Typically Taboo Color Combinations

I believe quite strongly in rules. I look both ways before crossing the street. I file my taxes early and pay on time. I don’t swear in front of children. (OK, maybe I slip on that one sometimes.) I signal my turns. There are dozens of rules in life that I’m quite willing to follow.

But “never wear brown and navy” ain’t one of ’em. Although I’m excited to be living in a world where fashion rules are disintegrating rapidly and steadily, I’m also excited to push color-related boundaries that the fashion world still considers sacred. For the love of green platform shoes, if two colors work together, wear them together. THE END!

OK, not the end because I’m gonna give you some examples. Here are a handful of typically taboo color combos that you – yes you – can happily and stylishly wear. Like tomorrow.


Already Pretty Daily Outfit 12/13/10 featuring maxi dress

This one is so commonplace in magazines, blogs, and catalogs that it hardly feels taboo to me … but I know that many women still fear wearing these two venerable neutrals in tandem. My advice is to include a third neutral or a dusky, muted tone in the mix to keep your outfit looking organic. Brown and black alone can look stark, but mix in some gray, ivory, mustard, or plum and you’ve got a gloriously refined-looking ensemble.


OK, OK, this is more teal than navy. Although I definitely believe that black and navy can be worn together, I struggled to find a photographed outfit to showcase the pairing. This combo is trickier and needs to be done in a way that looks intentional.

The easy route is to find a piece that includes both navy and black in the pattern. It can be a dress, blouse, scarf, necklace … just about anything. Pattern is the great bridge to color pairing because if a clothing designer did it before you, you KNOW it can’t be “wrong.” Furthermore, incorporating a patterned piece gives you the freedom to pile on solids in colors that might otherwise feel strange to pair. (This idea will come up again and again, as you’ll soon see.)



Already Pretty daily outfit featuring Liza Reitz dress

Navy actually pairs BEAUTIFULLY with most shades of brown; Everything from tan to cognac to chocolate. Navy has the amazing ability to skew cool or warm depending on the colors it’s worn with, and the rich warmth of brown brings out the best in this deep shade of blue. Here I’ve got on a navy dress with cognac shoes and there’s loads of separation between the two shades. When in doubt, going this route is almost fail-safe: Shoes in one shade, clothes in another, and bare legs between softens the blow of a taboo color pairing.Β  This outfit shows chocolate and navy together but, once again, relies on a patterned piece that includes both colors to bridge the gap.

My main advice for this duo? Don’t be scared. Start with a navy piece and try a few shades of brown until you land on one that pleases your eye. Experiment and play until you’re boldly wearing your brown dress and navy wrap to work! To parties! To dinner!


Already Pretty daily outfit featuring bolero sweater

Now we’re getting into “taboo due to holiday connotations” territory. Red and pink are so Valentine-y that women are loathe to combine them. And yet they’re perfect partners! Since pink is simply a lighter value of red, the two look naturally perfect together. But the world declares anything pink and red to be a heart-shaped box of chocolates … so add another color to the mix. Here I’ve chosen brown (which, come to think of it, just ADDS to the box of chocolates metaphor), but gray, black, and purple work equally well.

Once again, patterns can be the magical bridge – here’s an outfit featuring a dress that includes both red and pink in the pattern.


Already Pretty outfit featuring shirt dress

Aaaaaaand Christmas.

Red and green are complementary colors on the wheel, but wearing them together inevitably smacks of yuletide. ESPECIALLY bright red and emerald green, as I’m sassily wearing here. Both the pattern-bridge and expanse of bare leg techniques are being employed here: The scarf I’m using to belt my dress has both red and green in it, and the red dress is separated from the green platforms by my naked calves. And honestly, wearing these specific shades of red and green without those bridging techniques will probably look undeniably Christmas-y. But there are a billion shades of red and a billion shades of green, and pairing some more offbeat shades will look marvelous. Raspberry red and lime green, maroon and olive, brick red and teal … the possibilities are endless.

So! Was this helpful? Feel inspired to pair some typically taboo colors? Any combinations that I missed? Which color pairs do you avoid religiously? Which taboo pairings do you absolutely adore?

