"It perks you up and gives you a feminine glow," says Frasier's Jane Leeves of lavender, the pale pastel that has Hollywood celebs—including Brett Butler, ER's Julianna Margulies and singer Mary J. Blige—suddenly going girlish. A by-product of fashion's continuing ban on black, the purplish hue is currently adding a soft sheen to everything from strappy patent sandals to satin pantsuits. "It's something different," says fan Halle Berry, who picked a lavender Valentino gown for the Oscars. "I've worn a lot of black, and this is another choice." Explains Fred Hayman, owner of the Rodeo Drive boutique: "Women are ready to wake up and have fun. Lavender makes them look young and more sexy."
But unlike pink, a pastel that shoppers passed on last year for being too prissy, lavender isn't just for babies. "It's not in-your-face like red, but it's got oomph," says L.A. fashion stylist Ariana Lambert, whose clients include Jennifer Aniston, Andie MacDowell and Pierce Brosnan. "It's a whisper that comes in loud and clear." And, says Seattle-based color consultant Leatrice Eiseman, director of the Pantone Color Institute, which conducts color research, lavender naturally lends itself to feeling good. "It's a color associated with childhood," she says. "Wearing it is like wrapping yourself in a blanket." But, warns Leeves, wearing the ultrafeminine tone requires one to take precautions. "It looks wrong if you overaccessorize," she says. "That makes you look like a bridesmaid."