The colour purple*

* I am thinking of this or this, not this.

Hands up who remembers the 80s, when so-called jewel colours were all the rage and teenage would-be fashion victims (viz.: me) would clad themselves from top to toe in said hues, sometimes wisely tempered with a liberal element of black or white, though more than occasionally resulting in wardrobe malfunction, judging by the photos.

Magenta, jade green, royal blue, mustard, purple – these are the kind of colours we mixed, matched and accessorized. Jade green and royal blue I wasn’t keen on and was pleased to see the back of; likewise mustard, which makes my skin look sallow or jaundiced. Magenta was alright, it satisfying a fondness for pink that has never gone away, but it was purple that remained the colour of choice for me.

The colour purple, rich, regal and exotic. I was fascinated by the existence of the Land of Purple with its tiny molluscs; this was the colour that Nero decreed was to be worn by the Emperor alone, with Henry VIII enacting a similar kind of dress code later in history. You can trace important developments in social, economic and art history through purple-tinted glasses…

I spent a lot of the 90s wearing purple: it combined well with the slightly Gothic-inspired look I favoured and with my penchant for things Victorian, medieval and Celtic. I had scarves, pullovers, jeans, socks, dresses, tights, underwear, nail varnish, jewellery, Doc Martens in varying shades of it. I even made purple silk roses to decorate a hat which I wore to a wedding (together with a purple dress, shoes and handbag, of course).

Anyway, to cut this long excursus short, I must have reached saturation point eventually, and I’ve been wearing less and less purple the last few years. The old garments have worn out, don’t fit any more or are passรฉ in style, and I obviously haven’t found new ones that appeal.

But the odd thing, and the direction this pre(r)amble (purple prose?) has been heading in, is this: purple, it seems, is de rigeur for Spring 2009, and the shops are chock-full of it; but it leaves me totally cold.

I feel all purpled out – I have only to look at one of these garments and I immediately feel uncomfortable. Why? It can’t be just that my hair is now more brown than black and thus a bit more likely to clash, and it certainly isn’t the case that my skintone has changed significantly. Nor do I honestly believe that I am being subliminally affected by the poem that begins with the line “When I am an old woman, I shall wear purple”.

Has anyone else found that their taste in colours has changed in a weird way like this, and do you have an explanation?


Filed under Up close and personal

11 responses to “The colour purple*

  1. sven

    oh god yes, I do remember those horrible colours that was used back in the 80’s ๐Ÿ™‚ screamy colours and you tried to mix them all so it looked terrible. *lol* AND we didn’t even need to be stoned like there were during the late 60’s and early 70’s to walk around in those brightly coloured clothes ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Sven: Well, I like to think that youthful ignorance / lack of developed taste exonerated some of it ๐Ÿ™‚ Mind you, when you look back at what the adults were wearing, there are some open questions there…

  2. anne-julie

    Oh definitely. I used to love yellow as a teenager. I wanted all my clothes to be yellow! ๐Ÿ™‚ Now I only have one yellow pullover (which I really like) but most of my things are black (goes with anything). After that black phase I’ve now returned to color again…. and I’ve been looking for a petrol pullover or shirt for ages!! Just can’t seem to find anything I like. It’s probably out of fashion now anyway ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Anne-Julie:There were tons of petrol things in the shops a few months back – I can’t believe that that colour would be quite so short-lived in fashion terms. Not a colour I’ve ever got into myself, I have to confess, though if the garment were right otherwise, I can imagine perhaps going for it.

      • anne-julie

        It was in fashion for a short time, but at that time all the shirts etc. I saw weren’t of a really good quality, and that made them look really cheap. I’ve also been looking for a purple jeans for ages and couldn’t find anything, and now, about a year later, there are lots of them around (but I don’t want them anymore ๐Ÿ˜€ )

  3. KAvey

    Not really, for me.

    Yellow has been my favourite colour for as long as I can remember and still is.

    Purple has always been a very close contender, even before it came into fashion and long after it went back out again. I love it!

    And brown is another colour I like, though it wasn’t popular in the ’80s (my teen years), probably because it was so over-used in the ’70s.

    That said, I think I’m characterised by a complete absence of give-a-fuck about current fashions or trends (as can be determined from my dress-sense).

    • Kavey: Interesting – I was wearing all brown when I was writing the entry and happened to think that it was a colour that I would definitely NOT have worn back in the 80s (except under duress – and I do remember some painful incidents involving garments in said colour!) but rather like now.

      I know I’ve seen you in purple and have really liked it, and yellow will work WAY better with your skin tone than with mine. I’m trying to think of a colour that would not look good on you and can’t quite think of one, though I am sure that there are some you feel don’t do as much for you.

      At the end of the day, the only thing that is important is to wear what you feel comfortable in, stuff that complements positive feelings about yourself and that you feel is appropriate for the occasion.

  4. nettys

    I am wearing a royal blue jumper today. I once had a purple dress with long sleeves (do not have that anymore); still have a purple dress for the summer which I like. I had a purple pair of trousers (corderoy (Monsoon). I used to wear purple socks. I never had a purple coat – only an aubergine jacket. I seem to be a bit purpled out, too. I still like black and white – but I have a lot of colour in my dress. At one point I wore a lot of orange. This seems to have gone a bit now. I’d like a yellow coat. I like floral patterns…Will think about it again!

    • Annette: That photo of you in the hall of your house has you wearing a lovely orange skirt ensemble – really liked that. I like the fact that seem to have a lot of colour in your outfits and are not worried about mixing and matching – it makes for a self-confident and striking style.

      My favourite purple garment ever was a blouse that had this chiffon skirt bit with a gold Celtic design around the edge. I wonder what happened to it…

  5. There’s nothing wrong with purple, in fact, combining it with it’s opposing colour – yellow, makes for a dramatic combination.

    See for an example – people would always stop and stare when I drove this!

    Now, I’m more into the primary colours (being the components of my logo), but for clothes, I feel most comfortable in green. Not bright green mind you, but more drab / camouflage green. I don’t think that really says much good about me!

  6. being born in the 80s, I think I mostly wore dreadful second-hand clothes back then. didn’t matter that much, by the time the 80s were over I still hadn’t developed any interest in fashion.
    as an average lost teenage angst boy, I did have a certain crush on black that has worn off now. I still do wear black but I usually keep it to a maximum of one article rather than the whole uniform. what hasn’t changed though is my dislike of “loud” colors – if you see me wear anything bright and surprisingly colorful, I must’ve fallen in love with that shirt for reasons other than its color. I think there’s only one bright red t-shirt I wear quite often.
    It may sound weird but I don’t like to stand out in a crowd. (Fellow students might disagree.)

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