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!

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.

Erica

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