Before Barbiecore Came Rani Pink

Why the punchy reddish-pink shade from South Asia has reigned supreme for centuries.

Moomal 2020-2 rani pink
A rani pink kurta and churidar (Ashish Shah for Raw Mango, 2020)

Mehr Singh


July 20, 2023

This year, an episode of the cooking competition show Chopped featured a basket of briney ingredients that contestants had to turn into meals to wow judges: pickled chicken’s feet, pickled bologna, sauerkraut, pickled onions. “You wear that color a lot,” host Ted Allen, gesturing at the items, said to restaurateur Maneet Chauhan, the show’s only South Asian judge. “I do wear that color a lot,” she agreed. “It’s rani pink!”

Some say rani pink gets its name from the queen of the Indian board game carrom. Others say its origins lie in the color of the flower raat ki rani. Though the West has its own iterations of stark pinks, such as the Jackie Kennedy pink and her canonized pillbox hat suit, rani pink is far more full-bodied, flirts with orange, and blushes as though red in a previous life. Jawaharlal Nehru wore rani pink pocket squares, and fashion editor Diana Vreeland once called the shade the “navy of India.”

In recent years, we’ve seen Lilly Singh don rani pink on the Oscars red carpet, Rekha in rani pink kanjeevaram saris, Alia Bhatt in a rani pink sharara, and India-exclusive Louis Vuitton rani pink bags and shoes. And while Barbie pink is all the rage this summer, let’s not forget its royal predecessor and its rich history.

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