A colorful world is a world of meaning because people have always used color as symbols. Here are some of the ways fashion and color have connected.
The Aztecs of Mexico taught the Spanish how to make red dye by crushing insects called cochineals. Deep red looks bold, while pale red—pink—looks gentle. In the U.S., pink is now associated with girls, though before the 1920s it was considered a boy's color.
Cheerful sunny yellow gets noticed. In ancient Rome, yellow was the most popular wedding color. Yellow is sometimes worn for safety reasons: raincoats today may be bright yellow so that the wearer can be seen easily in the rain.
Blue is the most common color—especially since blue jeans are everywhere! Blue has a calming effect. Fashion consultants recommend wearing blue to job interviews because it symbolizes loyalty. For this same reason, U.S. police officers traditionally wear blue.
Brilliant tropical orange may be the most attention-getting color. Like yellow, it can be used for safety—evening joggers and hunters in the woods may wear orange tops. Orange can be mixed with pink to make peach, a lively color that is popular in warm weather.
Green is the easiest color on the eye. Hospital uniforms may be green because the color relaxes patients. Green is also associated with nature; leprechauns are said to dress in green, and brides in Europe in the Middle Ages wore green to symbolize fertility.
Purple has always been considered the color of royalty, because for so long it was very hard to get. Cleopatra needed 20,000 snails soaked for ten days to obtain one ounce of purple dye for her royal clothing.
Black is generally considered a serious color. In the West, black is traditional for both funeral dress and sophisticated eveningwear. Black outfits can be overpowering, and villains, such as Dracula, often wear black.
Beginning in the 20th century, western brides have worn white to symbolize purity. In China, however, white is the color of mourning. White shows dirt easily; doctors and nurses wear white coats to show that they understand cleanliness is important.
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