White, like black, is considered by many to be a tone that “goes with everything.” But in my humble opinion, neither white nor black goes with everything! And just as you should consider how you deploy black in your outfits, it will help your style seem more refined and sophisticated if you learn to utilize white not as a fallback plan, but as an active color.
Now, there is nothing inherently wrong with this:
Using a white top, tank, or tee as the neutral underlayer. Most often, I see a white top with a solid colored cardigan and black slacks. Nothing is clashing when those pieces are worn together, but nothing is unified either. The outer layer, inner layer, and bottom layer all seem completely separate, nothing tying them together. So here are a few alternatives. As you’ll see, they’re mostly pattern-related!
SOLID WHITE WITH A PATTERN THAT INCLUDES WHITE
Here is a colorful cardigan, white top, and dark bottom worn together … but they twist on the formula is that magical scarf. It’s got both warm yellows and cool white in its pattern, so it creates unity among the otherwise disparate pieces.
In this variation, it’s the skirt itself that has a bit of white in it, helping tie the entire ensemble together. Either way, making sure to include a garment or accessory that has white in its pattern will make any solid white piece seem like a natural participant in the outfit.
WHITE AS AN ACCENT
White most often appears in shirt form, but it CAN be worn in other ways. No, really, it can. Here I am again relying on a pattern that includes white – or in this case, ivory – to provide unity. But my additional white item is my boots – unexpected, fresh, and fun. White doesn’t have to be a platform, it can be an accent, too!
WHITE AS THE BASE COLOR
White skirts, pants, jeans, and shorts have been trendy for a couple of years now, and creating an all-white base for an outfit is a wonderful way to be intentional with your whites. If the white out look is too much for ya, add a colorful vest, blazer, or scarf.
If you’re a stickler for old-fashioned style rules, this suggestion may seem wildly inappropriate for fall. (No white shoes or bottoms after Labor Day, and all that.) I believe those guidelines are loosening, but if you still abide them just stash this nugget away until Memorial Day!
WHITE IN AN ALL-NEUTRAL MIX
Despite my preference that it be treated as a color, white is, in fact, a neutral. And that means that it will play nicely with most other neutrals. If you’re working with a cool white – a true, bright white with blue undertones – it’s best to stick to like neutrals such as black, cool grays, and cool khakis. Creams and ivories work well with browns and warm grays, and occasionally with black. All-neutral mixes tend to look chic and intentional, a definite plus.
The more I experiment with and explore my personal style, the more I learn that virtually nothing “goes with everything.” The only exception that comes to mind is denim, but more so for social than aesthetic reasons: Decades ago, we all agreed that blue denim was completely neutral, and we’re all still cool with that even though blue isn’t even REMOTELY neutral. True neutrals like black, gray, and our friend white can also certainly be paired with color and treated as non-entities, but I’ve found that outfits really work, shine, and sing when we’re as intentional as possible with our neutrals.
Do you wear much white? Do you do the colorful cardi, white tee, black pant combo a lot? Do these techniques appeal? Any other suggestions for being intentional with white?