Fashion is a form of creative expression, just like any other art form. When it comes to style, color is one of the most important elements to consider.
We can create an aesthetically pleasing and coherent style by incorporating the elements and principles of art.
Color consists of three properties. First is hue, which is simply the name we give to a particular color (blue, red, green, gold). Second is intensity, which refers to how vivid the color is. A color’s intensity can also be referred to as its strength, saturation, or colorfulness. The third and final property is value, which refers to how light or dark the color is. Shade and tint refer to changes in the value of a color. Shading is achieved by adding black to a color while tinting a color involves adding white.
The Color Wheel
We must familiarize ourselves with the basic color wheel to make the most of color matching. All of those crazy color names out there can be traced directly back to the color wheel. Fancy colors like aquamarine, cinnabar, and amber are more simply known as blue, red, and yellow.
Something to keep in mind is the temperature of each color. We categorize colors as either warm or cool. Cool colors have blue undertones while warm colors have gold undertones. An easy way to picture this is to think of warm colors as the ones associated with daylight or sunshine. Cool colors are the ones associated with the water or the sky.
This is particularly important when using color to build your style, because we have to take our skin tone into consideration. Generally speaking, if you have a cool-color skin tone then you will look best wearing cool colors and vice versa.
Color theory is the practical guidance to color mixing and, believe it or not, finds its roots in notes made by Leonardo da Vinci. There are five main color harmonies in fashion: complementary, split-complementary, triadic, analogous, and monochromatic.
Complementary colors are colors that are located directly across from each other on the color wheel. These opposing colors are pleasing to the eye because they create maximum contrast and maximum stability. The six complementary color combos are appealing and will draw the eye directly to them.
It’s easy for an outfit created using the complementary color scheme to be loud. These colors often jump right out at the eye. A good way to experiment with complementary colors is to use a muted shade of each color. This offers the same aesthetic appeal without too much color intensity.
This color scheme is a variation of the standard complementary color scheme. To pull this one off pick one color, find its complementary color, and then pick the two colors beside the complementary color. This is an uncommon way of combining colors and can be tricky to get right. Even still, it’s well worth it when you get it right.
The triadic color scheme uses colors that are evenly spaced on the color wheel. This color scheme is usually quite vibrant, even if you use muted versions of the hues. A triadic harmony is successfully achieved when the three colors are carefully balanced. One color should dominate and the other two should be used as accents.
An analogous color scheme uses three colors that are next to each other on the color wheel. These three colors will match each other to create a harmonious and serene design. Contrast is key in this color scheme. Each of the three colors plays an important part. One color should dominate, the second should support, and the third should be used as an accent.
This color scheme uses various shades that all come from the same base color. An example of monochromatic would be an outfit composed with a navy blue shirt, dark blue jeans, and an indigo pea coat.
People often assume monochromatic color schemes only consist of grayscale or black and white. Wearing various shades of gray and black at the same time is monochromatic, but the color scheme is not limited to these colors. This color scheme gives a strong sense of visual cohesion and ties each piece of the outfit together.
When considering color we cannot forget the impact that neutrals have on fashion. Neutrals often make up the majority of most people’s wardrobes and some people dress exclusively in neutral colors. Neutrals are foolproof colors that match well with almost any color, which makes them flexible pieces in your wardrobe. Neutral colors commonly found in fashion are white, navy, black, brown, and gray along with the countless different shades of each.
This is where you should spend the lion’s share of your clothing budget because these colors form the base of any woman’s wardrobe.
Bringing Your Wardrobe Together
Creating a cohesive color scheme in your outfit can feel daunting at first, but it becomes much easier when you remember the basic guidelines underlying each different color combination.
The easiest way to wear color and experiment with different looks is to match a bright hue with one or more neutrals. Neutral colors will moderate how vivid the bright hues appear, making it easier for the look to come together.
Neutral color accessories will temper a loud, colorful outfit and will make it easier for the eye to be drawn in. Black accessories in particular provide a great contrast and edge to the color schemes discussed above. Matching neutrals with any of the color harmonies will bring coherence to your outfit.
The flip-side of this coin is equally as effective. Use color as an accent if you’re used to wearing a neutral, monochromatic color scheme. The profile of an all-neutral outfit can be raised significantly by throwing in a splash of color in the form of a well-chosen accessory like a scarf or belt.
There are thousands of colors out there and thousands of potential color combinations. This guide is a simple introduction that aims to bring the basic principles of color theory to your attention.
A big part of developing your personal style is mastering color combos that suit your taste. Work on the basics and branch out from there.