This cotton cape is simplistic in form, but bold with color. Its intense fuchsia is uncharacteristic to the pale or romantic pinks in the room and instead demands attention. This correlates to the intended usage for bullfighting which can also be seen in red to grab attention for the bull as deceit. “Bulls, along with all other cattle, are color-blind to red. Thus, the bull is likely irritated not by the muleta’s color, but by the cape’s movement as the matador whips it around. In support of this is the fact that a bull charges the matador’s other cape — the larger capote — with equal fury,” LiveScience writes. According to Las Ventas Tours, “Traditionally, pink is associated with good luck and yellow, with bad luck.” They also added, “An economic factor is added: formerly, bright colors such as pink were the most difficult to obtain and, therefore, the most expensive. This choice (the pink cape) reminded the bullfighter’s class and nobility.”
The museum also connected this to similar capes worn by cardinals which also have a distinct red that can also be altered into a pink. This cape shows that color can be used for functionality and status, and less about gender. Ironically, both are used by men which leads to a clearer distinction (cardinal versus nun), and less of gender fluidity. Susan Kaiser writes, “As often the case with gender-coded appearance symbols, exceptions are made, but they often apply in one direction” (122). Here, the exceptions are made because they are a traditional uniform with color symbolism unconnected to gender. However, gender constructs still are displayed in fashion adaptations about the cape. Featured below is a women’s cape by Schiaparelli and a gown by Valentino inspired by these masculine uniforms (but lack an adaption into mainstream menswear).
This cape was featured alongside other gender reversal clothing such as pink suits, or pink saris that bring more context than just gender. The museum wants to emphasize that pink can be a symbolic message clearly identifiable and uniformed, than a stylistic gendered choice.
Borel, Brooke. “Why Do Bulls Charge When They See Red?” LiveScience, Purch, 6 Feb. 2012, www.livescience.com/33700-bulls-charge-red.html.
“Why Is the Bullfighter’s Cloak Pink and Yellow?” Las Ventas Tour – Web Oficial, 13 Feb. 2018, lasventastour.com/en/why-is-the-bullfighters-cloak-pink-and-yellow/.