Late last year, I found myself in a meeting with three other women, and we were all dressed identically. Blue jeans of various washes, clumpy, Chelsea-style black boots with pull-on tabs, parkas (shed over the backs of our chairs), and mustard yellow sweaters. We noticed it and laughed. “This is the only kind of yellow I wear,” said a woman with wispy blonde hair. “It’s the only one that looks good on me.”
Is this brownish, orangey yellow universally flattering? Considering how many people I see wearing it, it must be. (Or perhaps we’ve decided, en masse, that what’s “flattering” no longer matters.) The mustard craze of the late 2010s appears to have started on runways and in boutiques, but it quickly made its way into home goods and other consumer products. You can buy mustard yellow midcentury modern couches from hip start-ups and mustard yellow lamps from high-end designers. There are condiment-colored cashmeres hanging off bespoke hangers in brick-and-mortar shops, and condiment-colored acrylic blends for sale online at Target. It’s become surprisingly ubiquitous—especially for a color that leans so far toward brown. This isn’t a primary, playful, dandelion-bright yellow. It isn’t the color of daffodils or spring or blooms. It’s too murky for that. This is the color of late-summer allergies, well-stocked pantries, and hashtag-adulting. It’s the color of pest-deterring marigolds and over-tall crops. It’s a harvest color, one that normally shows up later in the year, when the grasses have begun to dry and wild turkeys have begun to roam into the road. But this year, instead of waiting for its season to return, mustard hung around. It stuck around through winter and now, when pastels and florals typically get their turn, that mustard stain remains.