Working with Neutrals

Today’s post was written by Indigo, a long time Unicorn from our Maryland Shoppe, with edits by Erica.

As promised, welcome to our post on working with neutral colors!

In a world of glitz and glam, neutral colors may seem like background noise.  But these soothing, subtle, sophisticated colors are nothing to ignore. Use them independently, or use them as a base to guide and enhance bold accent colors.  The right neutral can change the entire mood of a palette. 

So what are neutral colors anyway? Neutrals are inspired by nature. But unlike earth tones which can be bold like fire and vivid like the setting sun, neutrals are softer. They are soothing, gentle, and lacking in the intensity of earth tones. Neutral colors range the spectrum of natural colors, from the palest tints to darkest shades.  For our purposes, natural colors mean creams, browns, yellows, greens and greys. We include white and black in our neutral selections, though technically they’re their own beast.  Not all yellows and greens are neutrals. Yellows leaning towards brown, like mustard and ochre, could be considered neutrals; while sunshine yellow is not.  Greens tending towards grey, like olive or oak moss could be considered neutrals, while emerald green is not.  Colors that lack sharp visual contrast are more likely to be neutrals.

Historically, neutral colors were the easiest to replicate, so they were the first dyes discovered and used. Eventually folks became better at replicating bolder colors, and our clothing became brighter and more vibrant.  Though, as you’d expect, those bold colors came with a high price tag, so neutrals became the domain of less wealthy folks, whereas the bright bold colors (especially purple, red, and blue) were the domain of the nobility and the elite. If you’re trying to create a simple peasant-style outfit, stick to neutrals! 

By the Victorian Era dark neutrals like black, charcoal, olive and navy became the popular color choices.  Several generations later, during the time spanning both World Wars, neutrals had again gained popularity.  For most of history, really, neutrals gained prominence during times of war, restraint, and rationing. In times of peace, plenty, and excess, bright rich colors led the way. In recent times, the choice of neutrals most often reflects modern minimalism, sophistication, and clean simplicity.  

Now let’s take a look at how you can use neutrals in your garb and costuming today. 

Like all colors, neutrals fall into two categories: cool colors and warm colors. Cool colors have blue and purple hues.  Warm colors have red, orange, and yellow hues. Green is the tie-breaker color, and can be cool or warm depending on whether it is more blue leaning or yellow leaning. Cool neutrals are colors like grey and black. Warm neutrals are colors like cream and brown. For a harmonizing look, combine cool neutrals with cool colors and warm neutrals with warm colors. For a more contrasting pop, combine a cool neutral with a warm color or a warm neutral with a cool color. The great thing about neutrals is that they can be paired with just about anything without clashing.  

It used to be written in stone that brown and black simply did not mix, nor did cream and white. That is less strictly followed now. And don’t forget- as far as we’re concerned if you do it with Intention and Joy, you’re doing it right! So mix those colors! 

Hopefully you understand neutral colors in fashion better now. We’ll wrap things up with some tips for using neutrals in your next Unicorn Clothing ensemble: 

  • Lighten an outfit up with a cream or white blouse. Lighter neutrals lift and accentuate all the colors of an outfit. 
  • Similarly, you can darken an outfit by using a black blouse.
  • If you’ve picked a bodice or belt with some neutral colors in it, try to match those neutrals in the skirts. 
  • Use black as the bottom skirt to ground an outfit and divert attention away from the bottom. 
  • In general we structure our outfits from lightest color to darkest, from top to bottom, to flatter the wearer. 
  • If you’re unsure of what colors you’d like to pursue, or you’re looking for some simple separates that will mix-and-match well with a variety of other pieces…start with neutrals! 
  • Steampunk style is basically Victorian Era garb in predominantly creams and browns. 

Prefer to listen rather than read? Find our Podcast Mane Street Chronicles on Spotify and enjoy our articles audibly instead!

January 2021 Newsletter

Welcome to 2021 with Unicorn Clothing

What to Say About the State of a Renaissance Business Today?

I started Unicorn Clothing based on the popularity of an item I had designed for myself  decades ago. Friends began suggesting I could sell such an item in a handcrafted market setting which was readily available in craft fairs locally and otherwise. After all, it was the often outrageous 1970s where novel ideas and new directions were welcomed. So, why not explore this unusual and fanciful world known as the Renaissance Festival with all it’s color, excitement and thematic pageantry? In the many years since, Unicorn Clothing has become a successful merchant at five Renaissance Festivals and has grown into a well regarded boutique business.

