Friday Five: Color Theory 101


Ever wonder why certain colors look good together? Or why certain colors look great on some people, but not others? There's a whole science behind color, artists study it, designers are inspired by it, Pantone tells us which ones are "the color of the year" or "season" and fashion stylists study it as a theory.

When I started my certificate program at Parsons, one of the classes I was most excited about was Color Theory. So it was quite a disappointment when I found that wasn't on the curriculum for the Fashion Business track (they do offer it, of course, but it's on the Design track). So I decided to educate myself and bought a couple books on the subject. One that I liked is called Color: Messages and Meanings, by Leatric Eiseman, in collaboration with Pantone. Not only does it go through the color families, their moods and trends, but it also has a particular focus on brand, image and visual presentations. Great for someone who is looking for basic color theory information geared toward advertising or marketing.

Here's quick lesson on how to use this information to get dressed. There are 12 "pie slices" in the color wheel. Colors across from each other (Violet & Yellow, Blue & Orange for example) in the color wheel are Complementary and always look striking together. I would recommend using one color as the "base" of your outfit and the complimentary color for an accessory. Try white denim with a violet top and a yellow handbag or necklace! Monochromatic (using one color only) is also a fun way to dress, but can often be tricky. New Yorkers pull this off with their all-black outfits on the daily, but I think that's cheating a little. (Although I do remember a colleague wearing a fabulous pair of perfectly tailored black pants, a black turtleneck and black pumps and me thinking, "that looks really sharp!") For a monochromatic look that is NOT all black, try all white. Using tints of white (aka off-white, cream or beige), this look will be classy and not boring.  Analogous colors are those that are next to each other (using all the slices in one color family). Try a blue-green dress with a blue blazer and a statement necklace that incorporates green tones. Or check out this post for a darker palette. Obviously, there are many combinations to the color wheel. It's also important to know what colors look best on you. If you haven't read this post about Personalized Color Swatches, #rundontwalk there now! Here are some other fun formulas for using the color wheel while dressing. And in the spirit of Friday Five, I've collected five outfits plus a bonus "look for less." You're welcome.

I'll leave you with this inspiration for your weekend: In the words of one of my favorite designers, Kate Spade, "Live Life Colorfully!"




kate moss

Kate Moss - Photo Credit unknown

monochromatic Shape mag pic

photo: Shape Magazine


One of my favorite bloggers, Sydne Summer


jen aniston in gray shades - casual

Copy Jen's look with any combination of the above: olive pants, navy blazer + navy tee OR navy pencil skirt, olive peasant top + cardigan for an office look. Picture from




TB spring 2016 complementary

Tory Burch Spring 2016 Collection

navy LC dress KOHLS

Try Tory's favorite combo of orange and blue for a lot less here: LC Lauren Conrad dress

And here:

Orange KOHLS shoes

Kohls Canteloupe wedges