Whatever you think when you think pink, you'll find it on the clothing racks this spring.
Ranging from whispery pastels at one end to screaming hot fuchsias at the other -- not to mention innumerable shades in between -- this band of color is among the season's favorites. It's as if a pink paintbrush has left its mark on everything from Bill Blass dresses to Chanel suits, from sportswear to evening wear.
Pink appears to be riding the same fashion wave that is bringing the 1960s back for another go-round. And just like the '60s themselves, this is a color that can translate into anything from the ladylike looks of Babe Paley and Jackie Kennedy to the psychedelic looks of Pucci and pop art.
"The interesting thing is that it's pink in its many variations," said Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute, which forecasts color trends. "Before, when you would see a color become hot, you would usually just see one shade of it. But now, with pink, we're seeingeverything from the very soft pinks to, on the other hand, the bright, intense pinks.
"I think it's part of the resurgence of the '60s," she added. "You're getting either the light pinks of the kind of lipstick you'd wear with a beehive hairdo, or the more blatant, brighter pinks."
Pink's popularity is due, no doubt, to the pretty glow it tends to cast on most complexions. It's not by accident that "in the pink" has come to mean healthy, or that pink light bulbs are preferred by those who want less harsh lighting.
"I love pink," said Linda Scherr, co-owner of Rococo women's store in Pikesville. "I feel it's very flattering to women. It's soft and pretty and feminine."
Her customers have bought up almost all the pieces of a group of jackets, skirts and full shorts "all in a luscious, sherbet-y pink" rayon by Bessie, a Los Angeles label, Ms. Scherr said.
"I like pink as a color standing alone -- with a pink shoe," Ms. Scherr said. "But it's also really pretty with gray, and pink with black is striking."
At Octavia, a women's store in the Village of Cross Keys, the pinks shade toward the bright end of the spectrum.
"I really noticed a lot of hot colors -- hot pink, hot goldenrod, hot tangerine -- in the collections," said Octavia buyer Diane Lee. "This has really been building up for several years. They're happy colors, and people like to wear them."
A new way to wear these colors is by mixing brights with brights, something that perhaps French designer Christian Lacroix started when he mixed fuchsia with red in one of his collections.
"We have a wonderful group by Dana Buchman, who has worked whole group around hot pink and tangerine -- and they look smashing," said Ms. Lee.
Pink, of course, tends to pop up perennially every spring as an antidote to the preceding winter.
"You see the blossoms and the trees, and you just think how pretty pink is for spring," said Christa Richardson, a color consultant in Glen Burnie. "It just gives you a lift."
Ms. Richardson, who uses the "seasons" theory of color that says you're a winter, summer, spring or autumn depending on your skin, eye and hair tone, said just about everyone can wear some kind of pink. Pinks can be divided up into warmer, yellowish shades (such as peach and coral) and cooler, more bluish shades (such as mauve and fuchsia), and correspond to the various "seasons," she said.
"If you have blue undertones to your skin, if you're a 'winter' or 'summer,' you'll look better in a clearer shade of pink," she said. "If you have warm undertones to your skin -- those are the 'springs' and the 'autumns' -- you will look good in a peachy pink," she said.
Redheads tend to have the hardest time finding a pink to wear well, Ms. Richardson said, but even they sometimes can wear peach tones.
And, of course, pink has some competition out there.
"Yellow seems to be a stronger color this spring," said Ruth Shaw of Ruth Shaw in Cross Keys. "But pink and soft greens always tend to come out in spring."
Pink fans aren't left out, however. Ms. Shaw carries pastel jeans with matching shirts in yellow, pink or white. "It's a wonderful look for the summer," she said, "a much softer edge."
While girls have always favored pink, for a time it was seen as just that -- girlish. Grown-up girls may have eschewed the color as they climbed up the corporate ladder, but now it appears they feel comfortable returning to this frankly feminine shade.
"I think the time has long gone that women have to wear dark, somber colors," said Ms. Eiseman, the color consultant. "It could be seen as a step backward -- the short, short skirts; the pink lipsticks. Are we losing what we've gained? I think it's just the opposite. I think women are feeling more comfortable with themselves and not worrying that they'll be seen as sex kittens if they dress this way. We can wear these colors and still have strength."