How to wear neutrals without looking boring (ultimate guide)
Casual office look with leather top, Oliveo chambray shirt, Hermes collier de chien bangle, Ray Ban mirrored sunglasses, Oliveo linen pant, Anne Klein slingbacks and long DIY statement necklace (all own)

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, i.e. boring in how you put your clothes together.

Contents
  1. What to wear when the brights are not so you?
  2. Use structure and shine to create interest with neutral colors
  3. Denim is a great neutral for Casual Friday
  4. Olive and kakhi are great neutrals for summer and fall
  5. Blue and white are a summer classic
  6. Blue, black and white – an American Classic
  7. Pastels look great in spring
  8. Try an unusual combination of neutrals
  9. Style tip take-home message

Disclosure: There are affiliate links in this post.

What to wear when the brights are not so you?

Many women in their forties shy away from wearing colors at the office 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. Third, try combinations of the three options to look interesting. 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 slingbacks – read “interesting”. For another work outfit with this leather top see the post at the link.

Style neutral color outerwear with statement pieces

For the commute to work I added 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”.

over 50 years old style blogger wearing a classic look in all neutrals with different textures
Outfit details: Burberry London trench coat, unbranded leather top, Oliveo olive button-down shirt shirt, Hermes collier de chien bangle, Ray Ban  mirrored aviator sunglasses, Oliveo beige linen pants, Anne Klein snake print slingbacks and long DIY statement necklace (all own)

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 Casual Friday. In America, a classic combination is blue, white and gray. In the western part of the US, a brown suede balzer 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.

Olive and kakhi are great neutrals for summer and fall

Think safari. Kahki is perfect for an urban (safari) look. When you go militray-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 militray-inspired dresses, jackets and pants. It looks well with blush, white, cream kakhi, 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

Three neutrals can look like wearing color. Also try pattern to switch the game up.

Winter look in blue white and black
Shearling coat with beret, belted scarf, polka dot tights, shearling booties, ethnic belt and statement bag (all own)
LBD styled for the office
GAP LBD, Great Northwest denim shirt, polka dot tights, statement bag, DIY statement belt, and L.K. Bennett blue patent leather pumps (all own)

Pastels look great in spring

Most pastels are neutrals. Be aware they may wash you out when you are a deep color type. In this case, wear them away from your face. Unsure on wearing pastels as they are associated with old people? See this guide on  how not to look old in pastels.

You can try to wear two pastel shades in one outfit: My placid blue leather pants, and my beloved pink cashmere sweater. Since now the parking lot is snow free, I was able to wear my floral pumps, the first flowers of spring so to speak. 😉

Pastels scream spring is in the air. #springtrends Click To Tweet

over 50 years old fashion blogger wearing an all pastels spring outfit

mature blogger in an outfit in the pastel color trends of the year
Outfit details:  Burned orange leather coat with pink Brooks Brothers sweater, geometric print scarf, black structured bag, light blue Halogen carrot leather pants, pink pearls, Paloma Picasso sunglasses, and Madonna True or Dare floral pumps (all own)

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 here for a guide how to style a monochromatic look),
  • olive with sand or khaki,
  • black and white (see here for a guide 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,
  • Navy and black,
  • Olive and light blue, just to mention a few.

The next photo uses olive, light blue, gray and beige in one outfit. This combination was inspired by the printed scarf. You can also use paintings of landscapes for inspiration. 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.

fashion blogger in an unusual combination of neutrals
Burberry trench coat, Oliveo button-down linen shirt, Clovington ankle strap pumps, topas statement necklace, Modalu Pippa bag, Halogen leather trousers, unbranded belt, Anne Klein silk leopard scarf (all own)

Style tip take-home message

Outfits 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? Let me know so I can help you.

Photos: G. Kramm

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