Originally posted on Geeky-Mama three years ago today. I’ve decided to revamp it and repost here. Enjoy!

I’ve noticed while browsing Pinterest and Polyvore that a lot of outfits tend to be just a few shades of the same color or boasting only one additional color. While fashion is all relative and there are plenty of people who know how to rock that mono- or dichromatic look1, I feel some may be afraid to add a splash of color. I get it, when colors clash you can be a literal eyesore, but adding color to your outfits is fun and easy! I’m no fashion designer, but I do have a few pointers I picked up in the art classes I took while trying to break up the monotony of science labs and math lectures in college.

First and foremost your outfit doesn’t need to match head to toe, but it should go together. There is a difference between matching and going and the difference can be pretty awesome. Let’s use neutrals to explain this.

The common neutrals are white, black, brown (khakis and tans included), blue (not always just navy) and gray2. These colors pretty much always go together and go with other colors, and in most situations can be used interchangably. Let’s take a look at an outfit made up entirely of neutrals.

Adding color to your outfits by starting with neutrals.

So we’ve got a white shirt and denim jeans to serve as a plain canvas with neutral colored accessories. They’re not the same color or different shades of the same color, so they don’t match, but they do go together. Let’s mix it up!

Adding color to your outfits by starting with neutrals.

Similar pieces, just changed the colors around, and it all still goes. That’s why they’re neutrals, they’re awesomely versatile! Now, let’s try adding some color.

Adding color to your outfits by starting with neutrals.Adding color to your outfits by starting with neutrals.

You can see on the left we added a little pop of color and hey, everything still looks great. Huzzah neutrals! On the right we’ve added another pop of color and because these colors go together everything still looks totally fab. Once you have a solid foundation with neutral pieces, the first step to adding color to your outfit is figuring out which colors go together best.

Adding color to your outfits by starting with neutrals.When it comes to going beyond neutrals and finding colors that go I always start at the color wheel. Yep, the same one you’ve probably seen a million times since kindergarten. There are two main ways to describe colors that go well together: analogous and complementary. Analagous colors are near each other on the color wheel, like red and orange, and because they look alike they look nice when paired together. Complementary colors are opposite each other on the color wheel, like yellow and blue, and when put together each is more noticeable. Another thing to take into account with colors are cool and warm shades. The left half of the color wheel are the blues and greens and are considered cools. On the right are the yellows and reds, the warms. In the world of fashion, which reaches way beyond 12 colors, there can be cool and warm within the same color and shade. Take these into account when pairing colors, even neutrals. It’s easier to make things go together if they’re all cool or all warm.

When it comes to mixing colors, especially complementary colors, it’s all about finding pleasant pairings. Here are some common complementary pairings that go well together.

Adding color to your outfits by starting with neutrals.Adding color to your outfits by starting with neutrals.

Once you have a good pairing, or even more than two colors, you can fill out the rest of the outfit with neutrals. Remember, neutrals go well with other colors and each other, so the rest of your outfit doesn’t have to be one neutral color. You can pair black shoes with a brown bag, or a navy peacoat with a gray scarf. Here are some more examples of mixing up colors and holding it all together with neutrals.

Adding color to your outfits by starting with neutrals. Adding color to your outfits by starting with neutrals.
Adding color to your outfits by starting with neutrals. Adding color to your outfits by starting with neutrals.

Now I know there are lot of people out there who wouldn’t wear any of this, and that’s cool. Your style is your style and it’s not good or bad, just yours. But for the people out there who are afraid of color, afraid of pairing black and brown or adding more than one bright hue, this is for you. Colors are beautiful, wear them!

  1. Hello, Vera Wang! 

  2. Some people suggest olive as a neutral, which I suppose could be true, but I’m not a big fan of olive. Sometimes looks good, sometimes looks dank. Go with what you feel. 

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  • Inspiring post, and yay for colors! I used to wear only neutral colors (mostly black), but I feel so much better in colors now :)

  • OH MY GOODNESS I didn’t know the site that made the clothes. POLYVORE. Now I can never leave the internet. Thanks a LOT, Cori.

    I have been adding more colour to my wardrobe lately and I have been loving it. I have my basic pieces that are neutral and then I have pieces that I am adding that dress up my wardrobe. I’m working on it!

  • I officially hate you… Now I have to try this damn site out and it’s going to be yet another thing to make me procrastinate! </3

    (i kid, <3)

  • This was so informative, my goodness! Thanks for the Fashion 101 course Cori, I was feeling pretty hopeless! And LOVE the items you picked out as well.

    This was a fantastic post

  • Bah, I SO wish I were more adventurous with my color palettes.

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