the language of orange


2.24.2007 over

the secondary colors, orange, green and purple, are less popular for clothing than the primaries, especially in conservative periods. individually, and even more when combined, they suggest the unusual, the original, the peculiar: an orange-green-purple print fabric seems jazzier than the same design in red, yellow and blue. in america, orange is often used for safety garments because of it’s high visibility (greater even than that of yellow). traffic policemen, bicyclists at night and hunters in the woods wear garments of a brilliant, near-phosphorescent orange. partly as a result, this color has come to suggest danger and a call for attention. The addition of pink or white to orange softens the message, though not completely. members of the hare krishna sect dancing and chanting on a city street in their light-orange robes are certainly demanding attention – and, if you are trying to get somewhere in a hurry, or are the parent of a susceptible teenager, can represent a real hazard. in ordinary life, to wear an orange dress or suit, or even one of bright peach, apricot, or salmon-pink, is to demand to be noticed. (in smaller helpings – a sash, or a scarf, for instance – these colors may seem merely lively.)”

-from the language of clothes by alison lurie
[emphasis mine]


an amazing book about the sociology and symbolism of fashion i found over the holidays in jacksonville, florida, at my favorite secondhand bookshop of all time, chamblin’s bookmine. my copy is from 1981. lurie looks at most colors and patterns, too, amongst many other subjects related to clothing and it’s meanings…it is a fascinating tome. i highly recommend it.


and how true for me, especially…in so many ways, both conscious and subconscious. smaller helpings are nice, but all over is better. *wink*


  1. GlamaRuth

    My all time favorite sartorial anthropology book! CHeck out her novels as well – The Language of Clothes seems to be a one-off for her as a writer.

  2. Jen B

    I adore your orange coat and big flower pin. I used to hate orange, but within the last few years I just can’t get enough of it! Beautiful!

  3. sarah

    Except for one camisole, I never thought I could wear orange. You actually inspired me to try it a couple years ago and boy did I ever discover what I was missing – brilliant orange and cherry red are staples in my wardrobe now!

  4. Tess

    I ordered this after reading your post. It came a few days ago and I’ve jumped right in. Amazing book! It’s more interesting to me right now that my iphone!

    As a child my mother told me I was too fair to wear yellow or orange, they would wash me out. As a teenage venturing out into my own fashion choices I initially gravitated to the most annoying polyester 70’s shirts one could imagine. Yellow, orange, green etc. With vintage bell bottoms, and a floral purse and a leather trench. And a fuzzy 80’s beret, in purple. I must have been a sight! As an adult I’ve moved away from some of those fabrics and prints and onto monochromatic and slightly more subtle (in comparison, to most I dress like a loony!) combinations of small prints, beadwork and sequins, interesting details (ruffles ruffles ruffles) bright colors and more “grown up” fibers (thank god I work at a 2nd hand clothing store, the only way my budget can keep up with my tastes).

    I’m looking forward to the rest of this book for cultural reasons, but also enjoy analyzing my own fashion choices from a different perspective!