How to Wear the New Beige

On the 2010 catwalks, it was a cavalcade of camel. (We’re not talking about the desert-dwelling creatures in the “Sex and the City” sequel.) Designers sent down outfit after outfit showcasing the versatility of the classic, desert-toned shade. Chloe presented an army of models swathed in caramel, while Stella McCartney made coffee-toned knitwear look effortlessly hip. It was goodbye black and hello butterscotch. 

For those who’ve relegated their camel trenches and cashmere sweaters to the donate -- or have a decade’s worth of camel clothes piled at the back of their wardrobes in favour of all things black, grey and greige -- this is good news. The only problem with camel is that it can be a tricky shade to wear. Wearing black and grey is the fashion equivalent of falling in love: easy. But wearing camel is more like the breakup chat: If it goes well it can be lovely, but done wrong, it’s a train wreck. 

Ray Costarella, the name and designer behind the label Aurelio Costarella, is a big fan of flouting convention. He often uses shades of camel and beige in his sought-after evening-wear collections, favoured by Rihanna, Dita Von Teese, Melissa George and Alexis Bledel. “I’m a fan of a head-to-toe neutral palette. Nothing is more stylish than camel tones for evening wear,” says Costarella. 

“I have been known to layer soft tonal shades of camel in silk chiffon gowns. Tone-on-tone beadwork and embroidery in neutral tones also work,” Costarella continues, alluding to the short gowns in his latest collection, which come in pale neutral shades and feature prettier-than-thou ruffles and detailing. “Think Armani, the master of a neutral palette,” says the designer. “What Armani does with neutral is nothing short of wondrous.” 

Costarella notes that the new neutral is a shade that can work with a pop of colour. “The beauty of a neutral tone is that it works so wonderfully with a flash of colour. Whether it be a bright tone or a similarly neutral hue, it makes for a beautiful relationship.”

This advice can also be applied in the beauty realm, where a scarlet lip can be the perfect accessory for a camel ensemble. At Yigal Azrouel’s autumn 2010 show, the palette was decidedly neutral, featuring a bronze complexion with an emphasis on the cheekbones. The eyes were softly defined in beige and brown tones, complemented by a subtle pop of coral colour on the lips. For this catwalk look, dramatic brows also took centre stage -- which during the daytime is a great way to add punch and focus to a camel ensemble. At night, amp up the glamour with red lipstick.