Mother nature and designers are all big fans of color blocking. It’s an easy way to infuse color into a design without using prints or patterns. It’s been a strong trend for a couple years now and it continues into fall. I’m a huge fan because it’s super versatile and gets women to wear more color. Yay! Also, you can pretty much pull it together from your existing wardrobe and then just add accents when you feel like it. What’s not to love?
If you have ever worn black pants, a white shirt and tossed on a red pashmina or turquoise beads or some other colored accessory, you have successfully color blocked. Don’t you feel fashion savvy now? Since you’ve clearly mastered the basic concept, let’s explore the nuances of color blocking and move on to some advanced maneuvers.
In the world of color blocking there are 3 broad catagories: Neutral + Neutral; Neutral + Color; Color + Color.
The black + white+ color option is a neutrals + color example. Everything in last week’s post on B&W fashion is an obvious example of neutral color blocking. If you’re color shy, start there and add in pops of color with your accessories. But if you’re ready for more color, here we go!
Here’s a pretty basic neutral + neutral + neutral example: navy chinos, a white t shirt and a khaki jacket. Most of us probably have something similar in our closet.
It’s super easy to introduce color at this point simply by swapping one of the neutral pieces with something colorful. Adding orange to the navy/khaki mix makes it somewhat nautical, but still classic. Now we have color + neutral + neutral.
We can go a little bolder by changing the pants. Cobalt pants might seem ballsy on a hanger, but they’re tempered by neutrals and keep the bright color from overwhelming the ensemble. This seems fresh and modern.
But now, we’re tired of playing it safe. We want more color! This is color + color + neutral, but because the cobalt and the orange are complementary, the color really jumps out! But, the khaki jacket grounds it.
Here is another color + color + neutral, but since the shirt and jacket are analogous, the color doesn’t seem as bold. Two examples of strong shots of color, but neither feels dated or outlandish.
Another analogous example, but with darker, blue based colors that pull the navy pants into the analogous scheme for a dressier effect. This is moving towards monochromatic because the colors all share same the same base. But, since we still have three very distinct color families, it’s not quite there.
Let’s go all the way now, shall we? Color + color + color. It’s bright and festive, but again, with the top and jacket being so close, colorwise, it doesn’t feel like a huge risk.
If we want a lot of punch in our color + color + color, we’d add in another complementary pop of color with a different jacket. (This actually becomes a split-complementary color scheme because the yellow and orange are spaced evenly from the cobalt on a color wheel.) If you’re going for all color, 3 is the limit. Period. Otherwise, it winds up looking crazy.
And, finally, a monochromatic! It’s the hardest to wear without buying the pieces all together. Every now and then you get really lucky and find a set in your closet that works beautifully, but it’s a challenge. If you really love this look, mixing textures and fabrics makes it more forgiving.
*I don’t want to confuse anyone, but while we tend to think of neutrals as things like black, white, navy, grey, khaki, etc. they can really be anything. From a fashion perspective, neutrals are the foundation of your wardrobe- the colors or shades that you can build the maximum number of outfits off of. If red is your signature color and you wear it everyday and the bulk of your wardrobe pairs beautifully with red, then red could be your neutral. In my Style 101 workshop, I spend a good chunk of time on how to develop and expand you color palate and how to define your neutrals. The moral of this footnote is that you can and should live in the colors that you love.