**UPDATED: WOW PEOPLE. I would never have thought that THIS post would be one that required a reminder:

Be civil and respectful or I will not publish your comment. You are, of course, welcome to offer differing opinions and declare that everything here seems like total nonsense to you. But do it like a grown-up. Do not get cruel, personal, or disrespectful. House rules.**

Next Post
Previous Post
  • India is a great place to go to see people putting together colors that don’t “go”. While the men pretty much wear light colored neutrals, color is everywhere in women’s clothing. They had color blocking down way before this year’s designers discovered it. Purple and orange, red and teal, hot pink and green. The distinguishing feature was not just that there was color, but that there’s not a lot of shading and muting. You put your brights together. I like to think that the time I spent there inspired me somehow. I like bright saturated colors, but you actually don’t see people wearing them that much in daily life, and I like mixing brights. I like close on the color wheel, similar value combinations that vibrate. I really want to wear my magenta dress with my orange cardigan but I think I might scare people. One day I went to work wearing a grass green top with a bright turquoise corduroy skirt and my colleague said I was hurting her retinas. People’s retinas need to toughen up.

    • Not only on the ramp, it’s all over the streets too. Like a woman wearing a green sari with a hot pink blouse.

    • Michelle

      I’m glad I’m not the only one who sees a little of India in the new acceptance of colors in the U.S.! I’ve never been to India, but I live somewhere in the U.S. with a pretty large Indian population, and see many women out in their sarees and their salwar kamees of different colors, and color combinations that used to be, well, foreign to U.S. eyes. I’ve always admired them, so I’m glad to see it’s becoming okay to play with color here πŸ™‚

      • sushmita

        Nice to know that Michelle! πŸ™‚
        I am an Indian..

  • Wish you had talked about warm and cool shades with these pairings. I’m thinking that an orange-y red wouldn’t go with a purple-y pink. Is that true?

  • Brown and black and Brown and Navy are some of my favorite color combos…never knew there was once a rule…but they look so great together, how could anyone try to stop that!! The dress you are wearing for the Brown and Navy look is incredible..what a great dress! There is something very chic and classy about combining brown with the darker colors….I love it!!

  • No colour combo is taboo for me and red and green is actually one of my faves, eswpecially when some bright yellow is added, then its jamaica not christmas.

    But I honestly had no idea that blue and brown are meant to not work! Everyone wears them together all the time and no surprise because it looks so good!

    • becky f.

      I agree about the brown and blue comment! Really, my first thought was “what other color shoes would you wear with a pair of navy blue pants?” That’s my first thought b/c my shoe options have been (historically, though less so now) limited. But brown always seemed like the clear answer.

      Anyway, great post and — as always — illustrations of these pairings in action!

  • Lisa

    Years ago I worked for a very corporate business. Suits a must for men and women in mngt positions. My coworkers and I constantly lamented not buying navy suits because we didn’t know what color shoes to wear with it. Neither black or brown seemed right and non nun like navy shoes were hard to come by. (I still have difficulty finding fashionable navy shoes, although I don’t really have any cause to wear them anymore, but in 90’s corporate world they were a must). But then we saw our very fashionable CEO, a woman, wearing brown shoes with her navy suits….she broke all the “rules”, even way back then.

    I think the red/green combo is the only one that I would never attempt because it just screams Christmas. I tend to think of navy, brown and black as neutrals and they can coordinate with anything.

  • Great post! I like all of your color combinations, and have already worn most of them myself. I was actually a big fan of pairing black and blue before I swore off the dark colors ^^ The only one I cannot quite get my head around is red and green, but maybe it’s the same here as it is everywhere: It comes down to the right nuances. There are shades of every color that will work together beautifully, and shades of the same color family will look gruesome if paired. Like a full-on red and a forest green usually reminds people of Christmas themed clothing… But as you said, imagine an apple green shift dress with a coral red belt and shoes and it looks fabulous πŸ™‚

  • Holly

    What about black and orange for the Halloween-aspects? Or is that not taboo and something I just made up? πŸ˜›

    Or blue and orange? Those are opposite on the color wheel aren’t they?

    • Sal

      No, it’s true that black and orange can be tough … and I actually don’t have any advice for that one except the pattern-bridging trick!

      Blue and orange are supposed to pair nicely, but they’re my high school colors so I avoid them like the plague. Anyone else love those two shades together?

      • tagatha

        Yes for blue and orange!

        It you’re hesitant to wear them on your clothes, why not try a mani-pedi this spring and summer? I just bought a fabulous orange nail polish and intend to wear it on my fingers and some navy polish on my toes.

