meaning of the color puce

Meaning of the Color Puce – The Rich History Behind the Color

Welcome to the vibrant world of color! Today, we delve into the enigmatic realm of puce—a hue that tantalizes the senses and sparks curiosity. Often overlooked yet endlessly fascinating, puce invites us to unravel its mysteries and explore the depths of its meaning. From its humble origins to its modern-day interpretations, join us on a colorful journey as we uncover the nuances and significance behind the captivating shade of puce.



Key Takeaways

  • Puce’s brownish-purple hue has historical roots back to French royalty.
  • The color embodies a mix of sophistication, creativity, and stability.
  • It is often used in design to evoke a calming and refined aesthetic.



Historical Significance of Puce

ShadeHex CodeCMYK Color Code (%)RGB Color CodeColor
Puce#CC88990, 25, 20, 20204, 136, 153 

Puce is a color that carries a rich and varied history, standing out with its brownish-purple hue that has seen fluctuating popularity over the years. First recognized in the 18th century, the term “puce” originates from the French “couleur puce,” which translates to ‘flea color,’ supposedly reflecting the color of bloodstains left by fleas on linen. Historically significant, it found favor in the French royal court, particularly associated with the fashion of Marie Antoinette. Puce has a distinguished place in fashion history and royal connotations, backed by its unique color composition derived from nature.

Its use in textile hues has been both a statement of sophistication and authority.

historical view of puce

Analyzing the meaning of puce, it navigates a spectrum of human emotions and cultural associations. Purple, which is closely related to puce, often symbolizes royalty, wisdom, and luxury, while brown tones add a grounding, stable element. Puce, not as vibrant as red, conveys a more subdued, sophisticated presence. This color can also evoke a sense of creativity, reliability, and power. In color psychology, puce is believed to offer a calming effect, and its utilization in design and art reflects its complex symbolism.


Origins in French Fashion

The color puce was first popularized in the late 18th century within French fashion circles. It is derived from the French word for “flea” and represents the color of a flea, or more pointedly, the color of a squashed flea which may be seen on bedsheets.

This earthy, brownish-purple tone quickly became a favored choice in the silken garments of the French court.


Association With Louis XVI

The association of puce with French royalty is particularly strong due to its ties to Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. The monarch himself is believed to have coined the term “puce” to describe the shade of one of Marie Antoinette’s gowns. As such, the color symbolizes the sophisticated tastes of the royalty during that era.

puce with french design


Color Composition

By composition, puce is a mix of red and purple with brown tones, creating a muted, subdued hue. In textile applications, this gave a rich yet understated appearance, which could have contributed to its popularity among the fashionably elite.


Understanding Hex Codes

In modern digital design, colors are often represented using hex codes—a six-digit combination of letters and numbers. For puce, this hex code can vary due to its subtle mix, but one accepted representation is #722F37. This exactitude allows for consistency across electronic media, ensuring that the historical significance of puce retains its visual accuracy.

hex code for puce



The Meaning of the Color Puce

The color puce, with its distinctive hue blending tones of deep red and muted purple, carries within its essence a rich tapestry woven from the threads of cultural heritage and psychological symbolism, intertwining narratives of history, emotion, and perception into a complex and intriguing whole.

puce color meaning Puce color meaning infographic. Click on the image to download a printable PDF.


Positive Associations

  • Elegance: Puce is often regarded as an elegant color, suggesting a sense of sophistication and classic style.
  • Warmth: The deep reddish-brown hue of puce is associated with warmth and comfort, providing a cozy atmosphere.

positive attributes to puce


Negative Associations

  • Dullness: Some perceive puce as a muted or dull color, potentially conveying lack of excitement or vibrancy.
  • Outdatedness: Due to its historical associations, puce can be seen as an old-fashioned color, sometimes connected with past eras rather than contemporary trends.



Personality Traits Associated With Puce

Puce is a color that conveys a range of personality traits grounded in stability and sophistication. Individuals drawn to puce may exhibit confidence and strength, aligning with the color’s historical ties to authority and power. This dark reddish-brown hue imbues a sense of security and resilience, often chosen by those who are self-assured and command respect. Stability and reliability are key characteristics associated with puce. It’s a choice for someone who values tradition and a solid foundation, reflecting a personality that is dependable and trustworthy.

