top of page
  • Elizabeth Little

It’s RED Season: Some of our Favourite Red Pieces Throughout History

If you are a Taylor Swift fan, today is a day you’ve been waiting for for months: the release of RED (Taylor’s Version). Her rerelease of her 2012 album now has 30 tracks and a ten-minute version of her iconic song All Too Well. To celebrate its release, we’ve rounded up some of our favourite red looks throughout the ages, as there’s much to love with this heart-warming colour.

"Portrait of a Woman by Piero del Pollaiuolo," 1480. The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Fifteenth century Florence was a hub for the textile industry, and in the century prior was had become the colour for the upper class. Whilst the luxurious textiles were made and produced in Florence, many would be sent down to the Italian city of Venice to dye it the popular red colour. Venetian Scarlett became the name for the shade of red being made in the city enveloped by water, and soon royals from surrounding countries such as France and the UK were sending their fabrics to Venice to be dyed this glamourous colour.

Though the woman in this painting is unknown, she is one of many aristocratic women portrayed in paint during this time period wearing the famous colour. The 1968 film version of Romeo & Juliet – which also takes place around the fourteenth or fifteenth century – has Juliet wearing a similar dress to the woman in this portrait even down to saturated shade of red.

Portrait of Lady Worsley by Joshua Reynolds. Painting in the public domain via Wikipedia Commons.

Seymour Fleming, also known as Lady Worsley in this 1776 portrait, was an heiress married to Sir Richard Worsley. Perhaps more infamous for her numerous lovers than much else, this portrait shows her wearing a suit inspired by the British military uniforms of the era. Her husband has a companion portrait, in it he is also wearing a dignified red coat that matches the style of Seymour’s. Fleming’s feminine take on menswear makes this portrait a standout during its time with most women’s portraits at the time had them wearing multi layered gowns from luxurious and expensive fabrics.

1887 Dress, White Howard & Co. The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The modest lifestyle of many Victorians saw the colour red fall out of favour during the first half of the era with many feeling that it was too brash and attention seeking. But as the textile industry progressed during the industrial revolution, the 1870s saw new dying techniques. The new dyes were some of the first synthetic dyes developed and made the process of obtaining the rich red colour easier than ever before, thus seeing a new popularity for the colour in the decades to come.

When looking at cinema which takes place during this era, some of the most famous dresses of the screen are this brilliant shade of red such as 1993’s The Age of Innocence and 2015’s Crimson Peak.

Audrey Hepburn in Funny Face, 1957. Image made public domain by The New York Public Library Digital Collection.

From red lipstick to dresses donned by Marilyn Monroe, red was the it colour in the 1950s. The 1957 film Funny Face with Audrey Hepburn and Fred Astaire worked with Hubert de Givenchy to create a collection of drop-dead gorgeous costumes for this musical comedy. (The partnership between Givenchy and Hepburn would be one that lasts for years to come as Givenchy also designed the iconic little black dress worn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s.) Though my favourite looks from the film go back and forth between the timeless all black trouser outfit and the drop waist wedding dress, this red dress was one of the standouts from the movie proving that the colour red was here to stay.

Lupita Nyong’o wearing Ralph Lauren Spring/Summer ’14 at the 2014 Golden Globe Awards. Image via Shutterstock.

While there have been hundreds of red dresses worn on the red carpet in recent years, this will always the dress that comes to mind when I think of red. Making one of her first ever red carpet appearances, Lupita Nyong’o stole the show (and the night) when she arrived at the Golden Globes in 2014. She went on to sweep awards season, and I’m not saying it was because of this breath-taking Ralph Lauren number (I’m really not, she absolutely deserved all of her awards from her in performance in 12 Years a Slave), but I’m sure this dress helped her stay in everyone’s minds.

So, let’s all take a moment to thank Taylor Swift today for bringing this colour back into the zeitgeist nine years after her initial release of the album. And her colour influence already seems to be working as just last night both Zendaya and Meghan Markle wore bright red looks to their retrospective events.

Did I miss one of your favourite red looks?We want to hear everyone’s favourites, so comment yours below!


bottom of page