      • Evelyn

        Blue and orange together is one of my favorite combos. I prefer a turquoise or teal blue with a coral-y orange. I think it is bright and fun without searing people’s delicate retinas.

        • Lydia

          I agree — I love coral-y orange and turquoise — I think they look great, and are easier to pull off than people beleive.

      • JennyDC

        I like navy and orange, when I get tired of orange and gray.

      • Funnily enough I am wearing blue and orange today. Love this post. For me the hardest is to pair navy and black. I have tried this but it always looks like I got dressed in poor light and didn’t realise they weren’t both the same colour. I think I need another colour to divide and conquer.

  • Kat

    I’m still a bit wary of brown and black (though I think tan and black is fine), but will happily use the others. However, I avoid black and orange! I think it’s because I have a bit of a goth sensibility to begin with and don’t want to invite the Halloween references…

  • I love all the color combos presented but red and green to me still says Christmas

  • Miss T

    Turquoise (warm) and navy (cool) — they fight, unless one is an accent color only. The relative warmth or coolness of the colors, as well as the relative proportion in the outfit of the colors has something to do with whether a pairing will work — to my eye, anyway. When it’s “wrong”, it usually has something to do with a warm and a cool used 50-50 in an outfit. No color combination is really taboo, it’s just that some combos are more pleasing than others.

  • Thanks for writing such an insightful article! I totally agree with using a patterned piece to bridge two colors together; it adds life to a stark outfit and balance to a colorful one.

    I once read in a magazine to never wear yellow and black together, as this will make the wearer look like a bumblebee. Needless to say I haven’t had the guts to try this color combination yet.

  • I didn’t know that navy and black weren’t supposed to go together- I love that combo! I am also deathly afraid of wearing red and green together if it’s not December. I’m going to print this post out and carry it in my purse so if anyone every complains about my “taboo” color combo, I can whip this out and let them know that is it Sal-Approved!
    BTW, I love your navy/brown outfit- so chic!

  • Orange and black are really hard for me. I stay away because I always get ‘halloween’ references. I am glad that most color combos are not as taboo anymore, I need to try more of these : )

  • Jeanette

    Hi, I’m enjoying your blog. Could you tell me what brand your green shoes are? I’ve been looking for some green ones and haven’t found any I like.

    • Sal

      Seychelles. They are from 2009 I believe.

      • Jeanette


  • I’m wearing BLACK shoes, NAVY pants, and a BROWN jacket.
    I think you should add mixing shades of a single color.
    Maybe this isn’t as common as I think but my aunts refuse to wear a brown scarf with a brown jacket unless they are EXACTLY the same color brown.

  • Anya

    I LOVE this! It’s so much harder to memorize arbitrary ‘rules’ about color combinations than to look at what actually works. Also, thank you for SMILING in your photos; it’s rare among fashion bloggers, and really represents the positive message of your blog. Thank you! The obi belt in the brown and navy outfit is awesome! May I ask where you got it (or where I can find the original outfit post)?

  • Rebel, rebel… and looking good while doing it! I don’t know if it’s “taboo” but I think black and orange are hard to do without it smacking of Halloween… it can be done though!

    • I like orange and charcoal grey. It’s nearly orange and black, but then it’s not.

  • I like brown and navy together, but in my head they’re both neutrals, and all neutrals go together.

  • I find the fact that it’s now socially acceptable to wear brown and black together very liberating. I have a small but not very well edited wardrobe, and the fact that I don’t have to separate black outfits and brown outfits anymore opens up so many more combinations!

  • Sal

    WOW PEOPLE. I would never have thought that THIS post would be one that required a reminder:

    Be civil and respectful or I will not publish your comment. You are, of course, welcome to offer differing opinions and declare that everything here seems like total nonsense to you. But do it like a grown-up. Do not get cruel, personal, or disrespectful. House rules.

    • rb

      am I the only one dying of curiosity here? I know you don’t want to post the comments and I agree with your reasoning. I just can’t imagine what anyone would get all worked up about…. we’re talking about colors here, not religion or politics!

      • Sal

        The comments I deleted were personal attacks on me and my style, angry assertions that you can’t just throw any colors together and expect to look good, etc.

