Purple Power

Did you know that the color purple has a fascinating history?

Purple is defined as “any of a group of colors with a hue between that of violet and red” and as a “symbol of royalty or high office.” Historically, the color purple has been associated with royalty and power. Why? Because it was so hard to make.  It took some 12,000 shellfish to extract 1.5 grams of the pure dye. The earliest evidence of purple dates back to 1600B.C. in the ancient land of Canaan (or Phoenicia if you were Greek).

Rome, Egypt, and Persia all used purple as the imperial standard. Purple dyes were rare and expensive; only the rich had access to them.

The beginnings of the  synthetic dye industry can be traced to the discovery of an aniline-based purple dye, mauveine, by William H. Perkin in 1856. He discovered it while searching for a cure for malaria. Perkin was an English chemist who changed the world of his time by making this purple color available to the masses. It became quite fashionable to wear clothing dyed with “mauve,” and Mr. Perkin became a very wealthy man.

Purple is enjoying another surge in popularity today. I think it’s interesting to look back at fashion history to see ways that the color purple has been enjoyed by women throughout the ages. Here are some great examples. You may click on the pictures to be taken to the shop to learn more about the garments or to purchase.


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