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Style / Chili and cherry dressing

Pantone features two great reds in its palette for the upcoming season

Pantone-guided dressing (center and right images are outfits from Death to Tennis and Lacoste)

Photos provided by vendors


I have a strange relationship with the color red. Every five years or so, I take a serious stab at being grown up and opt for a red lipstick. And, every five years or so, I throw that new lipstick case away as soon as I walk out of the make-up store. Red is too intense, too demanding of attention, and anything that forceful can frighten me, at least a little. I retreat back to lipsticks that are frosty pink and dusty rose. I retreat to the safe and to the tedious. Perhaps this is why I haven’t owned a red dress in ten years.


Then something odd happened a few months ago. I was taking an IQ test. The evaluators gave me sixteen cubes. Each side of each cube was painted either solid white, solid red, or a combination of both. They told me to combine the blocks on the table in a way that matched the design pattern displayed on the test’s flip chart. It turns out that I am a bit exceptional at this pattern recognition business, but I didn’t know it then. Right then, I completed the first test pattern and paused. I wasn’t sure if what I had created matched the design. An evaluator began to flip the chart to show the next pattern, but I told her to stop, to wait. Something was telling my brain that there was an error. And there was an error. I saw it. I had recreated the test pattern without a problem, but the red on the cubes was not the same red as on the flip chart, and this discrepancy truly disturbed my eyes. When I realized what had been bothering me, I laughed. Good to finally learn that at some things, like manipulating patterns and color, I am anal retentive and fussy. Who knew? It still doesn’t explain why I can’t get to a meeting on time. (Or, maybe it does; I am not a test specialist.) I raise it here because I take this tiny test moment as one more bit of proof. I am interpreting both my test-taking reaction and my lipstick phobia as proof positive that red is the most powerful color of all. Red is magic. It pushes and it pulls. White does not frighten; red does. Black is practically a security blanket, while there is nothing safe about red. Yes, it seems certain. More than any other color, the world pays attention to red.



Pantone is featuring two great reds in its palette for the upcoming season. One is called Chili Oil, the other Cherry Tomato. I saw them and my heart melted. The former is calming and serious. The latter is lively and determined. Both of these reds take charge. Neither is frivolous. Neither is frightening or overwhelming, either. This is good news. More good news is that by offering two, Pantone understands that we are a world full of variations in skin tones. Not all colors work on all people. Yet most of us should be able to wear at least one of the two strong reds. Even more good news is how well both of them work with Pantone’s choice of classic complementary colors. There is a navy blue (Sailor Blue), a light gray (Harbor Mist), a camel hair hue (Warm Sand), and, well, I cannot describe it better than its name: Coconut Milk. Each of the two reds works with these classics in a way that gives the wearer a chance to power through and impress, wearing as little or as much red as he or she wants, and grabbing attention while avoiding the familiar red tropes. For example, red with a cool coconut milk white or pale gray keeps a red from overheating or looking like an emergency flag. Red and navy can be more nuanced, less harsh than what happens with large solid swaths of red and black during the warmer months.


Stella McCartney for Adidas


As for red—either red—and sand, we should all be fans. Red and sand may be the most underestimated option of them all. Red and sand seems to have the greatest potential. Red and sand tames; even Anna Wintour seems to think so, and, although many fashionistas may refer to this last combo as camel and lipstick red, I prefer the Pantone names. I find red easier to wear if I keep the word “lipstick” out of it.            


Catherine Berlin is Spree’s longtime style columnist. Want more? Read Catherine's next article, "Getting to eight", here. 


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