  • Sarah

    I love black and navy together. Uber-cool. I think the trick is to try and have more than one instance of each in your outfit and keep the rest of your outfit relatively neutral. You want it to look very intentional, and when you have like a bright red breaking it up, it can make the black and navy look too similar (but at the same time, still not the same–hence the “got dressed in the dark” impression). I also regularly wear black/navy/brown/gray outfits–I think it helps that most of my brown items are very warm (more cognac than chocolate) and to me, that reads as dark orange, which makes it pair perfectly with navy. I don’t have a navy suit, but I’ve always thought a rich brown shoe is the perfect choice. Navy heels are often super dowdy.

    • rb

      I like black and navy too, but I only like it when the navy is a lighter more blue-ish navy. If it’s a black-navy, then it’s what you said – “dressed in the dark.” πŸ™‚

  • JB

    One combination that I find a challenge is red, white and blue – especially in the summer. I love navy and white together, but when I go to add some color and reach for red, I’m always afraid of looking like a kid dressed up for the 4th of July.

  • Kate K

    People are being disrespectful? Here? About coloring pairings? What a bizarre day… Thanks for keeping us on track Sal.

    I’m so glad you posted this! I’m pretty comfortable with a few of these combos but it’s always nice to see new examples. I love navy and brown (I bought a navy and brown necklace that was like a spring board into that combo) and I love pink and red together (which is why I love valentine’s day!) I’ve tried blue and black a few times but it always reminds me of my friend Laura, who once wore black and blue together and declared “I’m dressed like a bruise!” πŸ˜€ I think out of all these, red and green feel very difficult but whenever I watch Amelie and see all of the beautiful combos of red and green, it seems like the chicest combo ever.

    • Lisa

      Kate, I think accent pieces are a great way to foray into new color combinations. I have bought a few necklaces or scarves in color combos that I don’t usually put together and built outfits around them. Like a green and brown necklace…I never thought I could do green and brown together but the necklace gave me inspiration and it worked!

  • Just posting to say that I love Cynthia’s comment “People’s retinas need to toughen up”.

    I wear all sorts of colors together (and love turquoise and navy, though I avoid black and navy), but I have a lot of patterned scarves so I can pretend it isn’t just my idea. I also do the multiple shades of one color. I think I was taught not to mix blue and green as a child but tossed that a long time ago. (I have this theory about color saturation—that is, my closet is so full of colors that anything I buy is guaranteed to go with something else. My answer to people who say “I wear black because it goes with everything”.)

  • Diana

    I love navy with anything. With brown and black, my personal rule is that the they have to be high contrast, so basically this means the brown has to be on the lighter, more cognac or tan side. I think this is because I generally prefer high contrast though and I like pairings like brown and black to look extremely intentional.

    With a lot of color pairings like red and green, I prefer if one or both of the colors are a little off, like tomato with a yellowish-green, rather than pure red and pure green.

    The one color combo I can’t do for some reason is true blue and true red together. Don’t know why – it just seems a little too patriotic or something. Again, if one of the colors is a little “off”, then it’s much easier.

  • Anuja

    I once had a high school English teacher show up to class in a black miniskirt, black blouse, black boots – and navy tights. She looked…mismatched. This was emphasized the next day, when she said to the class “Did anyone notice I was wearing navy tights yesterday? I swear I put on black ones!”

    So yeah, the navy/black combo remains SUPER taboo to me. I have always loved brown and navy, though. My favorite winter outfit this season has been cognac suede boots, dark rinsed jeans, and a super soft navy and cream striped sweater.

    • Dillon

      I love Navy and Black together – but I had a rude awakening the day I showed up at the office wearing one each of my (exactly the same) black and navy pumps. Needless to say I had to run to the Mall (attached to my office building luckily) on my coffee break and buy a new pair of shoes! Hilarious!

  • For navy and black, another suggestion I would make to make it look intentional is to avoid just one element of either colour, and to space them out. For example, don’t wear an all black suit and navy shoes, it will look clumsy. But with a navy top, black trousers and navy shoes, it will look more purposeful.

  • CC

    Great post!
    I personally am not a fan of brown and black. I think it looks great on other people, I just don’t like it on me. Now black and khaki, I love. I’m loving pairing brights right now. Turquoise and purple or hot pink. Just add white accents and it is so fresh for spring. I’m also not crazy about red and green although I’ll do burgundy and lime or rose and olive.

  • Heather

    Great post! I love the idea of pairing brown and black. I’m super-impressed with your red/green combo. You put it together so flawlessly my mind didn’t even think Christmas! Love these ideas.

