Despite what old black and white photos might imply, color theory in clothing has been around since the early 1900s. Since then, the field quickly divulged into what would appear on the outside as a confusing science.
What aspiring fashionistas need from a fashion guide on color is, well, guidance through this maze of knowledge. Everybody (and every-body) is different, so a one-size-fits-all instruction manual won’t work. What you need, and what we provide below, is a collection of color combining pointers, tips, and tricks.
Are you wondering what colors look good on every complexion? Read on for the latest looks.
1. Black and White
Are you preparing for a job interview? Maybe you need to boost your confidence ahead of a school entrance interview? Whyever you need more pep in your step, research from 2016 proves that dressing in black will help you put the right foot forward.
From the Little Black Dress (LBD)–pioneered by Coco Chanel and made famous by Audrey Hepburn–to a designer wedding dress, black and white clothing is embedded in our culture as statement-making colors. If you’re brave enough to don an all-white pantsuit like Geraldine Ferraro or Jerry Emmett, we say all the power to you!
You don’t need to pick one or the other, either. Mix and match black and white pieces and accessories to create a dramatic monochromatic look. Pair a geometrically long black trench coat with shiny white boots, or channel Lauren Becall and pair a sultry black dress with a demur strand of pearls.
Monochrome was a massive trend in the fashion world in 2020, and this timeless combination is also set to take the stage in 2021.
2. Trending Colors
Would you ever believe that wearing neutrals might hurt your chances to nap that swipe right on Tinder? Well, analytics released by the popular dating app say yes! Wearing outfits in vibrant or trending colors is sure to help you stand out in a decidedly same-same crowd.
But how do you know what colors are in fashion in the fickle, fast-paced fashion industry? Scour the internet for blogs focused on street fashion, read every issue of leading fashion magazines like Marie Claire and Vogue, and ask your local clothing boutique owners for their advice.
Grey, cream, beige, and tan skirts, tanks, tees, and pants. Boring, you exclaim! We hear you yawn.
Well, we’re here to tell you the neutral is now when it comes to clothing.
A neutral color palette benefits those who want to layer their clothing (perhaps you live in a climate with four seasons in one day) or people who like to accentuate their clothing structure. Certain clothing brands are champions of the neutral look–think MUJI from Japan and sustainable apparel companies that use natural fabrics like cotton and linen.
Minimalism is another rapidly rising trend that has influenced the popularity of neutrals in recent years.
Championed by celebrity professional organizers like Marie Kondo and less-is-more fashion gurus like author Harriet Walker, minimalism is about paring back your possessions to the bare essentials. In the words of Kondo, keep what “sparks joy.”
Fashionistas the world over are shopping in their closest rather than online, creating minimalist capsule wardrobes of just 20 to 30 items. To get everything to match, they’re purging their closets of bright colors and patterned fabrics and favoring neutrals.
4. Seasonal Colors
For inspiration on what colors might suit which season, look to fashion magazines, paintings of the four seasons by famous artists, or even just take a walk in a local park.
Most clothing ranges released in what is known as “seasonal colors” are inspired by the colors you find in nature during those seasons.
If this all seems a bit too undefined for you, we’ve got you covered. Joint research from Brown University, Wheaton College, and the University of California-Berkeley showed that people prefer dark-warm colors in the fall than in the other three seasons.
There’s another school of thought regarding seasonal outfitting that might be worth exploring.
Seasonal color analysis (also known as seasonal color theory) was conceptualized and built-on in the early 1900s by philosophers, painters, and writers. The idea really took off in the 1980s when author Carol Jackson wrote her bestselling book, Color Me Beautiful.
There are 12 color seasons that match the natural color palette found in your hair, skin, and eyes. These color seasons (essentially 12 colors) partner with three color dimensions: hue and temperature, value, and chroma.
For example, someone with a cool complexion will shine in silver, but gold will wash them out. And people who fall in the “Bright Winter” palette would (conversely) do well to stick with preppy summer outfits.
Okay, so denim isn’t technically a color, but it’s such a staple fabric and comes in so many shades that we only thought it right to include it.
With the recent push from consumers for eco-friendly clothing, everything denim-related is making a comeback. Brands are embracing new technologies that allow them to craft biodegradable, plant-based stretch jean fabrics with less impact on the planet.
When it comes to color, anything goes–so long as it’s a hue of blue. If you really can’t bear to part with your love of colored denim, then stick to pastels.
The writing’s on the denim: jeans are set to replace your sweats.
A Fashion Guide for Color Lovers
If you’ve been pondering which summer colors for clothing you should add to your wardrobe or how to shop for clothing in colors that actually suit you, we hope this fashion guide provided some useful tips and tricks. At the very least, we’re certain we’ve answered that age-old fashion question: “Are there any colors that look good on everyone?”
If you’re keen to dive deeper into the world of fashion and luxury lifestyle, be sure to browse the other articles on our blog.
Iskra Banović is our seasoned Editor-in-Chief at BlueFashion. She has been steering the website's content and editorial direction since 2013. With a rich background in fashion design, Iskra's expertise spans across fashion, interior design, beauty, lifestyle, travel, and culture.