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Colour in Fashion

How to Wear Colour or Neutrals – Which Group are you in?

By 05/02/2010January 27th, 201745 Comments

My uniform until I started writing this blog has mostly been white, black, beige and brown. I always had the misconception that it was the most classy way to dress. Wealthy people wear a lot of white don’t they? So I always thought the more neutral my clothes were, the better and more expensive I looked (I’m quite sure this was all in my head).

But isn’t it true that you can wear the same black pants twice in the same week and no one would notice, but if they were red, people would be thinking “She’s wearing those red pants again!”.


Early this spring I wrote a post about being Fashion Challenged. And I’m not saying I’ve become a fashion expert since then but I wanted to share what I’ve learned in the past few months since I’ve been focused on becoming more fashionable, especially in the realm of wearing colour.

Here’s my first and most important fashion tip. Subscribe now to Angie’s blog You Look Fab. Don’t ask questions, just do it. If you want to be fashionable starting today, this is the best way to learn how. One of my stylish readers sent me a link to her blog and I’m forever grateful!

The greatest thing about this stylist’s blog is all the examples of how to wear something you weren’t quite sure how and sometimes she’ll even make an appearance to show you in person. Her blog is 4 years old and chock full of amazing articles and if you still can’t see yourself wearing anything but black or neutrals, it’s all there too, like this post on 6 ways to make a black top pop!

Not only is she beautiful but generous too, click here to read the story of how her Forum readers got together to buy her dream Valentino bag (below). It actually moved me to tears it was so sweet.

I spent hours reading Angie’s blog the night before I drove to Seattle to shop for Spring and it was only then that I realized she actually lived in Seattle because I would have hired her for a few hours to help me!

But it was the first time I actually had a list of things to buy (just like when I shop with my clients for furniture and accessories—too obvious that this should translate to clothes shopping as well!) like white bottoms, which look good with a lot of colourful items in the summer as well as a colourful necklance like this one she recommended (it was sold out when I arrived at Nordstrom).

The other more expensive option

Here’s a post she wrote on how to wear silver-gray. White is important to pull it together, but who knew? Not me until I read this.

I really loved this post 4 ways to wear Bright Shoes. I added bright yellow pumps to my list when I read this one and have worn them many times since I bought them!

“Wear several brights of the same intensity. I’d limit an outfit to 3 brights at a time. A pair of jeans worn with an emerald tunic and cobalt blue handbag works with a pair of yellow shoes, if the brights are of the same intensity. Throw in a pair of baby pink shoes and you’ve lost the harmony.”

The above paragraph is a direct quote from this post and I thought it was great, first because it never occurred to me to wear colour that way (and I loved it) and second when I came across this living room I had to show you that it could translate to design as well.

Certainly when choosing colours for your home. If you start with bright, clean, fresh colour you should keep going, walking from a fresh turquoise room into a muddy greeny gray would be a little more jarring (and it’s your house in the end and you should do what makes you happy).


The only thing that doesn’t work for me in this room (this is too much strong, bright colour for my taste but it’s one way to incorporate this much colour in your house) are that the drapes are not the same yellow as the chairs.

The other website I found for ideas on wearing colour is Kate Spade. Here are a few fun and happy looks from her site (I love the polka dots):

I loved this outfit too (below), but notice it looks so great because of the white bottoms! Bottom line, the easiest way to wear colour is to repeat it at least once. So if you wear a blue sweater, repeat it in a bag or shoes and you will look more classy and coordinated that way.

Citrus + Neon = Citron

Another way to incorporate colour into your wardrobe is to get a colourful bag and a matching scarf to go with it. This gives you instant colour and I do this a lot when I don’t have time to pull together a coordinated, colourful outfit.

What about you? Do you love to wear colour or do you still prefer all shades of neutral?

If you would like to transform the way you see colour, become a True Colour Expert.

Related posts:

White is a Snob

Colour vs. Neutral

When it comes to your Decor, your Friends are Polite

If you are new to this blog click here to see the best of Colour Me Happy.

