Originally created 09/18/96

A passion for purple colors fall fashion



Apropos of image, purple has kind of quirky connotations.

Sandra Haldeman Martz figured that out when she named her book, When I Am an Old Woman, I Shall Wear Purple.

"If you question people who are a little unusual or different, they'll often say that purple is their favorite color," says Lee Eiseman, Seattle-based director of the Pantone Color Institute, which tracks color trends.

Mr. Eiseman explains that purple results from mixing twoo opposites: passionate red and serene blue.

"Purple is the rainbow's most complex color," Mr. Eiseman says. "And so are the people who prefer it - nonconformists such as artists, mystics, performers, designers."

Still, there are plenty of people who prefer it. A 1995 nationwide Pantone survey says that purple ranks third on the list of America's favorite colors, behind blue and green.

Maybe that's because if it's fit for a king, folks figure it can't be bad.

"Purple has always been associated with royalty and aristocracy," says Mr. Eiseman. "It was a signature color of the ancient Romans."

Long before Queen Victoria became famous for her sweeping, voluminous gowns with purple overskirts, the Romans created purple dye from mollusks.

"They'd hammer open tiny snails and squeeze and pulverize to get a few drops of dye. Only the wealthy could afford it," Mr. Eiseman explained. "During ancient Roman times, you could imagine that one garment dyed in purple would take thousands of those little creatures."

Nicholas Gavrelis of Tysons Corner, Va., national beauty director for cosmetics at Nordstrom, says purple is one of the key color palettes for fall.

"We are talking about eye and lip colors predominantly, but you can wear it all the way down to the toes and fingernails, and even as an accent in berry for the cheeks," says Mr. Gavrelis.yr

And Mr. Gavrelis says there's more to the story than eggplant. "When we think of purple, we think of all the harmonies that go with it.

"So there's not just one purple for fall. It can go from blueish purple to deep-brown berry to the brighter berry jam colors. You've got the entire spectrum."

But one word of caution.

"We haven't worked with this kind of saturation in purple in more than a decade," Mr. Gavrelis says. "If you choose to pop it on the eye, you need to keep the mouth very soft and sheer. If the eye is strong purple and smoldering, the mouth needs to be played down in camel mauve or a soft noncolor gloss. And vice versa. That's the key to looking truly modern."