The bare facts on beige fashion
Call it what you will, but beige fashion is back.
The recent controversy over the Naeem Khan dress worn by Michelle Obama, has thrust into the limelight a colour which was once rather disparagingly referred to as one of the most boring in the Planet Fashion palette. I refer, of course, to beige; supposedly Sir Terry Wogan and all his TOGs’ favourite hue.
In a bid to rescue the shade from its OAP connections, and inject it with far sexier, seasonal cred, designers had been calling it ‘nude’ or ’flesh’, a colour it quite transparently was not, when the description was applied to the First Lady’s silver-embroidered, pale beige gown.
The unthinking terminology briefly stirred up something of a controversy in race-conscious America. Far more interesting to me, however, was that in choosing that particular pale shade, Mrs Obama, more renowned for her preference for jewel-bright turquoise, yellow, pink and lime, demonstrated how to make beige work, no matter what colour your skin tone.
Which is great news, if you have, like me, a slightly olive complexion and are something of a beige-virgin, for it has long been thought that beige is particularly flattering to blondes and that, if you have olive or darker-toned skin, it is a colour which is simply going to make you look washed out.
By mixing the shade with silver, however, Naeem Khan created a colour cocktail in which Michelle Obama glowed.
The word ‘beige’, of course. is just as misleading as ‘nude’ or ‘flesh’. The Oxford Dictionary defines beige as a “pale, sandy fawn”. But, if you look anywhere from the high street to the most expensive designer collections, you will see almost any tint from the palest ‘natural’ to more golden hints of terracotta and, even, the creamier versions of khaki, are to be found be sheltering under the ‘beige’ umbrella.
Some of the most exciting variations are in the new summer collections which Fenwick, New Bond Street, London W1, is introducing to celebrate the completion of its two-year redevelopment programme, which has increased the size of the store by a quarter.
The French designer, Martine Sitbon, for example, in her collection for the Rue de Mail label, has used a gleaming, coppery-tan, while the Italian duo of Tommaso Aquilano and Roberto Rimondi have blended a beige-gold leopard-print with khaki. The German designer, Dorothee Schumacher, uses a soft champagne-coloured satin for the slouchiest of chic trouser-suits, while Denmark’s Malene Birger blends her pale beige with flashes of silver. Belgian, Sofie d’Hoore adds pazzazz to a subtle taupe, by mixing it with neon-pink, and Zhor & Nema’s bling knitwear in gold lamé, is the perfect match for cream and beige brocade pieces by the Australian brand, Easton Pearson.
The Bare Facts on Beige:
*Test which beige is best, by holding it up to your face in natural light. If you instantly feel like a cast member of “Twilight”, then chooser a darker or lighter shade.
*Follow Michelle O and add a shot of heavy metal; accessorise with gold, bronze, brass or copper belts, shoes and jewellery
*Go beige-lite, with a bright white T-shirt