Fast forward to 2020 and that world–like so many we had come to know and love—came to a screeching halt with the pandemic lockdowns. Renaissance Festivals are the epitome of large gatherings and as such will be among the last events to reopen. Festival after festival was cancelled in 2020 and this trend continues to plague the spring 2021 calendar as well. Rather than the intermittent closures suffered by many businesses, the in-person retail experience for Renaissance Festival merchants has been consistently unavailable.

Like many small business owners, I have had to become even more creative in order to survive. But creative, after all, is what we do and what we have always done. I have chosen to continue the production aspect of Unicorn Clothing so I could save a few jobs. This has been costly and difficult as you might well imagine. Fortunately I have two important positives in a world that has become mostly negative— my loyal customers and festival fans, and my very creative and devoted marketing expert, Erica.

Reaching people, fans, customers, and even just the curious via online venues is more important than ever since it can provide much needed sales and revenue while keeping us all safer than gathering in person. Please help small businesses who are struggling to stay solvent and relevant in these strange times by supporting  their online presence, ordering goods from them and telling your friends about such opportunities.

I thank you in advance for any support you can offer as we explore other new and exciting venues.

– Teri Evans, Owner and Founder of Unicorn Clothing

What can you do?

Many of our loyal patrons have wondered how they can best help the artisans they have come to know and love. Shopping our online stores is certainly important, but now more than ever we need you to be our cheerleaders!

Like and follow your favorite artists on social media. Comment on their posts, and remain engaged with their pages. We love hearing from you! It helps keep up our spirits and enthusiasm while we take this crash course in online selling.  And it helps us stay relevant in the algorithms that sites like Facebook and Instagram use to decide who gets shown in the Newsfeeds.  

Browse our websites often. We are making frequent updates the more we learn.  Share links to your favorite items on your own pages so your network of friends can see us where they might otherwise not.  Sharing links and posts, commenting, and helping us promote our online presence is the new window shopping.  It is so so important, and really helps us feel connected to our community while we wait patiently for the festivals to open up again.  

We can’t do this without you.  Thanks so much for hanging in there with us. 

– Erica Hession, Director of Marketing, Merchandising, and Design for Unicorn Clothing 

Choosing Colors for Your Ensemble

Today’s post was written by Indigo, a long time Unicorn from our Maryland Shoppe, with edits by Erica.

I love colors. I love working with color, and exploring the different ways colors can be combined. I love all the variety of colors we supply at Unicorn Clothing. Sometimes all those choices can be overwhelming though! The largest part of my job is usually instructing customers on color theory and suggesting color combinations. This is also my favorite part of my job, because I like to think I have a good eye for what fabrics we have available, and how those colors can be worked into outfits. For example, sometimes we don’t have forest green, but a sage would be a nice addition in place of it!

Before we explore more ways to work with colors when picking out your next Unicorn Clothing ensemble, lets review some basic color theory. We all remember the color wheel from elementary art class. It focuses on the three primary hues of blue, yellow, and red. Between those, you have the secondary hues; green, orange and purple. Does it make sense how blue and yellow make green, so green is between those two? Excellent. 

You may have noticed we switched to the word “hue” instead of “color.” Let me introduce our first new color word. Color is a very general word used to mean any visible point on the light spectrum. Burgundy, red, pink, yellow, mustard…they’re all colors. For our purposes here, we will use hue to mean the specific color family the color is based in, and it is one of the six primary and secondary colors. So those are our six basic hues. We’ll introduce some more color words later on, but that’s a good place to start.

If you look at the color wheel we have, you’ll notice that red is opposite of green, blue is opposite of orange, and yellow is opposite of purple. These color matches are known as Complementary Colors. They go together nicely because they don’t have any hues in common. When selecting colors for your outfit, one palette you could use is the complementary palette (a palette is a range of colors used by an artist.) For example, if you like yellow, you can pair that with purple for a bold complementary outfit.

Another possible palette is the analogous palette. This means taking colors that are next to each other on the color wheel. For example, if blue is your main color, you can add green and/or purple because they fall next to each other. These are fun if you want to focus on a season or an element for an outfit idea. For example red, orange, and yellow are suitable for an autumn or fire theme. Blue, green, and purple, suggest a water theme.

Another idea is to pull from the monochromatic color palette. This is when you focus on many different tints, tones, or shades of one color. This is a great way to create a look if you have a favorite color or a color you know looks good on you!