  • I want to stand up and cheer, “YES! Navy goes with black! Just make it intentional! Yes! Yes! Yes!” I wear navy religiously, and always wear black shoes. Unless I wear brown ones:). But really, mostly black. And I promise you it looks just great.

  • DeeDee V.

    I’m still leery of pairing black and brown..great tip to add another neutral. I will have to try that!

    As another commenter said above: red, white and blue is tricky. I always feel costume-y in that combo and tend to avoid it.

  • Seriously? People were being cruel/disrespectful about color combination? Look, maybe a fashion/style blog is the wrong place to say this, but: Chill, people. When you come down to it, it’s just clothes. What’s the big deal?

    I personally never pay attention to fashion rules (my closet was pretty much all navy and black before I started thinking “More colors.”) I just throw things on and see if they work. If it makes me feel good, I wear it. If it doesn’t, I don’t. True, I’ve made mistakes, but then I learned. And it’s blogs like this that give me the inspiration and courage to try things I never thought I would before!

    • Eleanorjane

      Amen to that. Sorry to hear that people were being mean, Sal. Keep up the good work. You cheer me up every day! πŸ™‚

  • See, I don’t consider any of these taboo anymore, except for the red and green. That said, you’ve done brilliantly with all of these combos!

  • Holly

    Orange and blue, definitely yes. I love my two button orange shirt with dark wash jeans. It seems kinda arty-preppy which I like. But what about orange and purple? I just love that too. Not a bright purple, like a more subdued purple v neck sweater with a bright orange shirt poking out! Yeah!

    • Wendy McLaren

      Huh. I never even thought about my jeans being blue. I suppose I might, if I actually called them “blue jeans” πŸ˜› I guess I’m a fashionista without even knowing it, combining blue with all sorts of colors.

      Sal, love the column. One of the color combos I’ve always disliked is navy and green. Perhaps I’ve just never seen it done in a way that didn’t have those two strong colors fighting with each other.

  • Thanks for the bridging trick! I have too many pieces of clothing that I never wear because of the unfortunate holiday connotations…but the tricks you’ve come up with have me rethinking some outfits. πŸ™‚

  • rb

    I don’t wear a lot of color, but I love navy blue and plum. I am happy to pair navy with any color with blue in it (turquoise, teal, green, etc) and plum is great with brown or gray. The only thing I don’t really do is pair brown neutrals with navy. I could, but then my teals and greens would never get worn! πŸ™‚

  • Laura

    I’m very sorry to read that some commenters have been disrespectful.

    The way I wear orange with black is: mostly orange, just a little black, and a big solid patch of grey or navy. I agree that pink and red were meant to be together, and if I don’t add in black or white I don’t feel valentine-y.

  • I’m a fan of encouraging people to try new things- and playing with color combos is a great way to break out of a rut. Can’t really imagine this article inciting hate (on what…the colorwheel? :)) because I love it. My all time favorite color combo is hot pink and kelly green.

  • emi s.

    I wear black and navy – I think the trick is to make sure it looks deliberate, not accidental. A black dress, black cardigan, navy tights, and black shoes looks like a mistake. But, a navy dress with a black cardigan and black shoes can look deliberate, and good.

  • *Great post*–you are a style inspiration, Sally! The way you mix and match colors is so fun, yet so chic. Keep it up πŸ™‚

  • Navy and black: My favorite combo. Subtle and sophisticated.

    Personal can’t-wears: Purple and yellow (too Vikings), red and yellow (McDonald’s and/or high school colors). However I LOVE cobalt blue and yellow, to add something positive to the yellow list.

    I love color! And combining them in unexpected ways.

  • I truly enjoy reading your post, I look forward to the advice you give. It is always something I CAN DO>! Your descriptions and pictures are helping me learn how to make better choices every day! I am even gaining the attention of my daughter. LOL it wont be LONG now and she will have to find something else to tease me about.
    Have a wonderful day!

  • I’ve always thought of navy and black as a very good colour combo, but that’s probably because I’m used to the idea of pairing black tops with dark wash blue jeans. It looks sharp as long as it’s intentional!

  • Laila

    All these color combos don’t seem taboo to me, except fo navy and black. I myself don’t have a problem with this combination, but I definitely heard comments about it (you know, the old “you look like a bruise!” one).

