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My Boyfriend’s Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat

By Amalah

Hi Amalah,
I’m hoping this will qualify as an “easy” question.
Why does my boyfriend’s high quality light brown suit jacket look like pixelated newsprint close up? From far away, it’s a nice, neutral color…but then you get close and suddenly you notice that every fiber is a different color. Light blue! Pink! What the heck? Why can’t it just be brown? Should I be mortified to be seen standing next to him when he’s wearing it? Or am I incredibly uncultured for not getting that this is a mark of quality, like he claims?

Uhh. What?
I admit that since I’m not getting a whole lot of sleep these days, I’m not exactly ready for a Jeopardy! appearance or anything, but still. Your boyfriend and his jacket genuinely stumped me, because like you, I have NEVER heard of this multicolored “mark-of-quality” business either. But as I keep reminding myself: there’s a world of information out there beyond Wikipedia. Perhaps this fabric thing is a part of that world.
So I read your question aloud to my husband, who is a bit of a clothing snob. (And by “bit” I mean “TOTAL MASSIVE SNOB.”) He, in turn, gave me a look that I can only describe as, “Bwaahuhschwaaat?”
Here’s the thing: it’s the FIBERS that make a fabric high quality (i.e. wool vs. silk vs. cotton vs. polyester), along with the dyes. (And it’s the CONSTRUCTION that makes a garment high-quality.) While using a lot of differently-dyed fibers in the fabric may make for a more visually interesting piece, it’s not like the fabric was hand-woven, with each thread carefully and individually selected to create a stunning mosaic of…brown fabric.
No, the multi-colored fibers were most likely loaded into a huge industrial loom in a huge factory somewhere, woven by machine into yard after yard of fabric, then sent out across the world where it was eventually chosen by a fabric buyer for whatever label designed the jacket. (And at this point the fabric may very well have been shipped overseas to a sweatshop, depending on what the “Made In…” label says.)
This is NOT to say that the jacket ISN’T high quality. I’m sure the dyes and the fibers and construction of the jacket are indeed, just super awesome and great. But the multi-colored aspect of the fabric is very much more than likely a DESIGN CHOICE by the jacket’s maker, and not a “mark of quality” in and of itself. Sure, it means that the fibers were dyed BEFORE the fabric was woven (instead of, say, tossed into a big vat of dye afterwards), but this would be true of ANY fabric used for a suit jacket — even a “cheap” suit jacket. And brown fabric made up of truly all-brown fibers can be just as good as an optical-illusion-like fabric.
Personally, though, I think his jacket sounds cool. Certainly nothing to be mortified over. So…I award one “I’m Right” point to each of you, thus the score remains tied.


About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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I’m thinking that this is a nice quality in the brown because a greater quantity of shirts & ties are going to go with it. Like how a light blue pinstripe in a grey suit brings in more color options & can make a blue tie “pop” more. So maybe with multiple colors, more shirts & ties “pop”??
(Just a thought)


This is going to sound weird at first, but bare with me. When you’re doing costume or scenic painting for the stage, the color a costume or set piece “reads” to an audience is very different than the way it looks up close. If you want a gray wall, you could paint it gray — or you could dapple it bunches of different colors that “read” gray from the audience, but an interesting gray, not the flat gray you’d get with gray paint. The same holds true for fabric. You can weave a fabric that “reads” brown or gray out… Read more »

Jay Bird
Jay Bird

To Danielle- I do costumes for my local high school. (Hell week started this week, please shoot me) For last years play I tried to dye a green dress purple. I used a container that was too small to dye it in so the dress looked like it was tie dyed. On top of this there was a gauzey fabric that was on top of the normal dress fabric, this didn’t dye at all. (Well it did around the armpit so it looked like the actor was sweating purple.) Long story short the dress looked horrible off stage. But on… Read more »