The other day, I discovered that the color pink had crept into my closet. I was surprised to see splashes of the bright color draped between hangers dominated with navy, white, and beige; to see pink-colored fabric blooming between my muted floral prints. It must have happened steadily, over a long period of time, but I now own pink ballet slippers, two pink silk dresses, and a pink bucket bag so light in its coloring the leather resembles the first brushstrokes of a French manicure. But why so much pink? Every woman is subject to the vicissitude of trends and collective obsessions, but every woman also tends to buy for herself what are essentially variations of a theme. I know which colors flatter my face, and which cuts narrow my hips. When I deviate, it tends to be the result of wishful thinking. And although the fanciful nature of fashion can impact any consumer, the premise behind being chic is also knowing, fundamentally, what flatters without being fussy about it. Pink is not me.
The color is conspicuously present these days, both on the runways and on the racks. Models in Alexander Wang’s curtain call at Balenciaga floated down a light, almost nude-pink runway; his white, frilly dresses looking innocent but not bridal, pretty but also tough. Pink appeared in Hood By Air’s spring 2016 collection in New York, where Shayne Oliver paraded androgynous-looking boys and girls down the runway in slouchy, zipped, and flayed pieces of fabric — and there it was: pink skirts, pink pants, even a pink dress worn by a model with a patch of pink fabric affixed to her forehead, as if Shepard Fairey had gone wheatpasting backstage with his eyes closed. Karl Lagerfeld had bright pink threaded through his Lesage tweed; Nicolas Ghesquière was liberal with bubble-gum pink at Louis Vuitton. Haider Ackermann had nude, sheer pink embellishments, and Simone Rocha impressed with her bondage-inspired designs in which she had made pink dresses whose doll-like beauty (puffed sleeves and full skirts) was subverted by their sheerness (nipples) and black macramé straps across the chest. It’s not that it’s uncommon to wear pink — it’s a popular color, after all; one assigned to the "fairer" sex upon birth — it’s just uncommon for pink to look this tossed off, this un-feminine, this...good. Pink doesn’t instantly evoke maturity like navy. It’s different from red, a color that offers a sense of the exotic, of romance — or both. It doesn’t simultaneously embody both tradition and the avant-garde like a white; nor is it anonymous like black. Say pink, and you think of breast-cancer awareness, Mary Kay makeup, Barbie doll boxes, and poodle skirts. It’s the color Disney chooses for its princesses, the blush tone that stains the petals of tulle that open from the waists of ballerinas.
Pink’s aggressive femininity — which, it should be pointed out, was only popularized in the latter half of the 20th century — is used to remind us that girls are girls and boys are boys. To be in pink is to be demure, obedient, and conventional. But this pink that has recently emerged is womanly, in a different way. In an era of feminism that includes Beyoncé in a bodysuit and Scout Willis topless at a grocery store, women are making the point that they are unself-conscious about their beauty, that their feminism isn’t buttoned up or politically correct. This pink is unapologetic, boldly present, and intelligent — think of Petra Collin’s nymph-like aggression about the menstrual cycle, of T-shirts demanding Instagram to "#FreeTheNipple," of artwork made of molds of women’s vaginas. Of course, it’s worth mentioning there’s a luxury appeal to the trend — the soft blush nudes you see are also playing into the recent fad in fine jewelry in which Cartier watches and Piaget pendants now come in rose gold, rimmed with little diamonds. Nor is this color novel in its provocation (the social justice NGO Code Pink has been in existence for 12 years; Tracey Emin’s neon script has been around for a while, too). And yet, this expression in high fashion is, nonetheless, provocative. Pink, in all its iterations, is no longer a ladylike cliché — it’s frank and sensuous. It’s less of a throwback, and more of a subtle subversion of our idea of femininity, evoking the color of lips, nipples, and labia. This slouchy, androgynous version of pink doesn’t care what you think. In that way, it points to a much more subtle idea of how we tend to our notions of gender and desire. These are pinks you purposely don’t dress up; you dress them down and rip them up. Pink has finally grown up.