A pale, creamy suit really makes a statement. Today, it speaks to the unabashed enjoyment of a stylish summer’s day. But in the past, the light coloured suit had a whole series of other things to say, potent social signifiers that remain vital elements of its DNA even now.
Until around 100 years ago, wearing a pale suit communicated one key message: “I am rich.” In the down’n’ dirty olden days, before all and sundry had ready access to washing machines or laundromats, only the wealthy could afford to wash their clothing regularly. The poor were forced, for practical reasons, to wear dark colours blue, grey, black and brown to conceal their grimy existence and the fact that they owned precious few garments. Not for nothing were the masses known as ‘the great unwashed’.
Meanwhile, wearing light coloured clothing indicated that you didn’t need to stoop to physical labour. Heck, you probably didn’t work at all. And even if your apparel became soiled, you had plenty more in the wardrobe plus household staff to keep your clothes clean. In pristine cream, white, ivory, beige, eggshell, oatmeal or perhaps a natty pastel, the light coloured suit was a status symbol.