Thursday, March 5, 2015

Robin Hood's Palette: Fun with Mustard Yellow and Olive Green

I've been wearing far too many outfits in the red palette lately -- red, purple, pink, burgundy -- you get the idea. They suit me, yes, but so do other colours. It was time to remind myself of other palettes.

There has been much discussion in my home and on my Facebook page about just what to call the colours in this outfit, but I've settled on calling them mustard yellow and olive green.

I can't explain it, but this palette has set my heart on fire with excitement. It's changed what I see around me and has set me set me on a path of searching out its many iterations in design and fashion through the decades and even the centuries. Come romp with me as you follow my adventures in mustard yellow and olive green.

Some of the ladies on Mod Cloth. You can see more Mod Cloth outfit photos here
I blame Mod Cloth, from which I got both my dress and my tights. They have  a wonderful section in which their customers can display photos of themselves wearing their Mod Cloth purchases. I kept noticing women in fabulous, mustard based outfits. Mustard yellow had not been on my radar, but now it was.

From the blog, Finery and Madness 
This outfit seems to have had a pretty big impact on me too. Isn't she a cutie? Her outfit is not the exact same colours as my own, but it's in the same palette.

Such tasty colours!

I'm not sure why, but the range of colours in this palette makes me think of the kind of flavours one acquires as one matures and one's flavour palate becomes more sophisticated: Dijon mustard, spiced olives, dark bitter chocolate, real Italian espresso, rapini, balsamic vinegar, all things I discovered with great glee in adulthood.

My outfit's colours are, for me, kind of the sartorial equivalent of these gustatory revelations.

I think I first started noticing mustard yellow in lovely little cardigans.  I was intrigued but I've always assumed that any yellows would look awful on me.

From the Orla Kiely line for Clark's
So I devised a cunning plan: I could wear it in tights, far far away from my face. That just might work!

(As an aside, I adore this 1960s inspired line of shoes by Oral Kiely. I covet several pairs of shoes from the collection.)

If I kept olive green up by my face, and the mustard yellow on my legs, I thought it could work.

My eyes actually have a lot of green in them and I've often received compliments when I wear olive green, so I knew I'd be safe with that choice.

I looked everywhere for the tights but only Mod Cloth had them in the right colour, so I was excited when they arrived.

This is my  first pair of plus size tights. They are a bit too big and have a tendency to bag a bit at my knees and ankles. They remind me of when I was a little girl.

But they also make me feel like Robin Hood and his merry men, leggings creasing at the knee, saving the world, or at least those bits of the world in proximity to Sherwood Forest ...

Boots: Joseph Seibel; Tights and dress: Mod Cloth; Sunglasses: Aldo; Cape coat: London Fog; Cardigan, earrings, ring, and brooch: vintage
... pulling my arrow from its quiver ...

... and wearing my cape ...

... just as Robin Hood would undoubtedly do ...

... if he ever stopped saving the world long enough to get a chill ...

... which he doesn't seem to have ever done.

So I guess capeless, sweaterless me is the better duplicate of said Mr. Hood. Okay, he actually is wearing a cape in the movie poster, but it's clearly not keeping him warm as it flies behind his back.

Beau was the one who first said that the outfit made me look like Robin Hood, and he's the one who insisted that I simply must wear my cape with hit.

Beau has whimsy, Beau does.

He made me this map of Narnia. He drew it by hand, in the style of the original illustrations by Pauline Baynes. I think it's the nicest gift I've ever received. It made me cry.

That was the same year that Beau wanted one present and one present only: this updated, completely accurate globe of the moon. Note that all the books about space are his too. He likes spaceships the way I love vintage brooches: the mere mention of them brightens his spirits.

He's a funny guy. He makes me laugh all the time, which isn't always easy to do with someone like me: a pessimist with chronic pain and PTSD

I try to make him laugh too. I seem to be pretty good at it.

But let us return to Robin Hood. I think the colours he is most often depicted as wearing -- chocolate brown, yellow, and green -- are meant to blend in with the colours of Sherwood forest.

Nature does indeed contain all these colours but I hadn't noticed!

How could I not have noticed?

Clearly, others noticed it long ago.

That's what I mean when I say that this palette made me see the world differently.

And, by the way, I am so excited about these new boots. They were on sale, and so comfortable and attractive that I bought two pair, one in brown and one in black. Since I became disabled and can't wear heels anymore, it's been a struggle to find footwear that both looks good and doesn't hurt my back.

