Making Peace With Pink, Spring Fashion’s Biggest Trend

ORDINARILY, WHEN designers rally around a color, there’s little to report beyond the news that cerulean blue or dove gray or what-have-you is the new black. When that color is pink, a hue with more baggage than the arrivals terminals at JFK airport, things get more complicated. For some women, pink is simply pretty, a flattering shade that brings color to the cheeks, but for others, pink is forever mired in saccharine depictions of stereotypical girliness. For still others, it’s a postmodern feminist statement, a color whose inescapable gender associations can be radicalized. Whatever your feelings about the shade, prepare to see a lot of it this spring: On this season’s runways, pink predominated.

As befits a hue with mille-feuille layers of meaning, designers’ interpretations varied considerably. At Michael Kors Collection, where the models strode out to Rufus Wainwright singing “Get Happy,” it had a brisk, All-American feel, exemplified by a cheery azalea trench coat. Things were equally upbeat at J. Crew, where a sheer, pale pink top was layered over a similarly hued gingham shirt. At Valentino, pink was lush and romantic, with intricate appliqués and historical references. At Bottega Veneta, a geranium-hued leather dress had a don’t mess-with-me mien. And at Marc Jacobs , a bubblegum-and-silver ruffled minidress was ready for a rave.

The thread that connected these various takes on the supposedly tender hue was a lack of pink’s traditional sweetness. That’s because in the 21st century, the color is most often employed ironically, said Dr. Valerie Steele , the director of the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, which is planning an exhibition on pink next year: “It plays with the idea of femininity and prettiness. It’s not straight-on pink.”

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