I frequently refer to these light neutrals. Several people have requested an explanation of the differences between them, particularly between cream and beige. I’m happy to oblige.

  • White: Optical white is a blindingly bright white. A pair of white jeans is usually optical white.
  • Off-white: This is a dirty white like the colour of bone. It’s as if optical white was mixed with a spot of grey. It’s a cold colour and tends to look good on people who can wear light grey close to the face.
  • Cream: The colour of pearls, ivory and liquid whipping cream. This tone is warmer and richer than white and off-white. It contains a hint of yellow and looks good on people who wear warm colours well.
  • Beige: Tan, khaki, taupe, nude and stone are all versions of beige. They are not cream or off-white. They are light browns. You’ll find chinos in this colour. Deepening a shade of beige results in camel and caramel coloured hues which are richer and generally more flattering.

Beige is hard to wear close to the face unless you’re dark-skinned and even then it’s best when matched with a contrasting colour (like black or a bright). Beige comes to life when the fabric is iridescent or mixed with metallic lurex thread. This gives the colour depth and interest and that’s often the best solution to wearing beige close to the face. As a bottom, beige is boring. It can look conservative and I do not often encourage this look unless it is required.

The “whites” (white, off-white and cream) are better choices for tops and bottoms. They offer both a modern classic and contemporary edge that’s forever fresh and versatile. These shades pop whereas beige does not. It’s a question of choosing “your white”. Some people look better in cream, while others look better in bone or white. Experiment and try a form of white instead of beige. You’ll be surprised.

Nanette Lepore Seaside Knit JacketRebecca Taylor Petal Front Chiffon TeeLauren by Ralph Lauren Pleat Silk Sheath DressDIESEL® 'Cherock' Stretch Denim TrousersJackson Chino TrouserDemi Boot Cut Trouser

Top: Off-white pea-coat, a cream blouse and dress.
Bottom: White jeans, beige and taupe pants.
My whites are white and cream on top and at the bottom (but not together). I look dreadful in off-white and beige and steer clear of them close to the face. Beige pants are not my style so I don’t wear those either.