Many women prefer neutral colors, which can easily lead to a style rut. This post addresses how to stay with your preferred/beloved neutrals without becoming predictable. Read this style lesson on how to wear neutrals without looking boring and learn how you can put your neutral color clothes together in new ways every day.
- What to Wear when Bright Colors Are Not so You?
- Use Structure and Shine to Create Interest with Neutral Colors
- Denim Is a Great Neutral for Casual Friday
- Create Interest with Unexpected Details
- Olive and khaki Are Great for Summer and Fall
- Blue and White Are a Summer Classic
- Blue, Black and White – an American Classic Color Combination
- Try an Unusual Combination of Neutrals
- Style One Neutral like a Fashion Color
- Take-home message on how to wear neutrals without looking boring
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What to Wear when Bright Colors Are not so You?
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. Thus, when styling neutrals for the office it is really important to stay out of boredom land. The secrets to cool looks in neutrals, and to look young and hip and on top of things is to pick one neutral color in different shades and add one other neutral plus making sure that the items have different texture. This concept is similar to how to create interesting and ageless, monochromatic outfits or the concept of adding a pop of color to a monochromatic outfit.
The second possibility is to find a piece in an interesting cut. Of course, in this case, high quality is a Must. The third option is to go for a nice modern or abstract print in neutrals. Fourth, try combinations of the three options to look interesting. Fifth go for underused neutrals like olive as the new black for an outstanding look. Last but not least, try unusual color combinations.
In all cases, it’s important to stay clear away from the “traditional” old people color combinations, especially, when you wear your neutrals as solids. Just think about what your grandmothers, mom, mother-in-law, aunts, etc. wore when they were in their 60s and 70s. I am sure, you know what I mean.
Now, let’s take a closer look at these above suggestions.
Use structure and shine to create interest with neutral colors
Here I paired my leather top – read “little shine” – with linen pants – read “rough texture” – with a chambray shirt – read “smooth texture and second neutral” – with snake print sling backs – read “interesting”.
Style neutral color outerwear with statement pieces
For the commute to work add a classic trench coat – read “professional”, a statement bag – read “I have something to bring to the table”, and purple mirrored sunglasses – read “the outfit is up-to-date”.
Denim is a Great Neutral for Casual Friday
An often overlooked neutral is denim. A pair of dark blue jeans always looks great with a blazer and a white shirt for posh Casual Friday outfits. In America, a classic combination is blue, white and gray. In the western part of the US, a brown suede blazer is a great alternative to a gray wool blazer. When your work dress code allows leather try a denim and leather to look outstanding in neutrals.
In summer, denim jackets can serve as cover-up on chilly evenings or mornings. Yes, you can look great in denim over 40. This look is interesting because of the contrast of smooth (T-shirt) vs. different degrees of roughness (in increasing order: linen, denim pumps). The Tee ties the two neutral color schemes together with the stripes.
Create Interest with Unexpected Details
The weekend look below features linen pants, a denim push button shirt, and nude sling backs. I dressed them up with a red MOSHINO belt as a pop of color and a string of pearls. The linen pants have a short zipper on the outside side of the leg. I really like hardware to highlight my ankles. The nude heels are similar in color as the linen pants which elongates the legs.
Olive and khaki are great neutrals for summer and fall
Think safari. Khaki is perfect for an urban (safari) look. When you go military-inspired the pockets, belt and buttons are the interest. Pair the look with wooden beads necklace for sight seeing or with a gold or pearl necklace for the office. Olive also looks great for military-inspired dresses, jackets and pants. It looks well with blush, white, cream khaki, burgundy, light blue and denim. For more outfit ideas in olive check the post at the link.
Black and white are an eternal classic
Black and white pop up as a perennial trend every couple of years, but are always in style. Thus, you can’t go wrong with this color combination. I devoted and entire post to how to wear black and white, for which I don’t repeat it here.
Blue and white are a summer classic
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 white with blue print dresses the Duchesse of Cambridge often wears. A blue with white floral print dress is a shirt-dress cut or Romantic Style gives a great summer-in-the-Provence vibe. The former works great for work in summer, while the later is perfect for shopping the farmers market or a picnic.
Looking for a guide how to wear blue-and-white?
Blue, black and white – an American Classic Color Combination
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.
Try an Unusual Combination of Neutrals
Classic, i.e. expected combinations are
- browns with cream or winter white,
- gray, navy and white,
- Monochromatic combinations (see this guide how to style a monochromatic look),
- olive with sand or khaki,
- black and white (see this guide on how to wear black and white), or
- white and blue.
On the contrary, unusual, but extremely stylish combination – when done right are:
- Brown and black (see this guide for how to wear brown and black together),
- Navy and black,
- Olive and light blue,
- Desaturated colors (see this guide for styling a desaturated look), just to mention a few.
In the look above, interesting details like the teardrop hole and the hardware on the booties create the interest to a white plus black and a hint of brown business casual work outfit.
The next photo uses olive, light blue, gray and beige in one outfit. This combination was inspired by the printed scarf. In the example, the other neutrals make the light blue leather trousers the statement of the look. This neutral nearly seems to be a fashion color in this combination. Thus, the outfit feels not like all neutrals.
Stylist tip: Repeat the neutral that you want to be the statement three times in the look.
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.
Style One Neutral like a Fashion Color
The outfit features all neutrals. However, the stark contrast between burgundy and the desaturated gray and black items of the look gives the illusion of wearing a fashion color.
Take-home message on how to wear neutrals without looking boringOutfits in neutral colors need interesting cuts or different structure to look young and hip. #agelessstyle Click To Tweet
Do you wear all neutral outfits? What is your challenge to not look boring?
Photos: G. Kramm
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