    But there is one that I had hoped you would include, but I didn’t see it. Maybe it’s only me that’s weary of wearing them together — brown and gray. I can’t possibly structure an oufit in my head of when brown and gray would look good together. And I know as soon as I see a chic oufit composed of those two colors, I will immediately change my mind. Any suggestions?

    • Sal

      Oh! I do brown and gray so often, I didn’t think of them as taboo at all.

      As with many of these other pairings, it’s probably best to mind your undertones: Look for a warm gray to pair with your browns. (Most browns are pretty warm, so you’ve got more leeway.) A cool gray will work, too, but a gray with some yellow or red in the mix will look more natural with brown.

      This post shows an outfit with a patterned piece that includes both brown and gray, AND a straight brown/gray pairing of pieces: http://www.alreadypretty.com/2011/02/casual-outfit-roundup-week-of-february-20.html

      And here’s a fairly cool gray that still works with cognac brown: http://www.alreadypretty.com/2011/02/daily-outfit-22411.html

      • Sandy

        As my dark brown hair has acquired an increasing amount of natural silver highlight, I have become more fond of the brown/gray color combo. Since my complexion is cool-toned, I prefer chocolate brown and light gray or silver. It has taken me a while to become accustomed to it, but once I noticed that God paired those colors on my head, I figured it was worth a try … and I like it.

  • MJ

    I love royal blue & orange. I do wear a lot of orange & black as they are the colors of my alma mater but I do make it look intentional instead of ‘Look! I think it’s Halloween’. I found an awesome orange swing jacket/sweater at Old Navy last season & I had a lot of fun pairing it with black tunics & leggings.

  • Erin

    Huh, I always thought brown was the *correct* thing to wear with navy. I love a dark navy, which I don’t wear with black because it will look like I got dressed in the dark. This is definitely upper-level color pairing for me – I am afraid of all the other ones. Although generally I am worried about trying non-traditional color pairings because I am insecure about my shape. Maybe it’s a chicken and egg thing, eh?

  • Sheesh, I’m also amazed that people could find ways to be disrespectful in their replies to this post; it seems like such an innocuous topic. For me there aren’t any color combos that are completely off the table; in the right proportions and shades, pretty much anything can look great. It’s funny how certain combos have specific associations though, like your high school colors — I totally see how there would be no getting over that once the idea was cemented.

  • Yes! I love to create so called taboo color combos in my designs. It really depends on the particular shades. I think jade green and cherry red are a definite “do”. I like how certain color schemes instantly evoke a different era, the shag carpet gold, orange, brown combo for instance.
    I think colors can also transport you, white together with aqua and royal blue takes me straight to Greek islands:)

  • Claire

    mmmm hmmmm… love to do all of these!

    Sal, sorry you have to be a clearinghouse for whatever comments prompted you to repost the house rules. We appreciate the effort it takes to block that kind of inanity to make this a safe, respectful place for all of us. Thank you!! I hope you’re not absorbing any of that nonsense πŸ™‚

  • Funny this should come up today because I am wearing mustard colored pants with red shoes and my husband told me I look like Ronald McDonald. I posted a pic of the shoes and pants on my blog.

    I am constantly being complimented/reprimanded for my crazy clothes in my small town. My mantra is “wear it like you mean it!” even if I’m unsure or people make me feel uncomfortable. Tomorrow is another day and another outfit!

  • All these combinations look great. I think it just depends on how you wear them. My ex-friend and I used to have arguments over the Black/Brown thing all the time! P.S. She’s not my ex-friend because of that lol.

  • Oh golly. Reading this makes me realize how niave I’ve been about “taboo” color combinations! hehe. I generally shy away from red/green and red/pink for the holiday connotations, but I’ve been happily mixing things like blue and brown, and black and blue for years without really knowing they weren’t “normal”. lol. In fact, blue and black are one of my favorite combos!

    I think one color grouping that I have a hard time with (though I stubbornly refuse to give it up) are red, white and blue. Not only do I have to deal with the “4th of July” comments, but doubly so because I’m a military wife. So people think I’m being cute and patriotic when I wear it, even though it just happens to be my favorite colors. Another pairing I have to be aware of where and when I wear it are gold and blue; they’re the US Navy colors and inevitably garner a similar reaction if I’m on a Naval base. lol.

