The Black and the White!


O Preto e o Branco!

There are days when we wake up with an emptiness inside us and it seems that nothing fills us. It is as if all the colors had faded from the day, leaving us in penumbra, in shadow, in the dark: “black days, dark moments, dark hours! ", as they say, commonly. The absence of color makes us see black, some argue; the absence of light makes us see black, defend others! One thing is certain, it refers to the absence of one of the most pleasant and necessary things in life: color or light!

In chromatic terms, black results from the absorption of all colors, that is, all wavelengths of the solar spectrum. Black color absorbs all solar radiation, making it a color that gives us more warmth on sunny and hot days. If we want to obtain black, in a combination of colors, we will have to associate the color magenta (shade of red), yellow and cyan (shade of blue), appearing as a neutral color.

As with all colors, its symbology always has to do with cultural issues. However, there are also cross-representations across all cultures throughout history.

In prehistory, black was one of the first colors to be used, being visible namely in French caves, in drawings of bulls and other animals, which were made with charcoal, burnt bones or manganese oxide.

With the Romans, it became the color of death, mourning and also associated with evil, witchcraft. In Europe and America, it was over time, remaining linked to mourning, mystery, magic, violence and, on the contrary, to elegance.

In the first centuries of Christianity, color dictated the lives of peoples. God was light, symbolized by white. All color was a form of worship, of communication with the deities. From the century XIV, with the black plague, wars and an economy in serious decline, colors were imposed that defined the clothing of each social class. In this context, many colors were banned and black became the clothing color of monarchs, justice and peasants.

Black was again incremented with the discovery of the press: black letters on a white background, as it was the best contrast for reading. Real life as you could read it in books was in black and white.   

When Isaac Newton discovered the color spectrum, black did not exist. Black is then the absence of light and ceases to be assumed as a color, until the century. XX.

And in the 20th century, it entered fashion strongly, with a name that would become known worldwide, striking for a change in the image and symbology of women's fashion: Coco Chanel!

The black color traditionally associated with death, fear, isolation, loneliness, sadness and nostalgia and bad luck (in popular sayings: seeing a cat is bad luck!”), arrives by the hand of Chanel with the famous phrase: “with a black dress, I never compromise!”

All our convictions share an empirical part, that is, the experience of our life, combined with knowledge and knowledge. Therefore, we must also know and understand a little about the life of this great seamstress who became eternal:

She was born in the small village of Saumur, France, on August 19, 1883, the daughter of a washerwoman and a clothes salesman, who were named Gabrielle Bonheur Chanel. She lost her mother at the age of six, having four siblings. The father gave them up and abandoned them in an orphanage, belonging to a religious order, located in the city of Auvergne, where he lived until he was 20 years old. In that institution, she learned sewing, an activity that she continued to develop in a fabric store where she worked as a counter employee, this being the first work activity she developed. Sewing would prove to be a passion!

Later, she was a cabaret singer, assuming there, the name that would immortalize her: Coco Chanel.

The religious order with which he grew up in the orphanage, had a black habit as clothing and the children themselves wore a uniform of the same color.

As is known, the nuns, although living according to demanding personal and social rules, were autonomous women who lived by organizing their own work, in a subsistence economy at least, which ended up granting Coco Chanel a feminine vision of a life practice, which obligatorily had to be efficient, and she ended up having to manage her own life alone, since her father had abandoned her and her siblings, as we have already mentioned.

In this combination of experiences, the fashion advocated by Chanel appears, as clothing for active women, which therefore has to be practical and comfortable, but always marked by elegance, with its implicit simplicity. In this practical, obligatorily functional world of black clothes and in which the clothing itself had to adapt to any and all occasions, from nuns to orphanage children, the simple black dress was born, reaching down to the knee. always, with or without adornments, depending on the moment and the situation to which it refers. In addition to the fact that Chanel lived through the two world wars, times of economic demand and restrictions at all levels, even with regard to fashion (textiles and accessories). Perhaps also for this reason and once again marked by the education with which she grew up, C. Chanel said: “I am against fads that are fleeting. I can't imagine throwing clothes away just because it's spring.”

In 1910, she moved in with the English industrialist, Arthur Capel, who helped her open her first store, “Chanel Modes”. In the 1920s, Chanel was already an influential designer, designing elegant clothes, with fluid fabrics and pieces inspired by men's wardrobe, having been the first stylist to launch pants as women's fashion, a practical and elegant piece! The Chanel tweed suits are still recognized today, as well as the Chanel 2.55 bag.

Coco Chanel considered black a discreet, simple color, which with the right accessories could become elegant, luxurious and noble. Pearls were the adornment she considered par excellence. The adornment that could also be combined with the simple black dress or the sophisticated long black dress, even the velvet one, considered the most chic! It also introduced costume jewelry, with a view to making it accessible to all women. However, Chanel said that “before leaving the house, look in the mirror again and remove one more accessory”, always combining simplicity with elegance, class.

She dictated the fashion for short hair and the use of the perfume she created and which became eternal: “Chanel, nº 5”, with a sweet, permanent and unmistakable smell, without forgetting the red lipstick, combining everything in an image of mature women , elegant and irreverent!

This fashion designer introduced the combination of black and white. She said: “Women think in all colors, except the absence of color. I always say black has everything you need. White too. Their beauty is absolute. It's perfect harmony." CC

Let us then focus on the color white, which is often seen combined with black, as promoted by Chanel, with regard to women's fashion, in the 20th century. XX.

White is the Color of Light as it reflects all the colors of the spectrum, granting the greatest clarity in visual perception. White is a neutral color. Controversial color in the sense of whether it should be considered a color or an excess of light. And the same thought is also used for the color black, but this time considering the absence of light.

It symbolizes purity, liberation, spirituality, innocence, virginity, luminosity, calm, freshness, tranquility. It is the symbol of Peace. It is the only color that is not given a negative connotation.

A white environment, which is common in areas related to health, such as hospitals, provides freshness, calm, seems to increase the real physical space. But too much of it becomes cold, impersonal and empty. Hence the need to combine it with decorative objects in other colors. There will always be a perfect match, as white goes with any color.

White, in Western culture, is associated with Joy. In the eastern, mourning and sadness. In the West, white accompanies us throughout our lives. The first food, milk, is white. It is the color of christening dresses, communions, brides, debutantes, everything that has to do with initiations, renewals of life. There are also countries, such as Brazil, where white is worn on New Year's Eve to attract all its blessings for the New Year: Peace, tranquility; harmony; spiritual renewal and implicitly of life.

It is said that white is the only color that does not have any negative characteristics, that does not promote any negative feelings or emotions. It's the light! And who doesn't want light, which gives you vision or light, in your life?

I wish you the continuation of the best Light for each one of you and I leave you today, with the three definitions of Chanel, which for me, undoubtedly reveal to us its class and its elegance:

“- Fashion is not the appearance, it is the essence. It's not the money, it's the education. It's not the clothes, it's the class;

- Luxury is not the opposite of poverty. It is the opposite of vulgarity;

- Elegance is when the inside is as beautiful as the outside!” CC.

Stay classy!

Matilde Proenca.

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