Every year, International Women’s Day is celebrated on 8 March. The aim of the day is to highlight the positive impact of women in society and also highlight issues that people continue to face including gender equality, reproductive rights, and violence and abuse against women.
It has a history which spans over 100 years, with the first day being marked in 1911. Today, it continues to be celebrated worldwide in a variety of ways; some people hold gatherings to honour women’s achievements while others may speak out against problems that females have in modern society.
One thing that has stayed the same during the history of International Women’s Day is the colours used to represent it; purple, green and white. These colours are used in different ways throughout the day; they are also used on images and graphics which are shared on social media throughout the day and some people may also choose to wear clothing of these colours to show their support of the cause.
But, just what are the connotations of these three colours and why would they have been chosen? NationalWorld spoke to stylists to find out.
What are the connotations of the colour purple?
Purple signifies justice and dignity, and being loyal to the cause, according to the official International Women’s Day website. Lindsay Edwards, a personal stylist and colour analyst, also believes that the colour represents intuition, wisdom and power. Personal stylist Abbey Booth, who runs online fashion forum Stories with Clothes, meanwhile said that purple is also a colour which is associated with luxury, freedom, dignity and loyalty.
What are the connotations of the colour green?
Green symbolises hope, according to the official International Women’s Day website. Edwards said the colour also signifies healing, renewed energy and fresh growth. Booth said: “Green is such a great colour to use in challenging situations as it represents balance, harmony and new beginnings.”
What are the connotations of the colour white?
White represents purity, although it is said to be a “controversial concept”, as stated on the official International Women’s Day website. Edwards said it also symbolises clarity, peace and independence. Booth said that white “is a peaceful, serene colour”.
What is the historical significance of all three colours?
The colours of purple, green and white originated from the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) in the UK in 1908. The WSPU was a women-only political movement and leading militant organisation which campaigned for women’s suffrage in the UK between 1903 to 1918. The group was known as the suffragettes from 1906, led by Emmeline Pankhurst. The WSPU membership became known for civil disobedience. Group members heckled politicians, held demonstrations and marches, broke windows in prominent buildings and even committed a series of arsons - all as they fought for the right to vote as women. They finally succeeded in changing acts of Parliament in 1918 and 1928 which gave females the ability to vote.
Jessica Andrews, a brand stylist and theatre designer, who has a specific interest in the history of colour and the symbolism and meanings behind colour choice, said the colours started being used by the members of WSPU to change the images of women which were in the media at the time. She told NationalWorld: “As the suffragette movement gained momentum, the WSPU resolved to alter the stereotypical image cartoons that had been presented in the male dominated press, depicting strong minded women in masculine clothes. The suffragettes resorted to altering this outward image, by embracing their femininity and introducing their colour scheme of purple, green and white when appearing in public.”
The colours were also adopted by brands who wanted to show their support for women. Andrews said: “The fashionable London retailers of the time, Selfridges and Liberty, showed solidarity with their customer base, by producing tricolour-stripped ribbons to be used in rosettes, on hats, and in badges and belts, but also using the colours in their clothing, underwear, and accessories such as handbags, shoes, slippers and jewellery. They even produced toilet soap.”
But, why were the colours of purple, green and white chosen in the first place? Andrews said all of the colours have significant associations throughout history. She said: “It turns out that purple, because it is a mixture of the calm primary colour blue and strong primary colour red, also symbolises transformation. Historically, purple was a difficult and expensive colour to create, meaning that its use in fabric and decoration showed that you had means and deep pockets. It is often used to commemorate soldiers and royalty, and depicts themes of strength, courage and resilience.
“Green is typically associated with nature and health today. Symbolically, it is perceived as a representation of restoration and renewal, a concept that goes back as far as the Ancient Egyptians. In England, we connect the colour to Robin Hood and so undertones of heroism come through too.
“White was adopted to be the colour of the bride in the Victorian era. Before then blue was worn by brides to symbolise purity. White conveys simplicity, cleanliness and freshness. There is a nod toward a blank slate, which may symbolise a fresh start or a new beginning.”
Edwards added: “In my opinion, there are no better colours to represent International Women’s Day than purple, green and white. The psychological connotations of these shades speak volumes about the strength of womankind.”