Somber gray brightened with colorful accessories

Black was almost eclipsed by gray on designer’s fashion runways.



KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Gray is the color that tops the fashion palette for the fall and spring seasons.

That’s why we’re with two young, fashion-savvy women who are open to finding gray clothing that will work for them. Diane Gehring is a blond, fair-skinned nursing student who occasionally models. Ajia Johnson (pronounced Asia) is a young attorney with dark skin and long black hair.

“Gray is a somber color,” says color analyst Leatrice Eiseman of Seattle. “But these are somber times.”

When people are concerned about the economy, colors become more practical, says Eiseman, an author and Pantone consultant. They tend to turn to neutrals for main pieces and use bright colors or playful tones for accessories.

One plus for gray is that it’s not black, says Margaret Walch, associate director of New York-based Color Association.

It’s a favorite with intellectuals, she says, a dressy color fitting for a time when fashion is shifting into a slick, polished mode.

Gray may also be more flattering when worn with other softer tones such as blue, pink or white. And those other energizing shades work wonders in accessories and companion pieces.

Indeed, the neutral hues that flooded designers’ runways for fall and spring looked lively and appealing. We saw gray sweater dresses, jumpers with white airborne blouses, wide flannel pants, a variety of shapely suits and a platinum evening gown. Gray almost eclipsed black, the all-time favorite for fashion-minded women.

Complementary makeup

We stop at MAC cosmetics store on the Plaza in Kansas City, Mo., for tips on getting the best from gray.

Manager Amy Gorbet creates smoky eyes for Diane using shades such as Silversmith on the entire lid and the lower lash line. The eye shadow has a silver and blue cast that is flattering to different eye colors.

Dallas-based senior MAC makeup artist Gina Bettelli recommends two coats of Fibre Rich All Black mascara. And, to balance the face, a nude, pale-pink-colored lipstick in Her Fancy and a dirty gray-brown gloss called Corsette.

Bettelli, fresh from the back stages of European shows, suggests warming up charcoal and asphalt-colored clothing with a ruby-red lip color topped with gloss.

Dressing Diane

Up for consideration at N. Valentino is a medium-weight, hip-length charcoal jacket with a scrunched pale-gray scarf and red strings attached.

It’s a good basic just waiting for lively accessories. Diane quickly slides into it and poses in the mirror.

For her lighter skin tone, we try a pale, mauve-toned cashmere Henley sweater under the jacket. We lose the gray scarf for now and instead add a raspberry striped scarf around the collar. The final touch is a large pink bead on a chain.

Other pieces she can use with the jacket include a metallic gray handbag and a cozy red wool knit stole for cold days. A cool, billed, knit hat combines gray with a strong yellow band.

Clothes for Aija

Our next visit is to Standard Style Boutique on the Plaza, where our options for Aija include a smart charcoal suit with fluted edges from Nanette Lepore and a light-gray sweater dress by Mark Eisen for Karoo. Its slashed-out front looks like an open window.

The suit is a likely favorite among working women who want smart style. The sweater dress is more unique, yet you might find similar silhouettes in a wide price range.

A deep-gray turtleneck sweater would work with the sweater dress for a gray-on-gray combination. What about something more off-center and unexpected?

We opt for a satin blouse with puffy sleeves and find several colors in similar cut silks. We settle on a dark blue-green, the color of the ocean in a storm.

By the day’s end, gray is not only versatile but appealing and sophisticated. If you buy one thing this fall, make it gray, and you’ll be sure to have many options.