    I think other than those combinations (but like I said, you’d have to pry my favorite “flag” color garments from my cold, dead fingers), I’ll happily try a lot. My usual indication is if things go together and values are similar enough to compliment each other in a pleasing manner. Like you, I’m pretty stoked that a lot of fashion “rules” in regards to colors are heading out the window! I think if perhaps more magazines promoted the idea of artful and unusual color combinations and were less strict on the “this should never be worn together!” mantra, more people would be willing to go out on a color limb. πŸ™‚

  • Penelope

    Count me in as another one who never heard the no brown and navy rule and is glad of it. I love brown with a lighter navy – navy brings out my blue eyes and if the brown is a good tone to complement my hair the whole thing just looks perfectly pulled together. love.

    My taboo color pairings are usually brights with brights and no neutral or pattern around. Color blocking just looks silly on me. Oh, and blue and orange or yellow because those were my high school and college colors.

  • Pingback: Candy Dish: Smiling is my Favorite : College Candy()

  • Laurinda

    Thank you Sal for all your colorful inspiration!

    Maria Killam writes on color (for home decor) and mentions that pink and yellow work best (only?) if they are clean and fresh colors:

    Now, besides warm vs. cool I find myself wondering about undertones, saturation levels and whether a color is ‘clean’ or ‘dirty’.

    • Sal

      Hah! Never heard of clean vs. dirty colors, but love the concept.

  • I have been on a chocolate/black and chocolate/grey bender!! I just LOVE these combos. I suspect my obsession has been fueled by the brown Born boots that I splurged on since I try and wear them every chance I get. My only caveat with brown and black is that if the shade of brown is too dark it can look a little off. And I agree that the undertones are worth noting when pairing brown and grey. A blue-ish grey with brown has the potential to compete. And navy with black is awesome, especially on men. When my husband wears a crisp pair of navy slacks with polished black shoes, oh boy that’s handsome.

    Reading this post made me realize that I don’t own one single item with pink in it. For whatever reason I’ve never gravitated to that color. I do however agree that pink is just red with some white mixed in so it’s the same as any other shade variation and can look quite nice.

    So sad on the nasty comments. Our house policy is if you don’t have something nice to say (or if it isn’t constructive) don’t say anything at all. Life’s tough enough. On this topic, and for those who haven’t read it, the article “My Month of No Snark” is fun: http://www.salon.com/life/feature/2011/03/28/my_month_of_no_snark.

  • Wow, who can argue with those awesome pictures? Love the red dress with green pumps especially.

    I remember when I was little I was NOT allowed to mix pink and red. Now my own daughters have many outfits that mix the two. And they are darling outfits. Taboo broken!

  • Brown + navy is actually one of my absolute favorite color combinations. It’s so rich looking! Brown + black, however, is one that it’s taking me awhile to get over, but I love the look on others! Just haven’t mastered it on myself… yet πŸ™‚

  • Jane

    I worry about looking like Barney the Dinosaur when I wear purple/green. And although I really love wearing a lot of the really bright, saturated colors together, I worry a little that it looks like I”m supporting some sports team or other. Nonetheless, I’ve definitely been venturing into the color game this year!

    On a slightly unrelated note –and maybe you’ve already posted on this before –but are there rules about texture matching? I always hesitate to wear say, a corduroy jacket with corduroy pants, but I’m not sure if this is just a rule I made up in my head or if anybody would actually bat an eye at it.

  • Lydia

    I love so many colour combinations, and I’m so pleased that you are encouraging people to try out new pairings. I love yellow and indigo, as well as orange and dark navy, and I find dark eggplant goes so well with brights. I do like black and brown (my husband calls it black and tan). I once saw a woman wearing a rusty orange pants, (in a supple velvety texture) with a deep merlot jacket (leather, I think), and I thought she looked great. Not all people may share enthusiasm for various colour combos, but I think we should definately respect others’ colour choices. I am not sure why wearing colour elicits so much commentary and judgement from others, but I can only say (as one colour and pattern lover to another) – be brave and enjoy!

  • Allie

    Ok, who is this person who said navy and brown are taboo? This is my favorite neutral color combo! In fact, I just love navy. My favorite color combinations with navy right now are turquoise+navy+brown and navy+white+hot pink. And right now I am wearing a navy dress with a grey belt and brown shoes and a greenish-blue cardigan and I love how I look. So there, people-who-make-up-these-fashion-rules!

