In praise of the beige cardie

In one of my favourite blogs, Coming of Age, by the Australian journalist Adele Horin, I read recently that the epitome of dowdy, middle-aged dressing is a long beige cardigan. Oh no, I thought, I love a long beige cardie. In fact, I was wearing mine as I was reading that blog.

When I was growing up in New Zealand, you didn’t hear the term “beige” for clothes: it was called “fawn”. Beige has become synonymous with boring, but I’ve worn beige all my adult life—or colours that approach it—including in my late teens, 20s and 30s, when I was considered quite a snazzy dresser and spent most of my disposable income on clothes.

There were the Chanel-inspired beige and black court shoes; the beige full-circle skirt and matching top; the beige safari suit from my favourite shop, Hullabaloo, in Queen St, Auckland, that cost me a fortune when I was 16 and which I had to pay off over about two months (called “lay-by” in New Zealand).

And now, the long beige cardigan. Hmmm. To be honest, I usually only wear this garment when I am working from home. Here it is:

"Beige cardie in sanguine, sepia, burnt sienna, raw umber and titanium". PanPastels and Charcoal on pastel paper. © Caron Eastgate Dann, 2013
“Beige cardie in sanguine, sepia, burnt sienna, raw umber and titanium”. PanPastels and charcoal on pastel paper.
© Caron Eastgate Dann, 2013

I sketched it using pastels and charcoal—none of them called “beige”, but rather sanguine, sepia, burnt sienna and raw umber, mixed with titanium.

I have had many beige cardigans, some of them rather swish-oh. A beige jacket is also a great choice when white is too stark and black too dark. And beige trousers are a trans-seasonal wardrobe staple, when white is too summery and black too wintery.

Googling this colour tells me there is no actual one hue that is beige. It is a generic name for a whole range of light browns. Beige is a neutral that looks good with just about any other colour, including black, brown, white, green, orange, purple and navy. I once had a bespoke beige suit that I wore to work with a turquoise Thai silk blouse.
Beige is my friend. So I wonder how it came to be considered boring, dowdy and “middle aged”?

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4 thoughts on “In praise of the beige cardie

  1. Had a wonderful ‘camel’-coloured scarf in London that I still mourn and a stunning warm-beige woolen skirt that it’s never cold enough to wear here, so I heartily agree. But what of taupe? Does that colour actually exist? It seems like a slightly more ‘platinum’ (read ‘grey’) form of beige.

    • Camel—I’d forgotten about that. Yes, I love that colour. I had a great camel-coloured fine wool trench coat made for a trip to London and Switzerland in the late 1990s. Taupe is a great colour too (and just as variable as beige). It’s funny you should say that, as I’m wearing a taupe outfit today which I wear all the time and which goes through any season and with virtually any other colour.

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