Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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Maybe-Colors for Unisex Dressing

Previously I mentioned the use of maybe-colors in unisex or nonbinary dressing, so I decided to list some examples. The neutrals (black-gray-white in cool, brown-tan-ivory in warm) are unisex, but most people want accent colors. There are also some oddball neutrals that mix warm and cool tones.


The stone amber is fossilized tree resin, which is most often yellow to orange, so amber as a color usually means yellowish-orange. But the stone can also be other colors like brown, black, red, blue, or green. Amber is readily available in synthetic and natural fibers. Some traditional leather tanning methods yield various shades of amber too.

This is a vivid yellow-green, sometimes called acid yellow or acid green. It appears most often in synthetics and often carries a luminous quality. It's one of the boldest accent colors.

This Celtic color word is most often translated as blue or green, but it can also mean gray, silver, or black. It really means "ocean-colored," and like the ocean can be calm or ominous. It's a good term for a cool, watery color that looks different depending on the light or what you wear it with. This color appears a lot with overdyed natural fibers, either two dye baths or dye over naturally tinted fiber, and some natural dyes also produce this range.

This is a pale blend of warm beige and cool gray, making it sort of a light taupe. The mix of warm and cool means you can wear it with either, and it's one of those colors prone to shifting with the light. Quite a lot of unbleached, natural fibers fall in this range such as hemp and some wool. Greige is a light neutral, worth considering if you don't like white or ivory.

This is a cool gray-green, sometimes with bluish tones. It is the cool counterpart of olive, which is a slightly brighter yellow-green. Warm-toned people often use olive as a near-neutral base color, and feldgrau can serve the same purpose for cool-toned people.

Most often cited in eye colors, hazel is a blend of blue, green, and/or brown, rarely with gray tones. It's often used as a catchall for any ambiguous color in this general range. It tends to be warm, but can mix warm and cool tones. Its brownish or grayish versions can work as a medium near-neutral base color.

Another Celtic color term, this one has been translated as dark gray, brown, or purple. It really means "terrible-colored," and is typically cited as storm-colored or bruise-colored. It's kind of like taupe, but spookier. You can sometimes get a good huathe from walnut hulls mordanted with iron. If you just want to fuck with people, consider huathe as a dark neutral.

The stone iolite is bluish-purple, sometimes with grayish tones, but changes color from different angles. It's another that often appears in overdyed fibers, but shot-silk can duplicate its color-changing ability. This is also a known failure mode of indigo dye, so watch for it in marked-down or outlet-mall jeans.

This color is pinkish-purplish-gray across quite a wide range, appearing in both natural and synthetic fibers. It can be obtained from a variety of bark and lichen dyes. It's a soft color that many people find reassuring. Interestingly, if you like craft-bleaching T-shirts, black, coffee brown, and midnight blue all have a chance of fading to mauve. Top-quality tie-dye colors also creep to mauve if you do single-color tie-dye with them. Ice-dyeing and snow-dyeing will also get you some fantastic maybe-colors thanks to the magic of chemistry and physics.

This is a bright pinkish-purple. Many orchid flowers actually are this color. It appears mostly in synthetic fibers. Sometimes people call it "thistle" but thistle flowers tend to be pink. An easy place to find it is fancy men's dress shirts, which have a lot of different almost-but-not-quite-pink tints. It's an eye-catching accent.

This dark red can have brownish or purplish tones. It's easy to find in leather, especially dressy shoes, but also appears widely in autumn clothes. Because the color is used by both genders, a fun switch is wearing a shoe style for a gender contrary to your appearance or the rest of your clothes, and oxblood chelseas make a great unisex shoe that isn't sneakers. This makes a very interesting choice of base color for your leather goods.

This is a fairly bright shade of orangish-brown. It has slight variations in russet, fawn, and fulvous. It's a base of autumn palettes and goes with most warm colors. It is widely available in natural fibers or leather, but harder to hit in synthetics. Some sheep come in a surprisingly bright shade of rust, almost orange. If you want an eye-catching near-neutral as one of your base wardrobe colors, rust is a good bet.

Stone rose
A grayish-pink color, this shows in some desert flowers, and certain lichen dyes. This color is just plain hard to find, but like other not-quite-pinks, great for messing with expectations.

This is typically brownish-gray but can have purplish tones. It balances warm and cool shades, so it can go with either. You see it a lot in wool, suede, and synthetic ultrasuede. Lots of people wear this as a medium or dark neutral, especially for their leather goods.

Balanced between blue and green, teal is like a dark turquoise. It can lean either way, which influences whether it matches better with warm or cool colors. It's widely available in both natural and synthetic fibers. This is among the most popular accent colors.

Most people can't even see this one, because it requires being able to see yellow and blue colors at the same time without merging them into green, and standard human eyes don't do that trick (although there are ways that may simulate it). But there are references to it in Celtic tradition, it's an eye color in that gene pool, and I see it most often in sunlit stormclouds. I've also seen it in sheep wool, but I doubt anyone is dyeing this on purpose. You could probably get it by overdyeing soft yellow on light grey wool or blue-gray on blonde wool. If you can find or make this, it would be another interesting base color for messing with people, and looks spectacular if you have the matching eye color.
Tags: art, gender studies, how to

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