Incorporating Color Theory Into Your Style

By Nickie Hayes

When it comes to putting colors together in an outfit, most people just gravitate toward neutral colors or colors they are comfortable wearing. What if you want to branch out? 

Knowing what colors go well together can be hard to master if you are unfamiliar with color theory. According to the Interaction Design Foundation, color theory is a tool used by designers to present an attractive color scheme through specific principles and guidelines. 

Using the color wheel, one can understand the basics of color theory and how to apply these rules when choosing an outfit. To put it simply, there are a few concepts everyone should know. These are extremely helpful when picking out an outfit and especially when you are trying to pick an outfit that has lots of color. 

An interpretation of the color wheel using paint samples. Photo by  Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Madison Whiteley, a senior at Lasell University, has a major in fashion merchandising and retail with a minor in communications. For those who are not well versed in color theory, Whiteley suggests another way to keep up with the latest colors in fashion.

“I would say look a bit more into trend forecasting for the upcoming season when purchasing new pieces to wear,” she said.

Whiteley said that the brands already know what colors are going to be in for the season. So, if you look into what the popular companies are selling for the upcoming season, you might have a better idea of what colors are going to be popular. 

However, if you are really looking to ditch the neutrals, the most simple concept to grasp is what complementary colors are. All you have to do is look at a color wheel and see which colors are across from each other. For instance, blue is across from orange on the color wheel, and that makes them complementary. The same goes for red and green and yellow and purple. 

The use of the complementary colors red and green in an editorial photo. Photo by  Ruslan Bardash on Unsplash.

Another way to look at the color wheel is to split it in half. On one side there are the warm tones, red, orange and yellow, and on the other side are the cool tones, green, blue and purple. You can mix and match warm and cool colors or stay in one family. However, to add something extra to your outfit, Whitely suggests blending the color families. 

“Recently, I have been super into bringing both warmer and cooler tones into separate outfits,” she said. “When spring and summer roll around, I play more with fun prints and pops of color.”

On the topic of spring, it is already in full swing. You might be asking, what colors should I use for this time of year? Well, Whitely also has an answer. 

“I typically gravitate towards pastel colors because I love the light hues and softness it brings to an outfit. I normally pair pastel colors with neutrals such as white and lighter shades of denim,” she said.

This is a great way to slowly incorporate more colors into your style. Pairing pastels with neutrals is the ultimate segway into embracing the warmer season and expressing that through your outfit, while still going out of your comfort zone. 

Here’s one look for spring if you want to try wearing pastels. Photo by Joshua Rondeau on Unsplash

Whiteley also recommends accessorizing as another way to make your closet more vibrant. “I personally love accessories to add more to any look, such as a patterned or fun colored belt with details, hairclip or purse,” she said. 

However, if that is not enough color for you, try a monochromatic color scheme or a tonal color scheme with your outfit. This is when you pair an outfit with different hues of the same color or the same color group. 

Whiteley said this may be too much color for her taste though. “I haven’t tried styling tonal colors as much as the others because sometimes I feel I get lost in too much of one color and I need to break the outfit up.” 

Whatever your style preferences are, using color theory can help you understand what looks good according to the designers. Of course, these are not hard and fast rules. You can follow these guidelines to help you get started, but the important thing is to wear what you think looks great on you. 

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