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  • Lynda says:

    allrighty then….heading over there!!!!
    Kind greetings


  • Karena says:

    Hi Maria, I am wearing color more & more. I used to think that black was classier also & it would not compete with art in the gallery scene. Now I still will wear black but love vibrant with it & white!

    Art by Karena

  • AppleTree says:

    Great post! I am bookmarking her.

  • Marilyn G Russell says:

    OMG, I am so glad I stumbled on your blog because I am in love with color. Great post. I have a pair of yellow flats, which I wore to a company picnic. Although I loved it, it was too much for their conservative buts. Hey, I'm a fashion forward Bostonian living in way too conservative Florida.

  • Ele says:

    I think I may be the "stylish reader" you're talking about, Maria! Yay! Angie is indeed wonderful, I've read her blog for years now. I'm so happy you like it, too.

    To answer your question, I'm afraid I'll always be a neutrals girl at heart. I like earth tones, muted shades and lots of black. I'd rather have colour in my home than on my body 😉

  • pve design says:

    I enjoy color and mixing colors – I love the Kate Spade look –

  • Marcus Design says:

    I so agree, it is easy to think black and white looks professional and classy, but color does too!! I love the tios you shared in this post and I will definately be heading over to You Look Fab!

  • Laura PARING DOWN says:

    Great post. I am always looking for easy ways to be more fashion forward than I am currently.


  • Of course, I'm putting it on my reading list today!….like I needed one more blog to read! LOL I love fashion, and I can usually find a connect to how I designs as well. Thanks for sharing another good read with us.

  • Annie Wilcox Designs says:

    I am a color lover, and usually try to pair it with a neutral. Unfortunately all too often with jeans. I throw a scarf or chunky jewelry on and call it a day. Thanks for sharing your inspirations.

  • Susan says:

    I love this post… I'm as much in love with decorating as I am with wearing fashionable clothing.

    Heading over to her link now.

  • Kelly Berg says:

    Such a fun post! And, great color advice. I have a pair of red shoes that I wear just like a "neutral". Really, they go with anything! And, that advice about wearing two accessories/clothing items in the same color is perfect. It sooo relates to interiors, too! Always good to repeat a strong color.

    What a beautiful story about the readers buying Angie a Valentino bag!! That is so sweet. She must be pretty cool to have that kind of support.

    I will definitely check out her blog!

  • s. says:

    Great to find Ele here – she is indeed a stylish reader; I know her from reading her comments at YLF, as well as her fabulous Kitchenist blog.

    I will always be essentially a neutrals-lover. Not because I think they're necessarily classier but because I just like them. C'est tout.

  • chanteusevca says:

    Maria, You continue to outdo yourself! Love this post regarding wearing colour. I'm a colour wearer for the most part. Although I do have doubts of wearing neutrals, I still tend to throw on some of my pieces of turquoise jewelry or scarf, bag or shoes that keep me from looking morose. Only lately I've been wearing more navy with bright colours. I have a bright orange silk ruffled top from J. Crew with it and my turquoise jewelry or my fuschia silk or green with navy bottoms and my turquoise. I love white bottoms, but not on me at this time of extra pounds. But it does make the brights so delicious. I've loved Annie's blog for a few years now too. Read up on how she came by that great bag in her photos. She has a wonderful and devoted fan base like you, Maria.

    I could almost love that room with all the colour. So does the "white bottoms" translate to a white slipcovered sofa and lots of colour pop from accessories like we're doing?

  • Grace says:

    You Look Fab is wonderful isn't it? I'm glad you liked it. I also loved your ability to apply the fashion 'rules' to design.

  • sheiselectrifying says:

    I'm exactly the same way with those classic neutral colors. I usually choose red or pink as my bright colors but on a day-to-day basis I absolutely have to have my neutral shades. I'm currently in the middle of buying some new summer/spring clothes and I've been trying to be more bold and actually bought this grape taffy purplish sweater. This website is fantastic for the rest of my shopping. Thank you so much for your recommendation, you just made it so much easier for me!

