By Janice Min
January 29, 1996 12:00 PM

CRIMSON TIDE

“It’s a mix of chic and shock,” says designer Gianni Versace, explaining why celebs are once again scarlet women. Not since Nancy Reagan left Washington has red been so triumphantly out of the closet. Style-conscious stars, including Helen Hunt, Mighty Aphrodite’s Mira Sorvino, Ivana Trump and Beverly Hills, 90210’s Tiffani-Amber Thiessen, have put their basic black in storage and reverted to red. “It’s womanly, not a frivolous, girly color,” says L.A. designer Jane Booke, whose clients include Jennifer Aniston, Courtney Love and Pamela Anderson Lee. “It says, ‘Here I am.’ ”

The hue is equally popular hair-wise: Shawntel Smith became the first redhead in 51 years to be crowned Miss America last September, while faux carrottops like Elle Macpherson and the Cranberries’ Dolores O’Riordan are also cropping up. “It makes the skin look warmer and the eyes brighter,” explains Beverly Hills colorist Matthew Boger, who has copper-topped Juliette Lewis and Lauren Holly. Designer Booke has her own theory. “Red is a royal color,” she says, “and who doesn’t yearn to feel like a princess?”

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