Is it an homage to the late, great pop star Prince? Nostalgia for all things ‘80s? Or a fondness for a rich and luxurious respite from a frenetic and hyper-connected world? Opinions vary, but it’s an undeniable trend that purple has penetrated all levels of design as almost a lifestyle choice as opposed to a fashion shade and is indispensable to this season’s palette. Shades of purple, from moody amethysts to lighthearted violets, continue their reign as style staples for winter through spring and summer 2017.
The color purple has been associated with royalty, power and wealth for centuries. Queen Elizabeth I forbade anyone except close members of the royal family to wear it. Purple’s elite status stems from the rarity and cost of the dye originally used to produce it. Purple fabric used to be so outrageously extravagant that only rulers could afford it. The dye initially used to make purple came from the Phoenician trading city of Tyre, which is now in modern-day Lebanon. Fabric traders obtained the dye from a small mollusk that was found only in the Tyre region of the Mediterranean Sea. Producing the dye was labor-intensive and expensive, as more than 9,000 mollusks were needed to create just one gram of Tyrian purple. Since only wealthy rulers could afford to buy and wear the color, it became associated with the imperial classes of Rome, Egypt and Persia. Purple also came to represent spirituality and holiness because royalty who wore the color were often thought of as gods or descendants of the gods. Its exclusivity carried over to the Elizabethan era (1558 to 1603), during which everyone had to abide by strict laws regulating which colors, fabrics and clothes could be worn by different classes within English society.
Eventually, the hue became more accessible to commoners when a young English chemist accidentally created a synthetic purple compound while attempting to produce quinine, an anti-malaria drug. He noticed that the compound could be used to tint fabrics, so he patented the dye and manufactured it under the name aniline purple and Tyrian purple, making a fortune in the process.
Regal and dramatic, spiritual and sophisticated, feminine and romantic, purple is rare in nature and sets a unique and arresting mood. Starring on the runways for the winter were elegant velvet evening gowns, furry vests and coats, cozy sweaters, and wool outerwear in shades of aubergine, layered with gothic-embellished blouses and scarves. Deep and strong colors were featured — jewel shades perfectly suited to take on the cold season. Moody purples, often with pink undertones, materialized on lace, radiating intimacy and sensuality. They also appeared in tweeds, stripes, geometrics and animal prints.
Transitioning into spring and summer 2017, palettes lightened up with pink-purple shades, as well as tones of lilac, lavender and hydrangea blue. Floral blossoms are a feature of this season’s new pastel range, with both equally soft and more saturated hues. Bluebell is a favorite as the most influential pale blue. Warm pastels include petal pink and thistle purple, while frost pink and ice purple are cooler options.
Spring fashion in purple tones included gossamer gowns in silks, satins and organzas, some with 3D flowers scattered all over. If you don’t care to dare that much, try a breezy dress with an orchid watercolor print. Sporty dresses and coats in purple hues graced the runway, and even made appearances in such casual attire as trousers, tee shirts and sneakers. If a strong purple presence is not your thing, or you’re afraid of feeling a little Barney-esque, try splashes of aubergine or lavender in accessories such as scarves, hats, jewelry, handbags, or even lovely headbands and hair accessories.
Strong colors tend to compete, so pay attention to balance and proportion. Choose only one dominant color. Style experts advise pairing purple with neutrals like black, taupe, ivory, or pale buttercream and accessorizing with dashes of colors found in nature — spring green or muted yellow. So in 2O17, indulge your purple passion and get creative with your personal style. Flaunt this luxurious shade in jewel tones or pastels all year long.