Many women prefer neutral colors, which can easily lead to a style rut. Even worse, they can make you invisible when over 50! Now how to stay with your preferred/beloved neutrals without becoming predictable or invisible? Read this guide on how to wear neutrals without looking boring and learn how you can put your neutral color clothes together in new ways every day and remain visible at any age.
- What to Wear when Bright Colors Are Not so You?
- Use Texture and Shine to Create Interest with Neutral Colors
- Create Interest with Unexpected Details
- Style One Neutral like a Fashion Color
- Styling Interesting Looks with Classic All Neutrals Color Combinations
- Use Often Overlooked Neutrals like Olive and Khaki
- Try an Unusual Combination of Neutrals
- Take-Home Message on How to Wear Neutrals without Looking Boring
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Many women shy away from wearing bold colors over 40 and prefer neutrals for a professional look. Today, more than ever, it is important to not only look professional, but also young and hip. Therefore, when styling neutrals for the office it is really important to stay out of boredom land. The secrets to cool looks in neutrals, and staying visible is to:
- Pick one neutral color in different shades, add one other neutral from items with different texture. This concept is similar to how to create interesting and ageless, monochromatic outfits or the concept of adding a pop of color.
- Go for pieces with an interesting cut of high quality.
- Wear nice modern or abstract prints in neutrals.
- Try combinations of the three options above to look interesting and remain visible over 40.
- Go for underused neutrals like olive as the new black.
- Try unusual color combinations like wearing brown with black.
- Stir clear away from the “traditional” old people color combinations that your older female family members wore when they were over 50.
- Add animal prints in the animal’s natural colors to your wardrobe. Despite being neutrals, they are more interesting than plain solids. More on ageless looks in animal prints.
- Mix prints and patterns of different scales in one outfit.
- Create interest with accessories and/or unexpected details.
- Use an all neutrals scarf for color-combination inspiration.
- Learn how to wear Metallic over 40.
Example: Pair a leather top (little shine) with linen pants (rough texture), a chambray shirt (smooth texture, second neutral) and snake-print sling backs (interesting) like in the first photo.
More on wearing shine over 40.
The weekend look below features linen pants, a denim push-button shirt, and nude sling backs accessorized with a string of pearls. The unexpected details are the red MOSHINO belt as a pop of color and the side slit with zipper on the legs of the pants. More on when and when not to add color.
Stylist tip: Add heels in the color of the pants to elongate the legs.
In the business casual style outfit above, the teardrop hole, belt and hardware on the booties add interest.
Add a traditional classic trench coat (professional), a statement bag (read “I have something to bring to the table”), and color mirrored sunglasses (read “the outfit is up-to-date”, modern).
The outfit inspiration uses a combination of olive, light blue, gray and beige inspired by the printed scarf. The other neutrals make the light blue leather trousers looking like a fashion color. Therefore, the outfit feels not like all neutrals.
Stylist tip: Repeat the neutral that you want to be the statement, three times in the look.
Classic, i.e. expected combinations are:
- Browns with cream or winter white,
- Gray, navy and white (more on non-boring corporate style),
- Monochromatic combinations,
- Olive with sand or khaki,
- Black and white, or
- White and blue,
- Denim on denim.
An often overlooked neutral is denim. Dark blue jeans always look great with a blazer and a white shirt as posh Casual Friday outfits. In America, a classic combination is blue, white and gray. In the western US, a brown suede blazer is a great alternative to a gray wool blazer. When your work dress code allows leather try an all neutrals outfit with denim and leather.
In summer, denim jackets are a great cover-up for chilly evenings or mornings. This outfit inspiration below is interesting due to the contrast of smooth (T-shirt) vs. different degrees of roughness (in increasing order: linen, denim, pumps). The stripes of the Tee tie the two color-schemes together. More on styling denim like a pro.
You can’t go wrong with black and white. Even though this combination pops up as a perennial trend every couple of years, it are always in style. More on how to wear black and white.
You can’t go wrong with a blue print on white dress or vice versa in summer. The former pairing looks very posh in a sheath or tailored cut. Just recall the Princess Kate in her white-blue print dresses. A blue-white floral print shirt-dress has a great Romantic Style summer-in-the-Provence vibe. More on styling classic blue-and-white looks.
Three neutrals can look like wearing color. Blue, black and white are an American Classic style combination that is easy to create with jeans, a black blazer and white button-down shirt. Or make it black dress pants, a white shirt and navy blue blazer. Also try pattern to switch the game up.
Khaki is perfect for an urban (safari) look. When you wear a military-inspired piece, the pockets, belt, and buttons are the interest. Accessorize with a wooden beads necklace for sightseeing or with a gold or pearl necklace for work. More on ageless style in the military trend.
Olive looks great for military-inspired dresses, jackets and pants. Pair olive with blush, white, cream khaki, burgundy, light blue or denim. More outfit ideas in olive.
Another often overlooked neutral is camouflage. More on wearing camouflage over 40
Unusual, i.e., interesting, extremely stylish combination are:
- Petal pink with camouflage
- Brown and black,
- Navy and black,
- Burgundy and gray,
- Olive and light blue,
- Desaturated colors (more on styling looks in all gray colors).
- Brown and blush pink.
In the outfit below, the stark contrast between burgundy and the desaturated gray and black items gives the illusion of wearing a fashion color. The sequin stripe adds shine, texture, and unexpected details.
Take-Home Message on How to Wear Neutrals without Looking Boring
To wear neutrals without looking boring go for interesting cuts, differences in shine, unexpected cuts and details, a pop of color, up-to-date accessories, different texture or combinations thereof to look interesting and keep you visible over 40.
Don’t let your outfit be a random thing. Wear the right look in every situation by looking up what to wear when in How to Dress for Success in Midlife. Buy the book now.
Photos: G. Kramm
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