Valentine’s Day is fast approaching…We’ve been thinking a lot about fashion classics and how they got to be that way. Meaning the social, historical & cultural reasons. The “Lady in Red” symbol is powerful & enduring, cross the realms of fashion, royalty and even religion. Why? There’s been lots of scholarly writing that basically says the red dress is important because it makes gals feel (and men believe) that a woman in red is sexy. OK, whatever…that makes sense to us.
But what really excites our curiosity is the symbolism of power, prestige & authority associated with red garments and other items. Nowadays, the red carpet is used to symbolize that specialness saved for pop stars. But the symbolism is an ancient one. The Pope wears red to symbolize his power over the faithful flock. In medieval times, red fabrics were de rigeur for all monarchs, male & female.
No, I mean really ancient…like biblical & Roman Empire ancient — In the Bible, red is a symbol of life and power. The presence of blood on the lintels of Israelite house averted the Angel of Death during the tenth plague. In the ancient Temple a scarlet cord was hung up on Yom Kippur and its miraculous change to white signal that the nation had been forgiven its sins. One overcomes the ritual impurity of contact with a dead body by being sprinkled with the ashes of a red heifer burned with cedar wood, a crimson compound, and hyssop. A barren woman will wrap a red cord around the tomb of Rachel as a ritual to restore her fertility. Finally, in ancient Rome, the red flag was a call to battle AND brides were wrapped in a fiery red veil, the flammeum.
Kinda makes you wonder if Mr. Valentino- who’s built his career on this fashion icon – knew something that others didn’t when he started making his signature red dresses in the 60’s and 70’s?