But I digress again. This new palette made me look at everything differently, including my own home. For instance, I had not noticed how much it, especially its yellows, is used in books. Check out how well it looks on these National Geographics from the 1920s and 30s.

And there it is in our bathroom.

And in our pillow.

Notice how The Book of Negroes (a fine and historically accurate read) matches this photos of my beloved, dearly departed Morgan.

Who knew books use so much yellow?

I started noticing the colours all over my house, from the map I see daily from my prone position on my day-bed ...

... to my kitty, Bobby, with his yellow eyes, sitting on his favourite chair, atop an olive green rug.

I matched my house!

What fun!

In truth, though, the first thing I thought of when I wore this outfit, was men's fashions from the early 1970s.

It was not, I think, a stellar moment in men's fashion.

Marisa Berenson photographed by Andy Warhol
Marisa Berenson wore it much better in this 70s iteration of the palette.

How nice to be in such good company!

But, yes, men wore the palette too. By the 70s, I think it had hit the suburbs and wasn't really all that cool.

The Rolling Stones in the 1960s
But that's not how that period of its vogue had started. Check out these uber cool lads wearing it about a decade earlier.

I see it as a souped up version of the colours found in respectable tweeds since the 1920s or earlier.

It's a look that women have often adopted from men.

Today we associate such woollen wear as quite "dressed up."

Yet it was originally worn by the English gentry in their country homes, almost as we would today wear jeans as we tromp about in the fields.

My living room.
It's a look I love.

The Rolling Stones

So it shouldn't have come as a surprise to me that I also like the flashier version of it that I wore in my mustard yellow and olive green outfit. If it was good enough for the Rolling Stones, it's good enough for me.

Of course, movements in fashion are also reflected in design and décor, and vice versa. Check out Keith's chair above and my chair here. This is part of a vintage set of chairs from the 1960s that we got for our kitsch kitchen

They are nothing if not cheerfully bright, and they clearly reflect the times in which they were made.

The Rolling Stones
So the palette may show up in an outfit, or in furniture, or in the backdrop against which people are photographed ...

... or some combination thereof.

This is an element of art direction.

And it's fun.

The Monkees
The look was done ...

The Monkees
... and done ...
Antonio Lopez for Elle
... and done ...

(Bear with me here. Have a little snack.)

The Monkees. Note the Robin Hood style outfit on the left.
... and done ...

.... and done... 

... and done, to the point that it became a cliché, open to mockery and rejection. 

I mean, really, how much more could we take? 

The look was done, over, kaput.

L'Wren Scott
But it's making a comeback, of course, because it's too excellent not to.

I don't know who this wonderful woman is. Do you? Let me know!
There will always be those who ignore trends and just wear what they want to wear.

Fashion designer, Vivienne Westwood
They amaze us out of our fashion ruts.

They inspire us to try what they have tried.

Gossip girl character, Blair Waldorf, played by Leighton Meester
And, hey presto, the look is back.

It enters our fashion imagination once more.

Who's this? Let me know!
What's old is new again, and again, and again.

Though it waxes and wanes in popularity, my research showed me that this particular palette has had staying power. The first thing my friend, Sal, said when he saw me in this outfit was, "You look like a late 1940s movie star on her day off."

He had a point.

Check out this teenager trying her best to look like Ginger Rogers, circa 1940.

Our kitchen decorations tell the same story of the palette's enduring power.

Feast your eyes on this wonderful, 1942 example of retro futurism that we have on our wall. Do the colours look familiar?

How about this advertisement from the 1920s?

And these patterns from the 1930s.

Such good company I am in!

Aren't these 1940s, Bakelite bangles simply divine?

And, darling, how haughty is this diva from the 40s?

Do I get to be a haughty diva too?

I vote yes!

Here's the palette in the 50s, and we've already discussed its 1960s iterations.

And here it is yet again, in the 1910s. 

Was it always here?

Maybe, but I think it was associated with different things at different times. This is another image we have on our kitchen wall. This depiction of forms in nature was drawn in the late 1800s.

As with Robin Hood's colours, in the late 1800s and early 1900s, I think the colours were associated with nature and a yearning to return to pre-industrial simplicity.

As the hippies of the 60s, said, it was time to get back to the garden.

