The New Neutral: Tan. Or Is It Cognac?

The New Neutral: Tan. Or Is It Cognac?

I have this theory that there is always one leading neutral colour in fashion. Often, it’s beige. Recently, I think it’s been – at least in certain circles – a shade not traditionally considered a neutral: very pale blush pink. At the moment, I’m feeling that my long-prophesied return of brown is happening as we speak. I’ve planned this post for a while and I better get it done now, before the autumn-winter colour stories take over (I believe red, black and grey are all planning a come-back).

The brown of the moment is warm and rich and could be tan or dark camel or cognac or even walnut. The end of August is not a bad time for buying something in this tonal family, as it works perfectly with summer whites or even those blush pinks. It will, however, also be wearable when it gets colder, as it makes sense both in the context of the seventies trend (or more like general current that refuses to disappear) and the popularity of leather. There are lots of blues and greens around and glossy cognac pairs beautifully with both: from powder blue to teal, from emerald to chartreuse. It can even work with red, something I’m dying to try.

I’ve been getting a huge amount of wear out of my brown items. Most of these are accessories: a pair of perfect pumps by Prada, a tote by Zadig & Voltaire, loafers by Isabel Marant, a star-studded cross-body bag by Riina Põldroos (all pictured here but the loafers). They really are versatile, although it does of course depend a little bit on your general colour scheme. Still, anyone who owns light-wash jeans and a white t-shirt can wear all the items listed above with that outfit. In addition, I’ve got two pairs of brown trousers, both cropped. They are quite similar in colour – toffee (cigarette shape) and darker tan (culottes) – and similarly excellent to wear with silk shirts in unexpected shades.

These trouser colours themselves would, of course, make for a great silk shirt. If I had the money, I would own this Ellery number already (it’s over 1000 euros). This coat by Maje I am, on the other hand, seriously considering for autumn. And then there’s the heritage fabric trend as exemplified by this Joseph coat and that Balenciaga blazer. I’ve aimed a bit lower and ordered this Sister Jane tweed skirt. I’m going to pair the latter with a high-necked blouse and be totally ready for autumn.


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  1. 1

    Refreshing post for autumn, gives me a little courage to start work again. Cognac or toffee if you prefer are colours that remind me of the autumn leaves so they have a melancholic and warming effect. Drama aside, they look before winter grey and white (on some occassions of snow in Brussels) kicks in. Tweed suggestions look very nice but the cross-body bag and the Maje coat are wadrobe staples that do not break the bank ;). I have a toffee leather coat that goes down to the ankles that I’m looking to wear once the weather gets a little cooler. Thinking of also replacing pumps (got some from a Belgian designer in cognac) with Suede slingbacks with a slughtly chunckier heel. Red accessories ( silk scarf or gloves) seem to pair quite well. Looking forward to your next posts.
    PS: Glad you bought Samarcand. Enjoy

    • 2

      Your toffee leather coat sounds amazing and slingbacks are definitely a good bet, too. I’ve been looking around for a pair as well. They give you a pretty classic shape (which I tend to prefer with shoes, at least office ones), but look fresher and more of the moment than pumps. And I know it’s childish, but planning the autumn wardrobe makes me more eager to get back to work.

  2. 5

    I’d never considered wearing beige and brown clothing because of my skin tone–until two years* ago when I tried on a tan suedette skirt which was a pretty big trend that year. This year I finally joined the tan/brown trend with a pair of ankle strap sandals which work well with a lot of colors (even black imo) assuming the shade is right for your skin tone.
    *this is cliche but still where has the time gone?!

    • 6

      Oooh, I remember that skirt-mania – it was a nice trend. I think with beiges and browns, the undertone is extremely important, and as always, it’s easier to wear difficult colours away from the face. I also completely agree that black and tan are great together, it’s actually one of my favourite colour combinations for looking chic in the city during the summer.

  3. 7

    Just so you know; I wore my cognac leather skirt today. A vintage find from a few years ago that I usually bring out this time of year. For once, I’m “on trend”.

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