These individuals often prioritize creating a peaceful environment, utilizing puce for its calming effects.

Puce can also indicate a personality that appreciates luxury and sophistication. Its historical connection to royalty and fashion suggests that those drawn to this color might gravitate towards elegance and the finer things in life. Their personality may reflect a combination of creativity and wisdom, with a penchant for mature self-expression. In summary, the following traits are commonly linked to the color puce:

  • Confidence: Representing a composed demeanor and self-certitude.
  • Strength: Symbolizing an enduring and potent character.
  • Stability: Reflecting a dependable and constant nature.
  • Reliability: Indicating trustworthiness and responsibility.
  • Sophistication: Associated with a taste for elegance and refinement.
  • Creativity and wisdom: Showcasing inventive thinking coupled with insightful judgment.

personality trait with puce



Colors Related to Puce

ShadeHex CodeCMYK Color Code (%)RGB Color CodeColor
Purple#8000800, 100, 0, 50128, 0, 128 
Brown#A52A2A0, 60, 60, 65165, 42, 42 
Burnt Sienna#E974510, 50, 67, 11233, 116, 81 
Pink#FFC0CB0, 24, 14, 0255, 192, 203 
Mauve#E0B0FF10, 20, 0, 0224, 176, 255 

Puce is a unique and versatile color that shares characteristics with several colors. This section explores its relationship with colors that are either components of Puce or share a similar aesthetic.

colors that match puce



Puce has a strong purple component, making it related to various shades of purple. This relationship places Puce in the family of colors often associated with royalty and creativity.



The brown aspect of Puce adds an earthy quality to its appearance. Brown in Puce provides depth and grounds the color, linking it to nature and stability.

puce and brown


Burnt Sienna

Burnt Sienna, a reddish-brown hue, complements Puce with its warm undertones. This color alliance enhances Puce’s versatility in design and art.



The softness of pink is evident in Puce, giving it a gentle and calming presence. Pink’s influence makes Puce suitable for applications requiring subtlety and warmth.

puce and pink



Mauve, like Puce, is a derivative of purple, but with a grayish tone. The two colors share a sophisticated palette, commonly found in fashion and decor.



Color Combinations That Work With Puce

When considering puce, a striking color with roots in brownish purple and dark reddish-brown hues, understanding its versatility in color pairings is essential. Harmony in design is achieved through thoughtful color combinations, and puce is no exception.

color combinations for puce


Complementary Colors

ShadeHex CodeCMYK Color Code (%)RGB Color CodeColor
Puce#CC88990, 25, 20, 20204, 136, 153 
Complementary Green#88996639, 0, 63, 40136, 153, 102 

 A complement to puce on the color wheel is a shade of green. The contrast between the earthy depth of puce and a vibrant green can create energy in a design.


Analogous Colors

ShadeHex CodeCMYK Color Code (%)RGB Color CodeColor
Deep Mauve#C8A2C80, 31, 0, 20200, 162, 200 
Soft Red#D68A800, 33, 40, 14214, 138, 128 

Analogous colors sit next to each other on the color wheel. For puce, selecting colors like deep mauves, pinks, and softer reds can enhance its warmth.

analogous colors for puce


Monochromatic Scheme

ShadeHex CodeCMYK Color Code (%)RGB Color CodeColor
Lighter Puce#E8AAB90, 30, 19, 10232, 170, 185 
Darker Puce#A566760, 46, 32, 59165, 102, 118 

Using various shades and tints of puce itself provides a sophisticated and cohesive look.


Neutral Combinations

ShadeHex CodeCMYK Color Code (%)RGB Color CodeColor
Beige#F5F5DC0, 0, 10, 4245, 245, 220 
Grey#8080800, 0, 0, 50128, 128, 128 

Pairing puce with neutrals such as grey, beige, or ivory can evoke elegance.

neutral colors for puce


Nature-Inspired Palettes

ShadeHex CodeCMYK Color Code (%)RGB Color CodeColor
Olive Green#8080000, 0, 100, 50128, 128, 0 
Tan#D2B48C0, 16, 29, 15210, 180, 140 

Earthy tones such as olive greens, tans, or ochres can draw out puce’s natural qualities.


