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Colours in Fashion: viii. Purple

  • Purple is a secondary colour; a mixture of two primary colours, red and blue. It is opposite yellow on the colour wheel, the third primary colour.

  • A fuschia-purple or plum-purple has more red than blue; a violet-purple or indigo-purple has more blue than red.

  • Throughout history, purple has been associated with royalty, riches, mystery, magic and religion.

  • Originating from the ancient Indian Vedic texts, the chakras are used today in Vedic practices, such as yoga. Indigo symbolizes the third eye chakra ‘Ajna.’ Located between the eyebrows, the indigo chakra visually represents our intuition. It is associated with peace, wisdom, patience and spirituality.

  • Violet represents the crown chakra ‘Sahasrara.’ Located at the top of the head, the violet chakra visually represents our spirituality and connection to what is outside of ourselves. It is associated with universal consciousness and our connection to a higher power.

Woman wearing Purple Veil

  • Tyrian purple dye (first made by the Phoenicians in sixteenth Century BC) was very expensive throughout antiquity. Purple was worn by Roman magistrates and became the Imperial colour worn by the rulers of the Byzantine and Holy Roman Empire, as well as Catholic bishops.

  • In Japan, purple is the colour associated with aristocracy and the emperor. 'Murasaki', a deep purple, was traditionally off-limits to ordinary people. Queen Elizabeth the Second was coronated (1952) in a richly embroidered purple cloak and the colour was used in the commemorative details of her Platinum Jubilee (2022).

  • A preponderance of soft purples came into fashion in the nineteenth Century: magenta - as a result of the use of new synthetic aniline dyes, derived from indigo; mauve - from the new chemical quinine, and worn notably by Queen Victoria; heliotrope - worn by women after the initial stages of mourning and violet, loved by the Impressionist painters of the latter part of the Century, who juxtaposed it against sunny pastels to give a 'fresh air' feeling in their paintings.

  • Purple, green and white were first used in 1908 as the official colours of the Suffragette movement, with purple standing for loyalty and dignity.

  • The Psychedelic movement of the late 1960s, which included progressive rock music and hallucinatory drugs, used purple in its art and fashion, particularly in multi-colour swirls, perhaps, to evoke the feeling of a mysterious or magical experience or perhaps as a throwback to Victorian and Edwardian fashions, which were retrospectively admired.


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