Neutrals Without Boredom

I have embarked upon a new love affair this season!

No – for those of you familiar with my domestic arrangements, you  don’t have to be concerned for my husband or children, because this love affair is with a colour.

I’d never really worn Shell Pink before. No particular reason, it just hadn’t really come my way. This Winter however, the lovely people at Kettlewell Colours have brought out a silky roll neck in Shell Pink, and suddenly I’m finding it’s going with everything and is my new favourite. It’s more interesting than Oatmeal and more flattering than Cream. Moreover, after seeing the way that some designers have teamed it with grey on the catwalks this season – I’m even starting to consider my Dove Greys as possibilities. Because I’m a warm Spring, my greys have not been a priority for me. After fifteen years, however, – perhaps I should begin to explore the full range of the Spring Spectrum.

So this week I thought I’d explore some of the other neutrals that abound for all of you. It’s very easy to get stuck in the White or White equivalent for your season and fail to consider the wider options.

First of all,  what is a neutral anyway? A neutral colour is one that is not easily noticed. Sometimes we class our authority colours like black and navy as neutrals, but today I’m talking about the paler shades; the ones that do not draw attention to themselves, rather, they give your look space; room to take a breath before the next colour is noticed. They can provide a contrast to that colour, making it seem, by comparison, more powerful. If you remember the Ascot scene in the film My Fair Lady where everyone is wearing black and white; imagine how much less impact it would have had if eveyone had been wearing black and dark grey, or silver grey and white. It might have been elegant, but would have been too restrained to have impact. In fact, it would have risked being boring.

What are your neutrals and how might you wear them?

Springs: After we have dealt with Beige, Light Dove Grey and Shell, it’s the breakfast table for you, with Honey, Oatmeal, Banana, Light Peach and Cream. We might consider adding Mint in there too. Ive mentioned before that Springs run the risk of looking very uninteresting if they do all neutrals. Even if they pair the neutrals with (say) chocolate or Navy. You do always need just a splash of something bright. The risk however, is reduced if you use your more interesting neutrals. Shell or Mint teamed with Navy is much more engaging than Cream. Banana lifts Chocolate more than Beige.

Summers: Well, there’s a heck of a lot of pink for you, isn’t there? Pink Beige, Powder Pink, Mushroom, Dusty Pink, Pastel Rose. Then there’s your Winter White, Primrose, Powder Blue, Lavender, Duck Egg, Pastel Aqua, Lilac, and we could possibly claim Clover and Cyclamen, depending on how we feel. And of course, you can wear lots of them at once. My own feeling  is that you need at least one strong or deep “anchor” colour that all these soft and pretty neutrals can congregate around, in order to flatter it (and you). While shopping today I saw a lovely outfit which had a background of Smoked Grape with pastel flowers in all the pinks, lilacs and lavenders and using jade leaves. That pattern worked really well and only the fact that there was not one in her size prevented the Summer friend I was with from whipping out her credit card there and then.

Autumns: It’s off to the wild prairie and the desert for you, with Sage, Rosewood, Coffee, Camel, Beige, Khaki, Lizard, Light Olive and Old Gold. We should add in , of course, Mid Peach and Oyster, but you don’t normally find those in the desert. One of your best looks is  monochromatic, wearing different shades of the same colour; for instance, Dark Olive, Light Olive and a pop of Grass Green or Lime. Like the Springs, wearing too many light neutrals makes you look boring – and with these softer colours you can even look drab. The secret is to provide a reasonable amount of contrast.

Winters: and speaking about contrasts – that’s what Winters really need. Your neutrals are not scattered around your palette, they are firmly at one end or the other; White, Silver and Light Grey and on the other end, all your Ice Colours. Burnished and Sultry Winters will probably want to include Mole and Stone, but Jewel and Sprinter Winters  can safely ignore them. A great look is to combine an ice colour with the deepest member of it’s family; Ice Green with Pine, or Ice Lavender with Indigo. Navy looks great with white, but more interesting with Ice Blue.

The more interesting neutrals are not easy to find. Everyone knows where they are with white, cream, sage and beige. Finding Iced Hyacinth is more of a challenge. But it’s like anything: if you’re not looking – you don’t have a chance of seeing it. My challenge to you is to explore and open up your neutral horizons and comfort zone. Good luck!

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