    I do sometimes have a hard time with black and brown and black and navy. The black and navy is probably because I don’t have much black in my wardrobe (I reach for brown or grey first, since I feel they are softer colors), but the black and brown is one of those “rules” that I have a hard time with. I think the best approach, in my personal view, is to wear blacks and browns that are “far apart” from each other, ie. wearing a cognac or light brown with black. Dark brown and black can make it look like you got dressed in the dark and you grabbed the wrong blouse/sweater/shoes etc.

  • I love and wear all of these color combination except for red and green. Don’t get me wrong, I love red and green, I just don’t wear it. I have a block when it comes to that color combination. You’re making me rethink that though.

  • I love this post! Black and brown is one of my favorite color combos, as is red and green. For the red and green, though, I try to stay away from the really bright Christmas-y red and green. I often do a minty or more teal-like green with a darker red. They’re my two favorite colors, so I have a lot of each of those. πŸ™‚

  • My other half and I had one of our biggest fights when he showed up wearing smart black trousers, a burgundy turtle-neck and a brown corduroy jacket.

    Now, whenever somebody on TV wears brown and black he points it out to me; he doesn’t realised it’s not the brown/black combo per se that I’m opposed to – it’s the mixing of cord, wool and cotton and the introduction of burgundy in the mix. Sigh.

  • Nikki


    I’ve only recently started looking at fashion blogs and yours was immediately one of my favorites! I have a very hard time stepping away from just wearing black and one other color (boring, boring, boring). Kendi lit the way for me and I started branching out (scary, scary, scary) and found more fashion blogs to read, yours included. I just wanted to say thank you for being daring and not caring if others agree with your style or not! It’s quite liberating for people like me who just recently realized you can wear yellow and purple together and not look like a Laker’s Cheerleader! Thank you for being such an inspiration and thank you for you professionalism in dealing with those that can’t recognize that it’s you who wears the clothes, not the clothes that wear you.

  • Hope

    Wow, I never realized I wasn’t supposed to put brown and navy together. The only one I really have problems with is red and green, because it really does tend to look like Christmas whenever I do it. Ah well.

  • Great post! I’m really enjoying your blog. I’m glad to see you include red and green — red and green are my two favorite colors, and they can definitely work together in a non-Christmassy way. I especially like a dark maroon or wine red matched with pale moss green and dark grey. It ends up looking very woodsy and earthy, not at all like Christmas.

  • I had no idea black and brown were considered taboo! I wear them together all the time and never thought twice about it. Pairing certain brights together makes me nervous but that’s because I’ve got a fairly stark, minimalist wardrobe, color-wise. I am a sucker for a rich violet paired with an acid green though.

    Sorry you’re dealing with haters on such a non-offensive post. What small, sad lives those folks must lead that they would have the time (and sense of entitlement necessary) to condemn your style.

  • QuiteLight

    I am fascinated that so many people wear navy! It is the ultimate “Meh, I’m and inoffensive, preppy version of black” colour to me, but that may be because I look terrible in navy in great in black. I wouldn’t mind seeing more sophiscated uses of the colour.

    My odd colour combo is a version of red/green. Powder pink & teal. I can’t wear pink on it’s own (washes me out) but love it with darker colours, and the teal is one of my best.

  • Pingback: HBH Link Love: Things I Love Thursday - Hot Beauty Health()

  • Cel

    I’m usually pretty good with colour pairing, but the one that always gets me is pink and red. Sometimes I love it, sometimes… just no. No matter how much I stare at those colours together, I can’t seem to dig them. Yet funnily, this week I wore a white skirt with pink and red floral pattern and would have killed for a red blouse to wear with it! And now I really want to find something lime green and raspberry red because that just sounds awesome.

  • Katie Schulz

    Oooo wee. I love the dress and belt combo in the brown and navy.

  • Anonymous

    Great job! You pair beautifully:)3

  • the stranger

    wow. all the outfits are so ugly.

  • Ila

    Ok so I have a young 11 year old daughter and I am odds with a terrible yellow shirt color that she has to wear. Now the style is cute with nice material nothing against the shirt other than the color is just not a good color for her. Ideas for pairing a yellow top better ?

    • Sal

      Ila – is it possible for your daughter to wear a necklace or scarf in a contrasting color? Getting another, more flattering color closer to her face will help mitigate the yellow!

  • Carrie

    I am looking to pair a really gorgeous royal blue with a shade of brown as my wedding colors. I am not sure which shade would work best, as most of the fashion world treats it as a no-no. Any advice would be appreciated. Thanks.