I talk a good game about bright colors, and I do adore them … but I’ve come to love outfits comprised entirely of neutrals, too. There’s something so chic, elegant, and relaxed about mixed neutrals and I find that combination of traits irresistible.
When I set out to create a wash of neutrals, here are my personal rules of thumb:
THREE OR MORE TO A BATCH
An outfit comprised entirely of neutrals will look sophisticated and intentional if you include at least three distinct colors. In the outfit above, I have on a brownish-gray dress, heather brown cardigan, chocolate brown tights, and gray boots. I might be able to add one more neutral as an accent, but any more than that might tip the scales into neutral overload. (The tan and black contributed by my cat, Rowan, as she rolls on the rug in the corner do NOT count toward my total number of neutrals.)
Cool grays and warm cognac browns can definitely be mixed, but I find it easier to pair warm with warm and cool with cool. Look at the neutral garments hanging in your closet. You should be able to tell which ones have cool undertones (whites, blues, and greens in their color mixes) and which ones have warm undertones (reds, yellows, and ivories in their color mixes). Pair like with like and you can’t go wrong.
Since neutrals are soft and easy on the eyes, all-neutral ensembles can read a bit bland. A great way to spice ’em up is to add a variety of textures: Leather, wool, slippery silk, nubby tweed, rough linen, smooth cotton. Pieces with embroidery, pick-stitching, and other 3D detailing also add textural interest.
Now, if you’re mainly interested in mixing just black and brown, the easiest shortcut is to pick ONE shade of brown (either chocolate or tan, not both) and utilize it at least twice within the context of your outfit. Or if brown is the base color, utilize black at least twice within the context of your outfit. It’s that repetition that creates intentionality. This formula constitutes a great way to practice mixing neutrals and train your eye to accept shades of brown and black as complementary.
How do you feel about outfits comprised entirely of neutrals? Are you a fan? Do you have a specific batch of shades that you adore together? Any other tips to add to this list?