The modern era, some thought, was just too impersonal and fast-paced.

It was time to slow down and get in touch with who we really were, if, at times, in a stylized, commercialized way.

Mustard yellows and olive greens seem to crop up a lot in seed packages and catalogues ...

... and in illustrations of children's literature.

And they were staples of the Arts and Crafts movement, as seen here in this gorgeous room designed by Gustav Stickley.

It's a movement I find particularly beautiful and have unconsciously duplicated in aspects of our home ...

... which is probably why I found that I matched my house when I wore this outfit.

The palette was everywhere in the Arts and Crafts movement. It was in wallpapers and textiles ...

It was in clothing and jewelry.  This brooch is of a much more recent decade, but it would not be entirely out of place in 1900.

Mixing and matching our decades and centuries is fun.

Note, for example, this William Morris pattern from the Arts and Crafts movement.

And now take a look at George Harrison's, 1960s blazer with its own Morris patterned fabric.

The Arts and Crafts movement was a movement against industrialization and mass production, a movement hearkening back to pre-industrial craft techniques and aesthetics. 

Here, we see another Morris design.

And here we see a famous Medieval tapestry. I think the influence of tapestries such as this on Morris' work is unmistakable.

The palette goes back at least as far as the Bayeux tapestry. Its vogue was in part due to the types of dyes that were available at the time. Our crazy, infinite colour choices were simply not an option, but they did just fine with what they had, did they not?

I think that whoever designed the lovely fabric on my pillow here, was at least thinking of the Arts and Crafts movement, if not Medieval tapestries themselves.

And look at what recently showed up on the runways: the unmistakable influence of Medieval tapestries yet again.

I also don't know who this is or who made this amazing replica of a Medieval outfit. Again, if you know, let me know!
In a way, then, we've come full circle to the tales of Robin Hood and his merry men. I can see Maid Marian wearing this outfit, can't you?

The Arthurian legends would be right at home in this palette too. Here, I might be the young Arthur, drawing my sword ...

... as he drew it from the stone.

Or I might be the older King Arthur, knighting some likely fellow ...

... just like Queen Elizabeth, knighting Patrick Stewart.

Please note her dress.

It matches my sweater!!!

So I'm royalty, right?


What fun!

(I'm sharing this over at Not Dead Yet's Visible Mondays.)


  1. Beautiful! I absolutely adore these colors on you! So glad you "discovered" them, because they really suit your complexion - and, it seems, your soul. :) They are my long time favorites without a doubt. Look so great with plum/eggplant, rusty red/orange too. As often, such a gorgeous collection of illustrations and old fashion photos in your post - treasures everywhere, such a feast for eyes! I think it's wonderful that your young man makes you laugh, and you make him laugh - it's absolutely great that you found each other! Much love xxx

    1. I did indeed notice a lot rust reds and oranges as I did my research for these colours. Definitely something to keep in mind in the future. And, yes, I've noticed you wearing these colours too. No surprise, given our similar colouring.

      A "feast for the eyes." I'm glad. I like those.

  2. I've never tried this palette; maybe it's time. It looks wonderful on you. I've heard it said that we tend to decorate our homes in colours that also look good on us. Seems to be the case for you here!

    1. And I think the woman in the first "mystery woman" picture (wearing a yellow shirt and with the orange screen door in the background) is Rona Maynard (former editor-in-chief of Chatelaine magazine). Here's a link so you can see for yourself:

      Look especially at the video just below the first photo.

      The odd thing is that I would never have thought of her except I was recently cleaning out some old papers, among them an old copy of Chatelaine. They had done a makeover of her as an article for that issue and I re-read it before recycling the magazine. Serendipity.

    2. My goodness, I think you're right! That is her, isn't it? Thanks for the sleuthing job.

    3. I think you're right about home decoration. Beau and I, though, have very different coloring so it's hard for us to choose colours that work for both of us. We've given this a lot of thought as we contemplate the colour scheme for our upcoming wedding. I think we've done well with our choices.

  3. Marvelous in olive and mustard and yellow. I hadn't thought to notice how often nature gives us the combination! Thanks for sharing with Visible Monday, xo.

    1. Nature gives us great cues for what works in fashion. I love to harmonize with it.

  4. I was thinking the woman in the modern looking outfit with the glasses and short hair might by Lori Petty from "Orange is the New Black".