January 17, 2013


A blog by Judy Cools.

Beige is more of an attitude than it is a color. I know because I used to be beige. Raised by a Scottish mother who’d lived during the Great Depression, we were nothing if we weren’t practical. A beige sweater will go with black, with white, with tan, with brown. Why in the world would anyone buy the rose one? Green!? It’s so limiting. My, oh my, oh my!!

As a 15-year-old on my first big trip out of the country, I went to Mexico City with a bus full of other students. I saw the most beautiful ponchos made of wool, and embroidered in silk. I fell in love with one that was somewhere between hot pink and fuchsia in color. The embroidery was large, purple flowers, front and back and the lovely thing had 10-inch purple fringe. I can still see it, and I remember it quite clearly as I look at the practical camel-colored wool poncho with the black embroidery which I bought instead. My family taught me sensibility, not how to seize the moment. I’ll admit the poncho I brought back home makes me a little sad every time.

Of course, at the time those lively colors were considered faddish. I must admit, however, that I’ve lived through several go-arounds of the same color fad since then. And today, there seem to be no limitations. It would have been such a grand statement of attitude to wear that bright wrap.

Being a frugal newlywed, these overly sensible clothing habits continued on. Get the beige one. Buy the darker jacket, it doesn’t show the dirt. Buy the neutral tones. Blah! After some years, a couple of my adult girlfriends started poking at me: Buy some color. What, another beige? It was funny, because I don’t remember the two knowing one another and both were working on me to expand my selections.

A third friend gave me an eye-opening perspective one day when we were shopping. I saw a rose-colored suede jacket that was marked down to almost nothing. I liked it, tried it on, and liked the way it felt. As I was putting it back on the rack she asked why. My practical side responded, “It will cost more to get it cleaned than the jacket itself costs.” And she said (are you ready?) “So throw it away when it gets dirty, and enjoy it until then.” Inconceivable. And my mind began to open up to possibilities.

Where once I had to wait weeks to have enough reds and purples to justify a load of laundry, now we have such a load every week. I love the colors and even though it’s been years, maybe decades since my friends’ interventions, I still feel like the new me when I can wear such happy and expressive color. Old dogs and new tricks? Maybe there isn’t so much to that after all.


© 2013, J. Cools

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