Valentine’s greetings go back as far as the Middle Ages, but written versions started appearing after 1400. Charles, Duke of Orleans wrote the oldest known Valentine that still exists today in 1415 to his wife while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London.
By the mid-18th century, it became common in many parts of the world to exchange small tokens of affection such as handwritten notes. Esther A. Howland started selling mass-produced Valentines in the 1840s in the US. She made elaborate cards made with scraps of real ribbon, lace and colourful pictures.
Historically, red symbolized social status, political authority and religious rank. The colour was difficult, and expensive, to produce so only those of a certain class could afford this luxury shade. Pink wasn’t really even defined as a colour with its own name till around the eighteenth century when it became popular with Louis XVI’s court.
Pink became very popular in fashion for both men and women during the Rococo era. This classic painting by Jean-Honoré Fragonard shows the romance of pink ruffles. Pink was popular for women like Madame de Pompadour, the chief mistress of Louis XV whose favourite colour was pink; however, pink was actually even more popular for men. Pink was seen as a shade of red and since red was the colour of the military, it signaled strength and power.
Pink actually continued to be a genderless colour for centuries. All young children wore white because it was easy to bleach clean (I know, I’m a mom. My kids wore very little white because who wants to deal with that?!) If anything, pink was more popular for boys because of the military association. Blue was actually thought to be a girls’ colour because it was seen as more calm and passive and therefore feminine (insert eyeroll here.)
This continued until the end of the 19th century when menswear shifted toward predominantly black clothing while womenswear continued to include all the colours. Advances in fabric dye technology (chemical dyes that don’t fade like natural dyes) in the 20th century brought brighter and brighter tones of all colours including pink. Pink became the norm for girls by the 1940s.
So when it comes to Valentine’s Day, red has come to symbolize energy, passion and love. It’s a great colour that everyone can wear, but you need to find the right tone for you. If you don’t know what colour undertones your skin has, try this trick: hold a piece of white paper against your inner wrist then check this chart:
If you get tonnes of compliments when you wear scarlet, brick red or other shades of orangy red, it’s safe to say you likely have warm undertones to your skin. If you look amazing in berry or plum tones, you probably have cool undertones to your skin.
I’m a proponent of dressing however you like that makes you feel beautiful, confident and maybe a little sexy – hey, it’s Valentine’s Day after all! So if that means wearing your favourite black dress or your sexy new green top, you go, girl! However, if you’d like to give a nod to Valentine’s Day (even if you’re in lockdown mode and you aren’t going anywhere,) try opting for a little red or pink. Another option is to stick with neutrals and add just a pop of pink or red in the form of jewelry or a scarf. And if that’s not you, here are a few colours to wear this Valentine’s Day that AREN’T red or pink: try romantic colours like chocolate, lavender, plum, tangerine or purple. Whatever you decide to wear, dress for YOU (besides, my husband always tells me there’s nothing like a good looking woman rocking a pair of sweatpants)