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!

Slow Fashion Through The Ages

Welcome back to the Mane Street Chronicles! Today we are going to look at Slow Fashion throughout history. 

Though in that sense, perhaps Slow Fashion should just be called ‘traditional fashion.’ Or maybe ‘renaissance fashion.’ Not because it is mirroring cuts and styles from the Renaissance time period, but because a ‘renaissance’ is a renewed/revived interest in something, and the concept of Slow Fashion is certainly a renewed way of viewing and interacting with clothing that was once common place for most of history before being lost during the industrial revolution. 

I would say that the 1950’s was the turning point when Fast Fashion became the norm.  Around the 1950’s there was an explosion in marketing and a Consumer Culture was born.  Suddenly shoppers found themselves being egged-on by marketing agencies. Encouraged to try to keep up with their neighbors they constantly sought to display always newer, better, more stylish purchases- from clothes, to cars, to furniture and home decor. 

Looking earlier, there was certainly a period of overlap between Slow and Fast fashion.  The early 1900’s showed a transition to factory production brought on by the industrial revolution.  Suddenly clothing could be made in bulk and conformity at a price everyone could afford. For the first time the middle and lower class could have a say in deciding fashion trends, and they could have more than one or two sets of clothing. 

Before that fashion was dictated by the nobility and the wealthy elite. Were there a great many things wrong with this arrangement? Certainly, but that is not the focus of this article.  And in regards to Slow Fashion at least, times were better back then. 

We can pull examples of Slow Fashion pre-industrial revolution from both the realities and practicalities of time, and from laws enacted by the church and state. 

Practically speaking, all fabric and garment notions (buttons, lacings, thread, etc) were made by hand. Every aspect was hands on: growing the cotton or linen, raising the sheep for wool, processing, spinning, weaving, dyeing, sewing, and more. This gave a much greater appreciation for the materials, and made the price of clothing much more expensive, comparatively, than modern day. For this reason, many things were done to preserve one’s garments. 

For example, many pieces of a lady’s dress were detachable and interchangeable.  Parts of a dress were all separate pieces: the bodice, skirts, overcoat, etc. Sleeves could be removed so a dress could be worn in all seasons.

Also, a lady always wore several skirts.  The nicest skirt was worn as the top layer, with the hem pinned or tied up to keep it clean and out of the mud.  Petticoats and older skirts were worn underneath so a lady’s modesty could be maintained.  But even these skirts often had an extra piece of fabric sewn to the bottom hem so that just that piece could be replaced as it became dirtied and worn out from constantly dragging through the mud and getting stepped on while she walked.  Women who had to work also wore an apron overtop their nicest skirt to keep it from getting dirtied during her chores. 

Young girls wore dresses with thick hems that could be let out for added length as they grew.  Alternatively, as a dress became too short for modesty, panels were sewn to the bottom hem to add length.  

Most ladies had a hand in making their own clothes, or had a personal tailor to do the sewing for them. For that reason dresses could often be modified as trends changed. While the basic silhouette may remain the same, perhaps the cut of a sleeve or neckline might change from one season to the next. Rather than purchase an entirely new dress, women would update their current wardrobe to reflect the new trends. Even once they were done with a dress it was not simply discarded.  If it had been adorned with real pearls or gem stones these would be carefully unstitched and saved for use on a future dress.  Then the dress could be sold, or gifted to a younger family member or even, on occasion, to a servant. Gifts to servants tended to be smaller however: a pair of gloves, a handkerchief, or a fichus (the small thin piece of white cloth or lace worn around a lady’s neck acting as a bit of modesty necessary when bodice necklines were indecorously low). For the lower classes, how a belt was worn- at the waist or hips for example- was a simple way to keep up with current trends without needing to modify existing garments or buy new ones. 

Certain laws also leaned in favor of Slow Fashion. These Sumptuary Laws were most popular in England during the reigns of King Henry and Queen Elizabeth. They dictated what fabrics, colors, designs, and accessories the various classes were permitted to wear.  Though these laws were in place to maintain societal hierarchies and distinguish between the classes, they also had benefits to Slow Fashion.  For example, only certain nobility could wear certain furs- thus preventing the over hunting of those animals.  There were laws on the amount of fabric permitted to be used in particular garments. In a culture where your clothing said a lot about your wealth and status, people certainly would have been tempted to dress to excess if not restrained.  Often an overarching goal of the Sumptuary Laws was to encourage purchasing textiles and accessories made within the country, rather than importing foreign items, and supporting the local economies. That all sounds very Slow Fashion indeed. 

Special and ceremonial attire was often seen as antiquated or traditional when compared to current fashions. This was because these pieces were worn infrequently and therefore updated more slowly. 

The list goes on. But from these examples, as you can see, Slow Fashion was the norm up until the early 1900’s where it began picking up speed until it reached the break neck fast fashion culture we have today. There have always been outliers: the hippies of the 60’s and punks of the 80’s certainly didn’t conform to society’s Fast Fashion standards.  But it wasn’t until the early 90’s that Slow Fashion began reclaiming any noticeable share of the fashion marketplace. Even today it is far less well known than it should be. But hopefully as we move towards greener, more ethical, and environmentally sustainable choices overall, the fashion industry will be pulled along as well. 

Certainly 2020 has seen a break in the Fast Fashion carousel. Thanks to the global pandemic, fashion shows canceled around the world. Designers didn’t release collections. With no where to go and Be Seen, overall purchasing in the fashion markets dropped significantly. Perhaps this is the pause for breath we have needed. Perhaps this is the year to evaluate your closets and your habits. Build that capsule collection. Learn how to sew and start mending those worn out favorites before casting them aside. Decide what your style IS, not what you’re told it should be. And move forward into the future with new priorities and goals for a healthier Slow Fashion mentality. Just a thought.

Tune in next time while we explore the final piece in our Slow Fashion series: Not Just For Faire. We’ll show you how to use your Unicorn Clothing pieces all the time!

See you then!

Erica

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