Pink in Fashion from 1900 to the 1950s

From soft pale pinks to shocking pink that really packs a punch (Schiaparelli, anyone?), the versatility of the color pink has been utilized by fashion designers for centuries. For today’s blog post, we’ll be taking a closer look at how pink was used in the first half of the twentieth century. Why only then? Because those fifty years happen to also share the time period spanned by our limited edition Think Pink mini-collection, available only through August 4th, 2023!

Anyone acquainted with fashion history knows that there were countless changes to women’s fashion from 1900 to the 1950s. After all, that was a time period that saw World War I, The Great Depression, World War II, and all the partying that happened in between and afterward. Yet as you’ll see, no matter the decade, twentieth-century fashion designers loved the color pink.

In June of 1907, Town & Country magazine published an article all about how the summertime brought “snowy sartorial days” — meaning wearing white from head to toe. The author added that women who wished to be more conspicuous could add a touch of color to their costumes, such as a pale pink ribbon at the waist or a cluster of pale pink roses added to the belt.

From the Costume Institute Fashion Plates.

These “Dainty Gowns for Early Summer” from May 1901 are far from colorless! And we think the pink ensemble on the left would go ever so perfectly with the limited edition blush pink Colette Button Boots.

But who said pink is only for the summertime? Not Jeanne Paquin, that’s for sure. Both of the fashion illustrations below, from 1904 and 1906, were created for hiver — French for winter!

Jeanne Paquin. Winter 1904. ‘Clio.’ Victoria & Albert Museum E.916-1957.
Jeanne Paquin. Winter 1906. ‘Palladia.’ Victoria & Albert Museum E.1368-1957.

Speaking of winter, this fanciful Jeanne Paquin fashion illustration was for the winter of 1912. The Victoria and Albert Museum describes this design as a “Rose pink silk and chiffon evening dress with exaggerated pannier drapery on [the] skirt.”

Jeanne Paquin, Hiver 1912. Victoria & Albert Museum E.2311-1957.
Evening gown by Robert, French, 1912-1914. MFIT 2016.8.1.

According to the Museum at FIT, the popularization of bright, synthetic dyes caused the elite to develop a taste for pale pastels. The designer of this c. 1912-1914 evening gown clearly had something else in mind!

We all know that in the 1920s, rising hemlines provided the perfect opportunity to showcase more elaborate and attractive shoes. Did that include pink? Yes, of course! From a 1921 issue of Gazette du Bon Ton, the fashion illustration below shows a lady wearing a House of Worth dinner dress in the perfect shade of pink, accessorized with matching shoes and a gigantic feather fan.

From the Costume Institute Fashion Plates.
Woman’s Shoes, 1922. Philadelphia Museum of Art 1973-227-9a,b.

Like our limited edition candy pink Lilith shoes, this 1920s pair from the Philadelphia Museum of Art features an ankle strap and cutout details in the leather.

Shoes by F. Pinet, c. 1925, French. MFIT 2008.84.2.

This absolutely gorgeous pink pair of 1920s embroidered evening shoes look like they belong in both of our Think Pink and In Bloom collections!

Shoes by Fenton Footwear, c. 1930s, American. MFIT P84.35.3.

Even more similar to our silver and pink Lilith shoes is this c. 1930s pair from the Museum at FIT, which also features metallic leather details and a T-strap! How extremely Art Deco.

Last summer, we published an entire blog post about the history of Shocking Pink, which is famously associated with Italian fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli and her work in the late 1930s and 1940s. We definitely had this color in mind when selecting the color of our limited edition hot pink Lido sandals!

Evening Dress by Valentina, c. 1933, USA. MFIT 96.69.28.

Shocking pink or just shockingly pink? Believe it or not, according to the Museum at FIT this bright pink evening dress was created by Valentina in 1932 — several years before Schiaparelli began using it as her signature color.

Evening Dress by Elsa Schiaparelli, Summer 1937, French. MFIT 2016.55.2.
Collection Drawing, Winter 1938-1939, Elsa Schiaparelli. Musée des Arts Décoratifs.

Will the real Shocking Pink please stand up? Above, this 1937 Schiaparelli evening dress and fashion illustration from Winter 1938-1939 both feature the saturated hue contrasted dramatically with striking black.

Woman’s Platform Shoes by Cedric, 1939, French. Philadelphia Museum of Art 1962-169-1a,b.
Shoes by I. Miller, 1940s, USA. MFIT 81.170.5.

In a similar bright pink shade, these two pairs of sandals from c. 1939-1940s remind us of our hot pink Lido sandals! And to be honest, we prefer their durable faux suede material for everyday wear.

However, we don’t want to give the impression that Shocking Pink was the only option for fashion designers in the late thirties and forties, even if they were taking their queues from Paris couture houses. Dated to January of 1939, the following two fashion designs by Pearl Alexander Lipman (née Pearl Levy) for André Studios feature a soft pink color used in a combination suit, cape coat, and accessories like hats and gloves.

The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Picture Collection, The New York Public Library. “Combination suit in skating silhouette.” The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1939.
The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Picture Collection, The New York Public Library. “Cape coat on double breasted reefer.” The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1939.

With shoulders like that, you know these ladies mean business.

Our Lido sandals are historically accurate all the way through the early 1950s, so that’s where our pink fashion history journey ends! (For now …)

Parisian couturier Christian Dior became a household name after his 1947 collection was dubbed the “New Look” by Carmel Snow. During the postwar period, longer hemlines, fuller skirts, and extreme curves all became essential parts of the fashionable silhouette. Such a hyper-feminine look was easily combined with romantic floral prints and delicate shades of pink.

Dress by the House of Dior, c. 1947-48, French. Royal Ontario Museum.
Dress by Traina-Norell, c. 1950, USA. MFIT 74.125.2.
Tree evening dress designed by Charles James, 1957. Chicago Historical Society.

Almost certainly inspired by the 1957 film Funny Face starring Audrey Hepburn, multiple “Think Pink”-inspired articles popped up in women’s magazines that same year. Articles published by Seventeen asserted: “Pink is the key to wonderful costumes!” and “Ranging from a delicate shell tint to blushing rosy shades, pink is for everyone.”

We agree — pink is for everyone! Add more pink to your wardrobes by pre-ordering any of the three limited edition styles in our Think Pink mini collection, only available through August 4th, 2023.

One Comment

  • Sandra from Spoo-Design

    August 2, 2023 at 4:17 AM

    Pink is somehow a special colour to me. Sometimes I like it – sometimes not at all.
    Of course, I loved pink as a child!

    And later abandoned it as childish…or the colour of pigs. 😁

    But if you truly look at it – pink is so lively and very beautiful. And the colour of peonys! And who could not love them? 🥰

    Thanks for the interesting post!

Leave a Reply

Discover more from American Duchess Blog

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading