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All Shades of Grey

Grey is so much more of an interesting colour than black. There are a myriad shades – certainly more than fifty – between the warm and cool ends of the spectrum. I always love to look at Wikipedia’s colour palettes not because I’m so sure they are universally accurate, but because the names are often so evocative.

The list of grey is quite short compared to other shades, but here they are: ash grey, battleship grey, blue-grey, cadet grey, charcoal, cool grey, Davy's grey (a dark grey shade named after an English landscape painter), Payne's grey (a dark blue-grey, also named after a painter, of watercolours in this case), gunmetal, platinum, silver, slate grey, taupe, purple taupe, medium taupe, rose quartz, taupe grey, and timberwolf (a light, warm grey).

Some of my own designations that I have used are dove grey, a warm grey the shade of a turtledove’s feathers; cloud, a tone I named after a very pale, icy grey blouse I bought online; smoke, pewter and mushroom, which are self-explanatory.

One of the lovely aspects of this shade is that it can be faintly tinted by any colour of the rainbow, and still remain grey – therein lies its beauty. Grey also goes with every other colour, so it’s easy to mix and match colours with it, if that is a challenge for some.

Genevieve Antoine Dariaux’s book A Guide to Elegance, first published in 1964, and updated in 2003, is a quaint relic of its time, but it still contains plenty of useful information. She has an exhaustive entry on wearing colour, and includes a very practical list of a few successful colour matches.

With pale grey she suggests wearing: browns, dark greens, dark grey, red. (I would certainly include black and white too.)

With dark grey: beige, black, all the pale and bright colours. (And white.)

I also love to mix different shades of grey, and find it particularly fun to mix cool and warm shades. Sometimes at first glance it seems a little wrong, but that is exactly what I love about it. It’s also unexpected. With such neutral garments, I will definitely wear at least a bright lipstick with it, in a true red (my current favourite, Poinsettia by Revlon) or dark pink (Cherries in the Snow, or Cherry Pop, also by Revlon). It is alternatively a great opportunity to add just one accessory in some vivid colour to have it really stand out.

Fashion Notes

In my first outfit I am mixing warm and cool shades, with a vintage 40s hat in a cool bluish tone, a very pale silk chiffon blouse, and a pewter skirt that by virtue of its taffeta fabric changes dramatically in the light. The shoes are a medium taupe, the warmth of this shade increased by proximity to such cool shades of grey. They don’t look quite so brown seen on their own.

The second outfit includes two warmer shades in the singlet (mushroom) and cord jeans (old favourites that tragically wore out – ‘dim grey’ according to Wikipedia) and a mid-grey wool shawl that has a tinge of lilac in it.

In the last picture I am wearing a wool jumper I was forced to buy because of cool weather, in Dubai of all places! I was there on holiday and attending a party on a yacht, and I had a terrible time trying to find a sweater in that desert city. This one is only a wool blend – 100% wool jumpers simply did not exist there. It’s from Zara, and contains only 15% alpaca, with the rest a mix of acrylic and nylon, but I call it one of my super-jumpers. It is such a warm grey it is on the cusp of brown. I still love it.

So you can see how though I am still wearing monochrome across all these outfits, all the various shades make it look like I am actually wearing colour. It's still moody, but not gloomy; sophisticated and soft. It can be as dramatic as black at the extreme ends of the spectrum, but it's not quite as harsh or stark. It’s also more forgiving, as you can find a grey to suit you whatever your complexion. And it’s far more adventurous than wearing plain old black every day.

Photos: July–August 2013

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