Comfortably Numb

Sheila Kumar's Storehouse

Published on: 12/1/18 4:05 AM

Feature: Down with Brown!

Fashion in Dune, Tan, Walnut, Cinnamon? No, Thank You

I`m anti-brown. Not where terra firma is concerned. Not in furniture, though brown sofas invariably give me a nagging headache. Not on footwear and handbags, though I did bin my LV Neverfull tote for a Michael Kors bag the colour of blood on the dance floor. And definitely not in (dark and luscious) chocolate.

Brown is a muchly over-rated colour when it comes to fabric, at least that’s what I think. Tawny-toned outfits, stoles and shawls, and yes, even lingerie, are incredibly dreary. Moreover, and this is the crux: they just do not suit most Indian skins.

I can hear the howls of outrage going up from those whose wardrobes hold genuine pashminas the colour of mist on the ground, maybe a verboten shahtoosh in hazel (shahtoosh is banned globally under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) to which India is a signatory since 1975, so beware!), and many a dearly expensive outfit, all in hues ranging from dune to tan to walnut to chestnut to taupe…which was actually 2017`s Colour of the Year, and I wonder why!


LV Neverfull tote in brown

But. Brown is everywhere. In fact, the Sherwin Williams colour for 2019 has been declared, and it`s Cavern Clay. Look it up if you must but you can take my word for it: it`s just another cousin of brown.

This is not a new aversion. I gave up wearing brown years ago, and I feel much better for it. When people gift me brown dresses, I mutter rude things.

When I see clothes in old straw, milk chocolate or stained wood, I walk swiftly past, eyes averted. I`ll take my cinnamon in my cappuccino, my whiskey in a crystal-cut glass, my terracotta in Athangudi tiles, thank you.

I`ve been observing fashion for more years than I care to remember, both in the haut monde as well as on the runway, both abroad as well as on desi shores, and if there`s one thing I’m convinced about, it is that this particular shade does absolutely nothing for the Indian skin.


Prada’s resort 2019 collection showcased hues of brown.

The overall aesthetic of the colour is near nil, if you ask me. If wearing brown is making a statement, then the statement would read: I like rolling in mud. One is really hard put to radiate loveliness when wearing this colour.

Our dusky skin carries other earthy tints like moss, saffron, rust, flame, burgundy, the ubiquitous and utterly gorgeous indigo, most beautifully. When it comes to brown, though, I’m hard put to tell where skin ends and cloth begins. Monochromatic, anyone?!

And that’s the heart of the matter: it’s all about skin colour. Those with alabaster complexions (her husband`s description, not mine) like Kareena Kapoor Khan, Katrina Kaif or Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, look so good in brown-washed shades.

Other gorgeous women like Sonam Kapoor Ahuja? Deepika Padukone? Priyanka Chopra? Nandita Das? Tannishtha Chatterjee? If it was left to me, I`d dress them forever in emerald, gold, cream, scarlet.

Sonam, always faultlessly attired, wore a brown chevron Anamika Khanna outfit to her wedding reception and many Neteratti immediately dubbed it “too dull.” However, Anushka Sharma`s reception outfit by Sabyasachi had enough glitter to salvage a potentially lacklustre attire.

Photo: SonamKapoor\Instagram

Sonam K Ahuja’s brown chevron lehnga by Anamika Khanna for her wedding reception was dubbed “too dull.”

Brown has for long been a well-finessed colour. There is no denying the patina of sophistication that the colour lends to an outfit…the outfit, not to the wearer, mind you. It has the sheen of subtlety, no gainsaying that either.

Jacquemus, Prada, Stella McCartney all showed threads in brown almost as if to counterbalance the burst of neons the West is revelling in currently.

Sabyasachi Mukherjee, Manish Malhotra and the Peacock duo, Falguni and Shane, have rustled up ensembles this year in tints like burnt umber, beige, greige and cocoa. And of course, the chatterati, the glitterati, the poseurati have all immediately bought up the stuff in trunkfuls.

Is it an atavistic love of and for the earth? Nah, I think it`s just a lemming-like rush to wear what others are wearing.

It is certainly not my contention that all women should give up wearing brown. But it is such a difficult colour.


Manish Malhotra’s Caramel Satin sari.

Some of us wheat-coloured Indian women (words from matrimonial ads, not mine) can still play with some casts of brown. The start of that particular spectrum has delish shades like dusty blush and buff before it settles into haute mud.

Then, brown can always be offset with overlays and accents that flatter the wearer`s skin; it`s brown as the main tone that dulls and makes the desi skin look swarthy. A sharp shot of contrast colour as key separator serves to distract the judgemental eye of the beholder, and don’t tell me we don’t judge people by their wardrobe.

Also, who amongst us doesn’t own and absolutely adore her many pairs of khaki pants? But here`s the thing: most of us pair those pants with vibrant tops and that saves the day.

So. This is why I`m a card-carrying member of the Anti-brown Brigade. Come join me, lasses and ladies, you have nothing to lose but the most humdrum colour in your wardrobe.

Stray Thought: If there`s another universally unflattering colour for Indian skins, it is grey. But that deserves a separate rant all its own!–1827

This apopeared in THE VOICE OF FASHION dated 30 Nov 2018.

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browncolourdrab colourdull brownfabricsFeatureIndian skinsSheila KumarThe Voice of Fashion

Sheila Kumar • December 1, 2018

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