who may consider it her signature color. When eccentric socialite Daphne Guinness wears pink, it’s with the same carefully curated brand of strange artistry with which she approaches her more signature black– with feathered trains and gothic touches. Pink is something that pushes the wardrobe in sexy, bold directions, while at the same time the color men and women wear to support Breast Cancer Awareness.
Elsa Schiaparelli was another woman unafraid of pink, and found herself inspired by Daisy Fellowes’s gorgeous and enormous rose-colored Cartier diamond. She then introduced a bright magenta color into her collection and called it, Shocking Pink, bringing color to everyday neutrals and spicing up browns, blacks, and navy. In the last decade, celebrities have shocked us with their brave uses of pink from films to street style. Natalie Portman and Scarlett Johansson wore pink wigs in Closer and Lost in Translation. Gwen Stefani and Katy Perry have donned cotton candy locks, and even Canadian-American sweetheart Rachel McAdams embraced subtle pink highlights with whimsical irreverence.
We see pink in old school satin corsets in England, and in early costumes worn by Russian dancer Anna Pavlova for the Ballets Russes, which is regarded as the greatest ballet of the 20th century. We see it then adapted in contemporary lingerie and in tutu dresses made famous by Rodarte’s designs in Black Swan. Kirsten Dunst plays the late Queen of France in the film, Marie Antoinette, portraying her in rosy silk and satin gowns adorned with pink feathers, shoes, and jewels. In one scene, she is even surrounded by elaborate pink cakes! Today, if you walk through the royal chateau of Versailles, there are hundreds of rooms, each with their own theme. And, what’s a palace without a pink boudoir? Not one in which Marie Antoinette would live.
France is not the only place in which the color takes claim. There are pink salt lakes all over the world, in Australia, Canada, Europe, and Africa. The “Lost City” of Petra, one of the Seven Wonders of the World, lies in the southwestern corner of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, and is carved directly into the red, white, and pink sandstone cliffs. Jaipur is known as the Pink City of India. In 1876, the buildings in the city were painted pink, a color associated with hospitality, to welcome the Prince of Wales to the city. To this day, the city’s residents are compelled by law to preserve the color—to live in the pink.
Literally, the phrase “living in the pink” or “to be in the pink” means to have excellent to perfect physical and emotional health. One way to help achieve this is to sleep with rose quartz under your pillow. It’s a pretty pink stone believed to have healing powers, which give its owner a strong sense of self-worth and inner peace. It’s also thought that if you wash your face with water charged with rose quartz it will help fade wrinkles and keep the skin looking young and fresh. Well, if that’s the case, YSL muse Catherine Deneuve must be taking rose quartz baths, still youthfully intoxicating at the age of 69.
In 1968, Deneuve posed for her then husband, photographer David Bailey, wearing a plumed cap behind a stuffed flamingo. Why a flamingo, you ask. The answer is, why not? They are feminine in color, but are viewed as a more masculine bird. They are less delicate-looking than peacocks, and not graceful like swans. Deneuve looks over her shoulder and into the camera, sitting beside a large pink bird. It’s the eccentricity that gets us. How captivating to see this beautiful woman beside an object so iconically campy. It’s almost as if she is completely aware of her effect on her audience- whether she sits next to an awkward bird or a preening man, she is comfortable in her own skin. She finds balance in her own pinkness, something we can all strive toward.