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  • Writer's pictureFashion and Retail Association

Why Do We Wear Pink & Red on Valentine’s Day?

By: Erica Schwartz

When you think about Valentine’s Day, what images come to mind? Maybe you think about a bouquet of roses. Maybe you think about pastel conversation hearts. If you’re a fashion lover, you most definitely think about how in the world you’re supposed to style pink and red pieces into a cohesive outfit.

Although fashion purists may hate to pair analogous colors together, it’s an inescapable fact that pink and red have become the go-to color combo for Valentine’s Day. Like most cultural trends that emerge over time, it’s challenging – if not impossible – to pinpoint the specific origin of wearing pink and red on Valentine’s Day. However, there are a number of major influences that played a key role in the development of this color association.

The color red has been worn as a symbol of love for centuries, dating back to the Roman Empire. In ancient Rome, brides would be covered head-to-toe in a bright red sheet called a “flammeum”. This flame-colored cloak was supposed to ward off evil spirits from the vulnerable bride on her wedding day. Some writings say that the flammeum represented Roman marriage ideals of lifelong promise and fidelity.

Red emerged as a common color for brides in other cultures as well. Since the Mughal era of the early 16th century, many brides in India have worn a red lehenga or saree for their weddings. In China, it is a tradition for brides to wear a red cheongsam, or qipao, with gold accents. While some brides today opt for different colors, many still wear a traditional red ensemble for their special day.

As for pink’s inclusion as an official-unofficial Valentine’s Day color, we likely have Esther A. Howland to thank. Often called the “Mother of the American Valentine”, Howland was the first person to commercialize Valentine’s Day cards in America. Born in Worcester, Massachusetts, Howland was a skilled artist and female entrepreneur. For her cards, she crafted intricate mosaic-like patterns of lace and wafer paper, primarily in shades of red, white, and pink! Her cards often featured images of pastel flowers and cherubs, other images that have become increasingly synonymous with Valentine’s Day in the United States. Thanks to predominantly low prices on her works, Howland’s cards spread all over the country. In addition to inspiring the creation of other greeting card businesses, Esther A. Howland’s popular cards likely helped to create the association between pink and Valentine’s Day in the minds of the American public.

Today, brands help continue the tradition of wearing pink and red for Valentine’s Day through ads and special Valentine’s Day items and sales. Although many in the fashion world are quick to say that pink and red clash, it doesn’t seem this cultural custom is going anywhere. After all, it’s grounded in centuries-old history. So, fashionistas, shield your eyes on February 14th: pink and red for Valentine’s Day is here to stay!

Thank you @sz_darkroom for the pictures! Thank you also to the amazing models from F&R!

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