Complementary colors

How colour theory affects clothes that go together

Complementary colours are found on opposite sides of the colour wheel to each other. The term ‘complementary colours’ can be misleading when it comes to fashion advice on the colours that go as it does not necessarily mean that wearing them together will be complementary on you! Rather it means that they complement each other, they bring out and emphasise each other. Perfect if you want to create a striking poster – not so perfect if you’re trying to create a sophisticated outfit.

How to wear them
Unless you are a very confident dresser it is best to avoid wearing complementary colours together. Instead why not try wearing one colour with a paler tint of its opposite, such as green with light pink or blue with pale gold?

Analogous Colours
Analogous colours are next to each other on the colour wheel. As they are similar to each other and easy on the eye in combination they make a pleasing palette for an outfit.

How to wear them
Limit yourself to no more than three analogous colours in your outfit. Stick to two and a neutral and you can’t go wrong.

Limit yourself to no more than three analogous colours in your outfit. Stick to two and a neutral and you can’t go wrong.

General fashion advice on colours that go
If you’re wearing more than one item the same colour, make sure they are either exactly the same colour, or clearly different shades of the same colour. Nearly the same but not quite is not a good look as it looks like you’ve tried to match exactly and failed.
If you’re wearing all black don’t wear brown shoes. Black and brown can be tricky to wear together without looking mismatched so if you do, make sure you pull it together with accessories to make it into a real colour scheme rather than looking accidental.

Brown and ‘warm neutrals’ look lovely when combined together and make great fashion colours for fall or autumn. However, they do not mix well with warm tones such as red, pink and purple so instead team them with cool colours such as blue or green.
A small splash of a warm colour in a cool colour palette add interest without overdoing it e.g. a red tie on a blue shirt or yellow accessories with a green dress.

Lots of pastel colours together can look too sugary sweet. Try one pastel colour with a neutral (e.g. pale pink and grey) or a pastel with a deep version of the same colour instead (e.g. pale blue and dark blue)
Keep to one pattern only per outfit, even if the colours match.

Limit yourself to 3 colours (including neutrals) per outfit, unless the additional colours make up a pattern or print.

Don’t mix black and navy.
Don’t mix white and cream.
Don’t mix brown and grey.

The color wheel
The color wheel is an excellent wardrobe tool! Figuring it out isn’t too complicated. Here’s a quick breakdown:

You can make the following combos using the color wheel as your guide:

1. Colors directly next to each other (i.e. yellow and yellow-orange; yellow and yellow-green; violet and blue-violet, etc.)
2. Colors that form right (90 degree) angles with each other (i.e. yellow and red-orange; blue and violet-red; green and orange, etc.)
3. Colors directly across from each other (i.e. yellow and violet; blue and orange; red and green, etc.)
4. Colors that form a T (i.e. blue, orange, and violet-red; yellow, violet, and red-orange; yellow, blue-green, and red-orange, etc.)
5. Colors that form an X (i.e. blue, orange, violet-red, and yellow, violet, blue-green, and red-orange, etc.)

Since brown is a neutral, it will go with virtually any color on the color wheel ! I love to pair a chocolate brown with cobalt blue or fuchsia or bright red—such a fun and bold combo. Of course white, black, and the hues of blue found in denim are also neutrals that go with just about anything.

Here’s top 5 tips:

1. Don’t put on more than three colors.
That’s a very old rule that I always try to follow. Once somebody told me that the sophisticated and classy ladies do not wear clothes in more than three colors at the same time. And I should say I absolutely agree with this argument. That means if you have bottom and top in different tones and you don’t have purse and shoes in neither of these colors, choose them both in neutral (white or black). That’s it – three is enough. More than that is elaborate and overdressed.

2. Don’t match warm with warm colors.

Honestly for me the ugliest combination is red with orange or pink. However lately I am seeing more and more matchings of these colors. Maybe it’s trendy or fashionable, however I don’t like it and I would not wear more than one warm color at the same time. Red, pink, orange and yellow should be matched with cold or neutral colors.

3. Purse & Shoes & Belt should match

That’s probably my rule number 1 – especially when it comes to shoes and purse – they have to be in one and the same color. Period. And it will be nice if the belt is matching too. I can’t understand how people don’t find it necessary to match the shoes with the purse? Of course there might be exceptions, however still pick up your bag to be at least a color that you have on.

4. Match your nail polish
I hate to see red pedicure and orange manicure – it’s just not right. And I am not saying we should wear only one and the same nail polish, but we can at least try to match the colors. What I mean is: if your pedi is light pink, use a shade of the pink (bright, neon) for the manicure so the difference won’t be that obvious.

5. Don’t wear same color top and bottom.

This rule is valid especially for the warm bright colors – can you imagine wearing neon yellow or tomato red top and bottom – I think kind-a-overdressed? So, avoid too much matching unless it is black + black or white + white. Wearing one and the same color top & bottom is ok for the neutral tones, otherwise – use your imagination or the color wheel.


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