Black and white accented with hot pink
Punch It Up. The simplest way to add color to a neutral wardrobe is to add a single, bright accent color. Adding red shoes to a black and white outfit is probably the first example that comes to mind. Don’t feel limited to red though. Try hot pink, instead, with black and white. Add bright turquoise to browns. Carry a purple bag with your all gray outfit. If you find a color you love, buy many accessories in that color. Then, sprinkle them liberally through your neutral outfits.
Red and green are opposites, but choosing an olive green keeps the outfit from looking Christmas-y
Opposites Attract. The surest way to create a “get noticed” color combo is to wear opposing colors from the color wheel. However, I’d stay away from purely primary mixes (like red/green), and, instead, mix tomato and olive or persimmon and turquoise. Pairing opposites looks fresh, bold, and fun.
Watch Your Saturation. Nope, this isn’t an admonition against drunk dressing. (Heck, a little wine may be just what you need to get your inspiration on.) Saturation refers to the intensity of the color. Ever read about jewel tones or pastels being the season’s “look”? These are colloquial terms that refer to saturation. A pulled together look consists of color combinations that are matched in saturation. Hot pink looks great with leaf green (at least I think so), while pale pink looks better with light green or even soft gray. You can mix colors that may one may not normally think of as “going together” (like yellow and purple), if you keep the saturation the same (mustard and amethyst). While you can create a unique look by mixing saturation, it’s an advanced skill.
Pink shirt, pink dress, pink shoes!
Be Matchy-Matchy. Or not. If you’re wearing your hot pink dress, should you wear your hot pink shoes? I say, “Go for it!” (And I have.) It isn’t the most sophisticated look, but it’s fun and will garner you attention. But you don’t need to be overly color coordinated. If you pay any attention to the In Style spreads, you’ll notice that while the whole outfit goes together, it isn’t entirely color matched. For example, adding red pumps to an outfit mostly in shades of blue and neutrals is unexpected and sophisticated (check out this example from Londyn). If you don’t want to match, don’t, but try not to add more than one “unmatched” color into the mix and be sure to Watch Your Saturation.
Leopard print (and a patterned handbag) bridge black and brown
Black and Brown Go Together. And so do black and navy. I don’t recommend wearing just a navy dress and black shoes, but if you throw a matching black belt and perhaps a black purse into the mix, the look is chic. The key is to mix these colors as if you meant to do it, not as if you got dressed in the dark. I find this trick especially useful to incorporate navy items into my wardrobe. I already own black and brown footwear. Who wants to maintain navy as well? By incorporating black into my navy ensembles, I don’t need navy pumps. If you’re feeling gun-shy about combining black and brown, try using leopard print as a bridging piece, as pictured above.
Are you ready to add color to your wardrobe? I’ve recapped some of the above advice and grouped it by difficulty.
Beginner. The beginner has a wardrobe of mostly neutrals (black, brown, gray, white). Pick your favorite color and use that as your guide to purchasing colorful items. Add one colorful piece to a neutral outfit to Punch It Up. Be Matchy Matchy. People will think your style is sharp!
Intermediate. Pair opposite colors, but Watch Your Saturation. Try incorporating two colors (other than neutrals) into an outfit. Add an accessory in a third color to be not Matchy Matchy. You’ll hear the words “chic” and “sophisticated” used to describe you by folks at the water cooler.
Advanced. Mix black and brown or black and navy. Mix saturations. Wear an outfit composed of three or more colors (but don’t turn into Rainbow Brite). You’ll notice people giving you double and third takes as they struggle to digest your outfit. Some people won’t get it, but true fashionistas will.
Turquoise and mint and persimmon, oh my!
Most importantly have fun and wear your colors proudly. You can carry almost anything off with the right attitude. If you are truly happy with a wardrobe of neutrals, don’t change. But if you’re longing for more color in your life, don’t think it’s only for those “fashion-y” people. Wear what you love, and others will love it too.
This post is an updated version of Color Yourself Happy, originally published 9/9/2007 at http://whatiwore2day.blogspot.com.