Oh, color blocking. You are a concept that has been floating around the fashion world for several years now, making many of us scratch our heads in confusion. You sound so simple! I mean, isn’t color blocking just wearing multiple swaths of solid color? Can’t I throw on a cobalt top and red pants and say I’ve color blocked?
Well, yes. But it helps to use a few shortcuts to make such outfits feel more finished. Sometimes a pink tank top and an orange skirt may look “mismatched” instead of “color blocked.” Here are a few shortcuts to successful color blocking:
If you’re feeling shy, try an analogous pairing
Color blocking needn’t be all about bright, blaring, borderline-clashing hues. Analogous pairings are comprised of colors that neighbor each other on the color wheel – emerald and cobalt, scarlet and orange, purple and navy. Colors that are different from each other but still have some common ground can pair beautifully because they tend to make for relatively low contrast outfits. Analogous combinations are especially helpful if you’re blocking an outfit of separates – a top with pants or a skirt – and don’t want to draw loads of attention to where those separates meet. (In this case, your waist!) Lower contrast means less of an obvious break.
If you’re feeling bold, pick complementary colors
Complementary colors sit opposite each other on the color wheel. This means they are bold and a bit challenging when worn together, but they tend to look intentional and chic when done well. When in doubt, go for dusty, dark, or subdued versions. In other words, if bright yellow and bold purple scare you, try violet and mustard instead. Sometimes analogous pairings can flop because colors seem too close to each other and clash strangely. Complementary options are definitely more daring, but any clashing will likely seem like an active choice.
Break at your favorite spots
As I mentioned above, the places where color blocked garments meet generally create high contrast and draw the eye. You can use this to your advantage, and force breaks at your favorite spots. In the outfit above, I’ve paired a zipped cobalt moto with a chartreuse dress. The jacket ends at the narrowest point on my torso, so the observing eye rests there. Consider lengths and hems when color blocking, and attempt to create contrast where you’d like attention to be paid.
If your outfit feels unfinished, add a bridging piece
I lean heavily on bridging pieces when I color block. In fact, I can’t quite imagine doing a sweater, skirt, and shoes in three different shades WITHOUT adding an accessory to tie it all together. In many cases, bridging pieces will include multiple colors from a blocked outfit within a pattern. Scarves and necklaces are my favorites, though belts and shoes can work, too. Pattern isn’t required, though, and neutral or metallic bridging pieces are great options, too. Most outfits feel more finished with the addition of accessories, and color blocked outfits are no exception. Pick a piece that will link your chosen palette.
Leave it to the pros
There are also loads of pre-color-blocked garments on the market right now. Dresses with three broad, vertical panels of color, sweaters that are half yellow, half blue. If the mere thought of consulting a color wheel makes you break out in hives but you’re anxious to try this trend, consider starting with a fully designed, color blocked item.