Metallics for Contrast

ShadeHex CodeCMYK Color Code (%)RGB Color CodeColor
Gold#FFD7000, 0, 100, 0255, 215, 0 
Bronze#CD7F320, 31, 68, 20205, 127, 50 

Metallic colors like gold or bronze can accentuate puce’s inherent richness, making it suitable for luxurious themes. Incorporating puce into various color palettes offers designers the flexibility to create visual interest, from subtle and sophisticated to bold and dynamic compositions.

metallic colors for puce



Color Psychology and Symbolism

In the realm of color psychology and symbolism, puce occupies a unique position with its purplish-brown hue and historical significance. This section unfolds the cultural perceptions attached to the color and the psychological effects it may elicit.


Cultural Perceptions

Puce, a color with the hex code #CC8899, manifests as a blend of purple and brown shades. Historically, the word “puce” originates from the French couleur puce, translating to “flea color,” a reference to the color of flea droppings or bloodstains on linen. In the court of Louis XVI, puce earned acclaim, reportedly favored by Marie Antoinette. Over the centuries, it has signified authority and power, often embraced in corporate environments to project confidence and stability.

cultural significance for puce


Psychological Effects

The psychological influence of color cannot be understated, and puce is no exception. Individuals may find puce to be a calming and soothing presence, ushering in feelings of tranquility. It’s associated with reliability and comfort, suggesting an ambiance conducive to relaxation.

Despite its sometimes understated appearance, puce retains a subtle vitality that contributes to a sense of grounded confidence and authority.



Puce in Design and Art

Puce is a unique color that straddles the boundary between reddish-brown and purple, lending a deep, rich tone to various design and art contexts.

puce in design and art


Interior Design Use

In home decor, puce serves as a versatile backdrop or accent shade in interior design. Its richness contributes warmth to living spaces, while the various shades of puce offer designers a broad palette for creative expression. One might find puce shades complementing contemporary furniture as well as being featured in accessories for a subtle, yet impactful, statement.

The use of puce in fabrics, from upholstery to curtains, can add layers of depth to a room’s aesthetic.


Influence in Artwork

Artists often adopt puce for its suggestive qualities that elicit an emotional response. Puce’s presence in art can signify sophistication or earthiness, depending on its context and the other colors it’s paired with. This hue has found a place in digital art and web design, where its versatile nature can be utilized to create depth or draw focus. Puce harmonizes well with both muted and vibrant color schemes, making it an adaptable choice for artists who wish to make a deliberate and refined statement.

puce influence in artwork


As we conclude our exploration into the captivating world of puce, we’re reminded that color is not merely a visual sensation, but a language that speaks to our emotions, culture, and history. Through its subtle complexities and surprising depths, puce has demonstrated its ability to intrigue and inspire. Whether it evokes feelings of nostalgia, elegance, or whimsy, puce serves as a reminder that the world of color is rich with meaning waiting to be discovered. So, let us continue to embrace the kaleidoscope of hues that surrounds us, for in each shade lies a story waiting to be told and a journey waiting to be embarked upon!




Frequently Asked Questions


What Does the Color Puce Symbolize in Different Cultures?

In many cultures, puce is associated with a sense of sophistication and power due to its close relation to purple, which has historical ties to royalty and wisdom. It also embodies concepts of stability and creativity.


How Is the Color Puce Used in Fashion and Design?

Puce has seen its prominence in fashion and design, particularly in the 18th and 19th centuries in France. Known for its reddish-brown or purplish-brown hue, it lends a sophisticated and subdued feel to clothing and interiors, often favored for its versatility and subtle richness.


How Do People Typically Perceive the Color Puce?

The perception of puce can vary; however, it is often seen as a calming and soothing color. Its understated elegance can convey reliability and a grounded sense of tranquility, making it a choice for settings that desire a stabilizing atmosphere.


Cite this Article

Charlene, Lewis, “Meaning of the Color Puce – The Rich History Behind the Color.” Art in Context. March 5, 2024. URL:

Lewis, C. (2024, 5 March). Meaning of the Color Puce – The Rich History Behind the Color. Art in Context.

Lewis, Charlene. “Meaning of the Color Puce – The Rich History Behind the Color.” Art in Context, March 5, 2024.

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