  • unique unique design says:

    Can't wait to spend time looking at this blog. I'm mostly a black and white wearer. I will add color through jewelry sometimes. I'd much rather decorate a room or shop for cute clothes for my granddaughters than me. But, even an "old dog" 🙂 can learn new tricks, so thanks for the info.


    I think it is fun and funny that the colourist needs help choosing colours for her clothes ~ that is why we all need each other, eh? Thanks for the great link. Did you have fun in Seattle?

  • Lindsay says:

    It really depends on the colouring inherent in your own biology. On some people, neutrals look dull and brights enliven them. On others, bright colours just look gaudy while neutrals look calm and classy. I really enjoy the site for this, some very interesting articles there.

  • Heartfire At Home says:

    I wear a lot of black (usually as a basic long or short sleeved Tee), but also lots of colour! I love my cute cardigans! I have a hot pink one, a bright electric blue one, a purple one, a red one, a bluey/purple one, a …… oh you get the picture! And heaps of coloured jackets.

    And I love lime green and bright golden yellow… have quite a few tops with those colours, as well as lots more of the blues, purples, pinks, and bluey reds.

    I have purple and red shoes too (along with lots of black ones!) Never thought of getting a yellow pair – I'll have to try that!

    I LOVE colour!!

    Will definitely check out her blog – thanks for the great tip.

    Linda. 🙂

  • heather @ what's blooming this week says:

    Thanks Maria – this is a terrific post and I've already subscribed to the blog you mentioned. Fabulous – we all need as much advice as possible.

  • I love color on me and in my home! Neutrals wash me out… Please stop by my blog for my first giveaway!

  • Mona Thompson says:

    Love, love this post. I am going to subscribe to the style blog immediately. I love clothes and fashion and worked in Retail for years. I always had so much fun mixing and matching and styling for my clients. It seems my focus for the past 8 years has been entirely on houses and I often feel I have completely lost my fashion flair. This is going to give me a much needed boost. Thanks! I've also been feeling like I need to incorporate some of this light hearted , fun type info into my blog posts here and there for more interest. This has given me a shove in that direction as well.

  • Jacquie says:

    You would probably enjoy experimenting on – you can sort items by category (ie: shoes) style, (ie: flats) brand, (ie: Kate spade) and best of all Colour!! It's like paper dolls for adults. I enjoy it and think you'd enjoy trying out your colour mixing skills on there too. Great post.

  • [email protected] Design Pages says:

    Maria, what a great and colourful post. Thanks for putting out the word about the stylist. I could always use a little instruction regarding clothes.

  • Donna @ dh designs says:

    This is a great post Maria – thank you SO much for turning me onto "youlookfab"! I love my neutrals (blacks mostly) but am trying of late to include pops of colour. Your post has certainly given me the research to do that "properly"!

    Because we do need to look just as good as the designs we are proposing – right?!

  • Thanks for the tip Maria. I'm definitely going to check it out. We all need this kind of help.

  • Naomi says:

    so helpful… can't wait to check it out. I love fashion from a distance, but on me, I'm left totally bewildered. I've been half-haphazardly searching for a stylist in the Philadelphia area. Why should I struggle and buy lots of wrong things, when someone who knows better could help me.
    I truly believe in letting experts do what they do best.

  • Hapi says:

    hello… hapi blogging… have a nice day! just visiting here….

  • summerbl4ck says:

    Thx for the tip. I've now spent a good chunk of the afternoon on YLF!

  • mrsben says:

    Super tips! I have a tendency to wear BOTH as it depends on the occasion. ie: If is wish to keep a low profile, I rely on an ensemble of neutrals. -Brenda-

  • mrsben says:

    Ooops, shud have read "if "I" wish…….

  • caroline says:

    I am officially 'subscribed' to the 'You Look Fab' site. I'm a fashion nightmare and it's really not all in my noodle.

