DG Top 10: Glamorous Colors


10. Though in recent years it has come to symbolize the ubiquity of the middle-market status-seeking known as masstige, Tiffany blue has an undeniable place in the pantheon of the most glamorous colors. The color was introduced on the famous boxes not long after the company’s founding. (In fact, the custom robin’s-egg hue has the same Pantone number as that year: 1837.) Charles Lewis Tiffany shrewdly increased the prestige of both company and color with his famous rule: that no Tiffany box could bought, and that it could never leave the store without containing a purchase.

9. The inky, bloody red of Chanel’s Vamp nail color should be coming back into vogue right about now, with our culture currently in the thrall of a deep vampire fixation. Immortalized on the nails of Uma Thurman in Pulp Fiction, and going on to sell $1 million in the first year alone, Vamp became an iconic color symbolizing a slightly dangerous, edgy form of Fin de Siècle glamour.

8. The color of deep seas, dark sapphires, and the city sky over a night on the town, midnight blue stands for an elegant, nocturnal glamour. It’s also more masculine than many others. Midnight blue is the only respectable alternative to black for a man’s evening suit, introduced in the 1920s by the Duke of Windsor because it was more photogenic than black. It proves to be equally camera-friendly on red carpet gowns; witness exhibits A (Heidi Klum), B (Marion Cotillard), and C (Anne Hathaway).


7. The color of precious metals and mirrors, platinum evokes old Hollywood glamour. It calls to mind the films of the silver screen and smoke trailed in lazy tendrils from endlessly burning cigarettes. It’s the color of the light that shimmers in chiaroscuro portraits of 40s starlets, the hue of a hit record, the tint of the boldest blond. Impervious to tarnish, platinum is always radiant, brightening up diamonds and bringing the gloss of luxury to whatever it touches.

6. Synonymous with old luxury, Hermès orange is an unlikely hue for glamour. Orange is normally associated with a sunny energy (and my other specialty, joy), but tempered with burnt caramel it becomes a sophisticated signature color. Originally, Hermès boxes were cream-colored with a gold lining. Pretty, but hardly as distinctive as the current hue. Legend says the color was chosen during World War II, when the printers ran out of stock for boxes. The only color left was an unpopular orange, and when Hermès decided to take the entire stock off their hands to prevent future shortages, the color stuck. In the 1960s, three Hermès cousins were leaving a luncheon when they noticed some ladies carrying their bright orange bags, standing out in a crowd of thousands. “We absolutely must keep that color!” they all agreed, and the rest is history. Of course, the distinction of luxury is not always welcome in a recession. Recently, the media has been reporting a trend towards "brown bag couture", where stores including Hermès have been offering plain bags to allow their customers to leave the store unmarked by their excesses of consumption.

5. The luminous, sparkling shade of the world’s most celebratory libation, the color champagne is a translucent wonder. Like liquified gold, it glitters and reflects, shimmers and glows. Champagne brings a certain opulence to horses, roses, satin, and diamonds. In fashion, it manages to suggest skin without being racy. In interiors, it brings a cool incandescence to garden variety beige. In any context, it’s a novel alternative to white that balances restrained elegance with joie de vivre.

4. “The pearl is the oyster’s autobiography,” said Fellini, and in its nacreous white surface we find a world of mystery. The iridescence of pearl white epitomizes many aesthetic features of glamour: elusive depth, richness, reflectivity and luster. Like the looks of many glamorous icons, it is widely coveted but difficult to replicate, though that hasn’t stopped paint manufacturers, cosmetics companies, and textile designers from trying, often with beautiful yet imperfect results.


3. Color of royals and the occult, deep purple has perhaps the longest history of any glamorous color. Purple dyes date back nearly four thousand years to the Minoan civilization in Crete, and were produced by extracting mucus from certain species of mollusks. The dye was extremely costly to produce; just to get 1.5 grams took over 12,000 shellfish, which explains why it became the definitive royal color throughout the ancient world, including Egypt, Persia, and Rome. Purple became democratized with the discovery of aniline synthetic dyes in the 1850s, but its glamour has never faded.

2. No color could be more intensely effective at focusing the attention than a pure, scarlet red. Most glamorous in small pops — a Dita von Teese pout, a trenchcoat lining, or the soles of a pair of Louboutin stilettos — red is dramatic, sensual, and intense. Red is also easier to get away with than you think. With enough confidence no one looks bad in a red dress, and there are dozens of websites designed to help you choose the right red lipstick for your coloring. Red was also all over the runways for fall, so there’s no time like the present to pluck up your courage and brave this boldest of hues.

1. Little need be said about black, the essential non-color of fashion, mystery, and rock and roll. Since the little black dress was invented by Coco Chanel in the 1920s, black has never wavered in its position as the sartorial equivalent of oxygen. Its purity allows us to focus on form with no distractions; cut, draping, and fit carry the concept. Black is slimming, timeless, and endlessly relevant. It transcends context. It is elegant everywhere, from boardroom to beach, from dawn until well past dusk. Unlike most attributes of value, its desirability is not compromised by ubiquity. Perhaps this is because black is so adaptable, reinforcing without contradiction the full range of glamorous identities. Black manages to be both understated and dramatic, traditional and contemporary, mainstream and edgy, runway and real world. It is not subject to diktats of seasonality or the whims of fashion. Though many a trend claims to supersede it, when it comes to glamour one thing is clear: black will always be the new black.

P.S.: This proved to be a hotly debated topic! A few runners up:

Rich, sophisticated chocolate brown

Gold, warm and radiant

The deep swirling green known as malachite

Any others? What's your most glamorous color? 

[Images: Tiffany box courtesy of Tiffany & Co., Chanel Vamp nail color courtesy of Chanel, Hermes box courtesy of Hermes. All others via Flickr used under the Creative Commons license, in order: Pesterussa, puss_in_boots, chrischapman, amboo who?, VampzX_23, luca pedrotti, Danielo_Bolo.]