“Mauve is just pink trying to be purple.” – James Abbot McNeill Whistler
The other day, I was in Talbot’s looking for a new pair of jeans.
“Do you have these in black?”
“They don’t come in black.”
“Hmmm… I thought I saw black ones in the catalog.”
The saleswoman flipped through her catalog until she found the picture of the jeans in question. She pointed at two little color swatch boxes, one labelled delta blue, the other deep sea.
“There are no black. Just deep sea.”
Oh. At home, the little box had looked black to me, and I didn’t catch that “sea” was code for blue. Oh, well. Dark blue jeans would work. I bought them.
Color names in the fashion world have often confounded me. Sure, I can figure out that chocolate and walnut are shades of brown, anything watery (lagoon, neptune) is likely to be blue, and juniper or kelly are green. Others have me stumped. Vine is probably green, of course, but at Talbot’s, it’s a garish, teeth-on-edge shade, not like any vine found in nature. Gray? Passé! Talbot’s features storm, shadow, oyster; all gray. Some names require a knowledge of flora– yam, fig, guava, allum, and pollen—and fauna — palomino and blue mallard. While I can figure out that tomato equals red, Talbot’s jazzes things up with pomodoro. J Jill gets evocative with breeze. Do breezes come in color? At J. Jill, a breeze is light blue.
Ann Taylor features camis in faint maple, polar peak, and pale praline, and lovely blouses and sweaters with pretty names to match: candy cloud, city sky, fresh ink, peri whisper, topped off with a robust chianti.
Do the folks at O.P.I. sit around conference rooms for high-energy brainstorming sessions, scribbling zany puns onto sheets of chart paper, so we can paint our toes with You Pink Too Much, You’re so Outta Lime, Toucan Do It If You Try, and Taupe-less Beach? This month’s colors have a Venice vibe, so we can dabble in It’s a Piazza Cake, I Cannoli Wear OPI, or Gelato on My Mind – a.k.a. orange, white, and blue.
Painting a room? The Benjamin Moore Paints gang must sneer at home decorators looking for boring off-whites and beiges. Their palette soothes us with both steam and vapor, marscapone and fondant and frappe, harmony and hush, a subtle hue called subtle, and my favorite – deep in thought.
Those back jeans I was hunting for? Maybe I’ll give it another try. I’ll search for some that come in asphalt, soot, raven, or gloom. They’ll go perfectly with my brick sweater, my smokey shoes, and my head over heels walls.