  • Donna says:

    Hi Maria,

    Thank you so much for this post and the links! I have been terrible at this! My daughter has strongly encouraged me to at least dress more stylishly and now I let her call the shots. Even when I so, we discuss the patterns and fabric together. I'm such a creature of habit. Thank goodness for a live in 'fashion consultant'.
    That's the problem with being focused on fabric art, poetry, and music. I'd rather create something than worry about what I'm wearing.

    I really like the gray, yellow, and white combinations! I do have one question though, what if your personal 'color palette' for your skin tone doesn't work with those colors? I thought about this while out shopping with the kids today. I would be interested to know if each of those colors works with a different palette..yellow for autumns, white for winters, gray for springs (or summer–not sure on that one). If so, I guess you could make sure to keep the right color next to your face and use the rest as jackets, pants or accessories. Wouldn't that be convenient? Of course,I'm just guessing here.:o) I do know that I would swear I've seen that combination in some of the photos of rooms you have posted. It's classy and surprising!

  • Maria Killam says:

    Hi Donna,
    You should definitely wear colours that work for your skin tone. She's got lots of articles about that in her blog too! Happy Reading and thanks for your comment!

  • Sarah says:

    Maria, after reading your post about being fashion challenged a few months ago, I booked myself and my husband in for a consultation with a personal stylist … we haven't looked back! I love colourful clothes and have plenty of them but I couldn't mix them up with each other. My problem? Not enough neutrals. Since buying a few key pieces in brown I am now more colourful than ever! Thanks so much for the great advice and links. I love your blog.

  • Donna says:

    Maria, I went shopping today because we are leaving for a tournament in Austin on Wed. morning and got a nice bright melon colored blouse–it's the perfect shade for an autumn in the spring. :o) Great post!

    By the way, I mention your blog rather pointedly in my Saturday's post on photography tips with links to your blog. I so appreciate all the blogging advice you gave on one of your previous posts and linked back to it. I scheduled my posts for this week ahead since I will be gone. Sadly, I probably won't get to read your blog until Mother's Day. Although that would be a nice treat to read several articles at once. :o)

    I'm posting a new top this Friday too…Black with white paisleys! It's about how home sewn clothes can be stylish. :o) Oh, and I invested in some new shoes. They're colorful for me at least, but I'm afraid yellow is just a wee bit bright for me to try just yet.

    I'll have to check out your fashion friend's blog on Mother's day too. I plan to do lots of reading! See you Sunday!

  • Twenty Two Flamboyant Street says:

    Thanks, Maria, for sharing information so generously. I love your blog, always choc full of valuable information. I'm so excited about the link you gave to Angie's blog, I'm popping over there now. Blessings to you for your big sweet heart.

  • sliptakz says:

    i ended up wearing only blacks and whites, i should check out that blog that you suggested it's time ;))

  • Things That Inspire says:

    Thank you SO much for posting this…I read some of her recommendations for 'pear shapes', and shopped with this in mind today. I bought two amazing dresses that I never would have considered before, and stayed away from others that would have just looked awful on me (but I would have bought for the color alone).

  • Anonymous says:

    Here's a question for you. As someone with (naturally) red hair, I often wear neutrals and let my hair serve as my "pop" of colour. I feel that bright-coloured hair gives me opportunities and challenges that brunettes, blondes and black haired people don't have. Do you think redheads should wear as much bright colours as others?

  • My wardrobe is completely colurful…don't have a single black thing…
    and yet,after this post I know I have to learn so much more about proper dressing
    thank you Maria,I love your blog so much,just can't stop reading it

  • Lexine says:

    That’s cleared my thoughts. Thanks for contbriuitng.

  • Loretta says:

    I discovered ‘You Look Fab’ a while ago & love it !

  • keira says:

    i am wearing brights more the last few years and love them! i’ve found that they–especially cooler brights like aqua and greens–often don’t pop as much as I want with blue jeans, so i am wearing the heck out of a pair of white jeans.

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