Fashion houses have renamed our colors, making plain old green a more stylish-sounding celadon, turning brown into cappuccino, changing white to stone.
So that sweater you got from Aunt Betty for Christmas just isn't your color and you want to exchange it. OK, but first you've got to figure out what color this color that's not your color actually is.
Green? Not a chance. If it's out of this year's Eddie Bauer catalog, it could be celadon. Or basil. Or alpine green, dark pine, cactus, mallard, juniper, dark spruce or thyme.
Brown? Ha! If it's from L.L. Bean, it might be "cappuccino," "portabello" or even "cafe latte." At Bauer, it might be "tobacco."
The days when black was black and white was not yet "stone" are over. Today things are decidedly more gray (which is the "new black," in case you hadn't heard). Whether owing to marketing or manufacturing necessity, a plain palette just doesn't cut it any more.
Fashion houses insist the trend isn't a marketing gimmick, that fabric mills require them to make up quirky names every season to distinguish different dyes from one another over the years.
"There's a specific formula for each color," explains Sharon Goldsmith, design assistant at Donna Morgan in New York. "They have a formulation for brown. If we change the fabric slightly, they can't use the word 'brown' again. So we say 'cappuccino.' ... It's really very technical."
Thus fashion houses like Morgan must leave no stone, metal or food unturned in the search for unique names. Not to mention flowers and plants, spices and even museum exhibits. "For us, it's hard," says Goldsmith. "We might have 15 different colors per season."
Then there's the marketing department to please. Some names are deemed too wordy; others too silly. Some, like "pastoral LTC green," are considered too vague. Morgan's sales department nixed it in favor of "kiwi."
Inevitably, there's the issue of redundancy. Along with its nine shades of green, for example, Eddie Bauer has hues of blue including peacock, lagoon, twilight, loganberry, patriot blue, brilliant blue, admiral blue and bluebell. Oh, and surely by some kind of oversight, just plain blue.
While customers and the clothing industry alike might yearn for a simpler spectrum, most agree that won't happen soon. In other words, don't hold your breath - you'll just turn peacock.
Pub date 12/27/98