Continuing the discussion of common style questions I’ve been asked over the last past six months, today let’s talk about colour. Colour can be intimidating to people, especially when they’re called upon to mix and match. Black is a default pairing, but there are few quicker ways to update one’s style than by foregoing the safety net and trying out more adventurous combinations.
For beginners, I highly recommend taking tips on colour matching from prints. After all, someone has already done the hard work for you – if you like a print, it means that the colours not only work together, but the pairing(s) also tickle your style fancy. And that’s an important consideration, because not everyone will like the same colour combinations. (or colours, period). Luckily, most colours can be ingeniously matched with any number of options so if, for example, you love orange but loathe turquoise, you won’t be stuck for choices (more on that later).
Here is an example. The print:
The lesson: that lavender and chartreuse (a pairing that might not have suggested itself to me otherwise) can look great together. Of course, it helps that I already had just those colours in my wardrobe.
This combination could also work if I replaced the print camisole with a top in a solid colour, like white; the print gives the outfit added visual interest, but it’s only a beginning – once you find a colour combination that works, it’s worth trying in a few different ways, even if it means abandoning your original inspiration. [And sometimes, a print is truly just inspiration; it doesn’t necessarily have to even be a piece of clothing. A favourite abstract painting or a photograph can be just the ticket.]
While I always encourage people to experiment away from black, when you are working with one really strong colour (or more), a little bit of black comes in handy in terms of “grounding” an outfit. Think accessories – a belt, shoes, bag, etc. If you have it in your closet, a softer neutral like cream or camel can also do the job, provided that it’s a good match for the palette with which you’re working.
For the truly adventurous, trying all-out colour – the wilder the combination, the better – will take you to the forefront of fashion this upcoming season. Unorthodox colour combinations showed up all over the runways for spring/summer 2011, Prada offering perhaps the most unorthodox of them all.
Prada – spring/summer 2011
Of course, I’m not suggesting that pairing yellow and green is for everyone. [And that monkeys and bananas print … hmm.] If you’re looking for something a little more sedate, here are some options:
Traditional match: black, grey, navy
Non-traditional match: red
Accent colour: jade, turquoise
Audrey Tatou (Lanvin)
Gwyneth Paltrow (Prada) – note the jade necklace
Traditional match: black, grey, camel
Non-traditional match: aqua, purple
Accent colour: green
Prabal Gurung – spring/summer 2011
Kyra Sedgwick (Emilio Pucci) – note the earrings
Traditional match: white, navy, grey (black too strong)
Non-traditional match: blue, pink
Accent colour: purple (see SJP pic below)
DKNY – spring/summer 2011
Traditional match: black, brown
Non-traditional match: mustard yellow, orange
Accent colour: turquouise, chartreuse
Gucci – spring/summer 2011
Sarah Jessica Parker – note the shoes and earrings
Traditional match: white, navy, black (not in stripes)
Non-traditional match: lime green, lavender
Accent colour: aqua, purple
Diane von Furstenber – spring/summer 2011
Dior – spring/summer 2011 – note the embellishments
Traditional match: cream, camel, navy
Non-traditional match: periwinkle blue
Accent colour: black, mint green
Celine – spring/summer 2011
Diane von Furstenberg – spring/summer 2011
One tip for remembering easy colour combinations is to keep a colour wheel handy.
Colours that directly face each other on the colour wheel are complementary (e.g. blue and orange). Similarly, look for triads – three colours evenly spaced on the wheel (e.g. green, orange and purple) – as these colours will also work well together; pick one as your main colour, and keep the other(s) as accents.
Have a specific colour question? Leave it in the comments!