What colors "go" in fashion?
October 27, 2008 11:25 AM   Subscribe

Are there any websites that have easy to understand guidelines about matching colors in fashion?

I'm really bad at creating outfits that use color. 90% of my wardrobe is dark denim, black, or gray. I love color but I don't know how to use it. I have a blogroll full of fashion websites; to some degree, it's possible to mimick those outfits, but I'd like to be able to do this more organically.

I'm not even that great at using neutrals. I bought an evergreen-colored dress and can't find a shoe that looks good with it. I thought brown would be good but it's very "tree" looking. I'm wearing black shoes with it now but it just looks off somehow.

I've heard the suggestion of getting a color wheel from a paint store and using it to learn complementary colors - but I'm familiar with those basics and still don't get how and why certain things are supposed to go together.

Nowhere on the color wheel does it explain how a neutral outfit with a bright orange bag and bright green shoe can look good. (An example from What Not to Wear, which I thought looked great, but would never have thought to do.)

Are there any simple websites where you can choose a main color and it will show you colors that match and go? (Again, some paint websites do this, but paint colors tend to be very muted and neutral, and don't reflect clothing/shoe colors well.)
posted by peep to Shopping (10 answers total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
You may have already tried this, but I like using Color Schemer for a variety of projects.
posted by gummi at 11:47 AM on October 27, 2008

You could check out Pantones color trends from the designers. They usually mention the main colors of their line which always go nicely together.

Look at any season - the color stories will still be fashionable.

If you have mostly neutral color just get some bright color solids. Mix one color with any neutral you can't really go wrong. It will be a good start to get you to add some color to your wardrobe.

Check out some fashionable prints you like. Use them as a guideline to what colors look good together.
posted by ChloeMills at 12:03 PM on October 27, 2008

I have wished for this, too. I think part of why such websites aren't a dime a dozen is that more than just color comes into play when matching fashion items. That outfit you reference would probably be atrocious if it was a bright orange shirt and bright green pants with neutral accessories, but when the bright colors are used in smaller doses it's good. Somehow it also matters whether your matching or contrasting pieces are near each other vs. far (earrings and a headband vs. earrings and shoes), what fabrics or textures they have, whether they're shiny or matte, etc.

Lord knows I don't have it figured out, so I try to stick with neutrals plus maybe one bright color to liven things up. I've been hunting for the kind of advice you seek, but I've come to the conclusion that there aren't any hard-and-fast rules to make it that simple.
posted by vytae at 12:05 PM on October 27, 2008

Best answer: Try reading Johannes Itten's theories.

posted by jgirl at 12:16 PM on October 27, 2008 [2 favorites]

For your green dress, what shade of brown were the shoes you wore? I think that a very dark brown, like espresso, would work much better than a more 'bright' brown (like mahogany), because bright browns actually often function less like neutrals and more like colored pieces.

Also consider this: evergreen is a bluer shade of green. Thus, you probably want to wear a cool brown with them, rather than a warm, reddish brown. It will 'go' better. If you had a peacock green dress, I would give the opposite advice.
posted by showbiz_liz at 1:10 PM on October 27, 2008

Get some gray shoes and never worry again. I think gray or metallic (silver or gold or bronze) would go best with that evergreen dress. I wouldn't go brown or black.

In general, as long as you are wearing a neutral outfit, you can get away with any color of shoe or bag. Try to choose just one color piece per outfit to start, and then move up to two or more when you feel like you trust your eye more.

Some of my favorite combinations are turquoise and dark gray, light pink and med brown, black white and red, apple green and black.
posted by rmless at 1:40 PM on October 27, 2008

Response by poster: jgirl, your link led me to this Color Calculator which I now cannot stop playing with. Thank you! The calculator launches in separate window.
posted by peep at 1:50 PM on October 27, 2008

I've recently tried to figure out this fashion thing as well, too, but with little luck. However, I did find a couple useful sites back when I tried to find good color combinations for web sites.

The first is a nice NASA site which explains the theory behind (and has a nice little Java applet to play with) choosing colors that work well together and whose contrast isn't too bad.

The second is a site where people with a knack for colors submit color combinations that viewers then get to rate. It doesn't let you pick a base color, sadly, but I've had luck looking through some of its top rated combinations to find one that featured the color I was looking for. And the other colors listed with it really do look nice.

Not exactly what you're looking for, but might help.
posted by losvedir at 2:12 PM on October 27, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Check out Wear Pallets. It's a Swiss graphic design student who takes shots of outfits from Lookbook.nu and Sartorialist and posts a palette of the colors in the outfit alongside the photo.
posted by min at 6:11 PM on October 27, 2008 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: The Wear Pallets site is fantastic! Thanks everyone who answered.
posted by peep at 6:49 PM on October 27, 2008

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