Whoa! Whoa! Whoa! What are all those color words I just dropped there? Tints are variations of a color with only white added. They make for lighter paler colors, like pastels. Tones are variations of a color with only grey added. They make for dulled, complex, sophisticated colors. Shades are variations of a color with only black added. They make for darker richer colors.

Tints, tones, and shades help you define the mood or personality of your outfit. Unadulterated hues are often viewed as childlike for their bright boldness. Heavily tinted pastel colors are often used in the spring and for youthful outfits. Heavily toned colors are considered complex and pleasing to the eye. They are often used in modern color palettes. Heavily shaded colors can be used to create darkened outfits that can either feel sinister, or elegant and romantic.

As a side note, all black fabric is actually just an extremely dark shade of one of the basic hues. It has not yet been possible to create a true black fabric dye. So even in creating an all black ensemble, the basic rules of color theory must be followed! Is it a red hued black? Or a blue hued black? True color connoisseurs will know!

That’s enough color theory to get you started. Once you know what colors you like, and what mood or theme you’d like to emulate, it’s time to start playing with combinations! If you’ve noticed…pretty much anything goes as long as you like it, you do it with intention, and you’re confident about your choices. We love colors, remember! We can make anything work.

But wait! What about neutrals, you may be thinking? And how do I know what will look good on me? We’ll explore those topics in future posts. For now, have fun enjoying the color spectrum with us!

Prefer to listen rather than read? Find our Podcast Mane Street Chronicles on Spotify and enjoy our articles audibly instead!

What’s in a Name?

Sometimes in trying to do something good, you end up doing things that aren’t great. Intention is important, but we’re all a part of this ever changing world, and we must always be willing to change and grow.  Being well intentioned in a vacuum is little better than being willfully ignorant, and when you learn better, you shouldn’t be too proud or fixed in your ways to do better. 

Before starting Unicorn Clothing, founder and owner Teri Evans traveled the world, lived abroad, and studied world cultures and philosophies. Unicorn Clothing was founded in 1973 and joined their first Renaissance Festival in 1978. Somewhere along the line between then and now Teri designed two of our most long lasting items: the Gypsy Blouse and the Gypsy Skirt.  When she designed and named them she wanted to tip her hat to the free-spirited, exotic, colorful, somewhat wild, anything but mundane Romani people that the items were modeled after. When she chose those names, for better or worse “Gypsy” was the best name available to refer to the culture of travelers that spans countries, continents, and centuries. 

But somewhere between then and now, it became apparent that “Gypsy” was more frequently used worldwide as a derogatory name; as a slur and an insult to an entire peoples. And we aren’t about that game.  At Unicorn Clothing we want to honor and embrace all cultures, now and throughout history. 

So we’ve decided it’s about time we renamed the Gypsy Blouse and the Gypsy Skirt (also commonly known as the Three-Tiered Skirt.) 

Most of our other women’s items have been given ladies’ names as a cute and concise way to differentiate them, and we wanted to bring these two items in line with the rest. So we decided the best way to continue to honor the culture that inspired them was to name them after notable Romani women. 

To that end, may we introduce you to the newly renamed, but perpetually well loved, Nina Blouse and Esma Skirt.  

The Nina Blouse is named after Nina Dudarova.  Born in Russia in the early 1900’s, Nina became a notable writer and scholar of Romani culture.  She was one of the first Roma women to become published, and boy did she publish a lot in her illustrious career. She wrote fiction, dictionaries, textbooks, and plays.  Nina is well deserving of the honor we can bestow upon her by naming our most popular peasant style blouse, previously known as the Gypsy Blouse, after her. 

The Esma Skirt is named after Esma Redzepova-Teodosievska. Esma was an incredible musician, dancer, vocalist, songwriter, and artist. For this, she was known as the Queen of the Gypsies during her extensive career as a performer. She brought Roma music and dance to pop culture with her fusion of western pop and traditional Roma and Macedonian musical styles. She too is a powerful woman and we are honored to name a skirt after her. 

We hope you’ll join us in welcoming these new names to our line up. It’s important to remain an active supporter of diversity and cultural celebration now and always.  

Thanks for growing with us all these years, and we look forward to seeing you in the lanes again soon enough. 

Until next time.


Prefer to listen rather than read? Find our Podcast Mane Street Chronicles on Spotify and enjoy our articles audibly instead!