Posts Categorized: color

Reader Request: Go Versus Match

matchy matchy

Reader Roxane posed this great question:

What’s the difference between accessories that “go” and ones that are “matchy-matchy”? For example, if you’re wearing all silver accessories (necklace, bracelet, shoes) is that matchy-matchy? Would you need to mix metals to have things that “go” and still stay metallic? 

I wonder which assumes the need for a large supply of accessories (and thus perhaps a larger budget) – being matchy-matchy or having things that “go.” (Of course, if you stick to a very small color palette, this isn’t an issue.)

You all know I love talking matchy. Just a quick reminder: Matchy-matchy is not a crime, no matter what the magazines say. If you love matching your accessories, do it.

Matchy can apply to the clothing within outfits, but it’s more generally discussed in terms of accessories. Roxane’s question about jewelry is an interesting one: In my opinion, wearing necklace, bracelet, and earrings that are all silver is not matchy at all UNLESS they are part of a jewelry set that has repeating elements and motifs. Their silver-ness alone doesn’t make them matchy. I think wearing jewelry that’s in the same metallic family makes visual sense. If it feels like overload, try doing earrings and bracelet in one metal, necklace in another (or in a color) – that gives you a little distance between the two similar items and the chance to bring in a dissimilar third.

Silver necklace, bracelet, and shoes? That might be verging on matchy territory depending on how prominent the silver of the jewelry is and how shiny the shoes look. If you wanted to go with metallic accents beyond jewelry, it might be best to do at least one that isn’t silver.

When I think of matchy-ness, I mostly think about non-jewelry accessories. So, here’s an example:


By doing a red necklace, belt, and shoes – three red pops in three different areas within the outfit – this is already matchy-matchy. If I were carrying a red handbag, too, that would be extreme overkill in my opinion. I like to think of two matched elements as being unifying without getting matchy. So this:


… works much better. There’s still red and yellow, but only two red elements, a non-red belt, and a non-red bag. Other variations that would’ve worked include:

  • Red belt, red shoes, non-red necklace, non-red bag
  • Red belt, red bag, non-red necklace, non-red shoes
  • Red necklace, red belt, non-red shoes, non-red bag
  • Red necklace, non-red belt, non-red shoes, red bag

Etc. Go ahead and match your shoes and belt, just make sure they’re the only matched items to keep things contemporary. Also consider tights, earrings, bracelets, scarves, and hats as potential elements to match or mix.

It’s a little harder to describe what it means for accessories to “go.” In this older post on the subject, I say that accessories that go are different colors from each other and don’t pick up on any elements present in the design or colors of the outfit’s garments. But everything is harmonious, similar without echoing. The outfit on the right at the top of this post “goes,” since it includes a burgundy belt, teal bag, and leopard shoes.

In terms of which route requires a larger budget and/or supply of accessories, my guess is matchy-matchy would create a bigger burden. If you need to have belts, bags, and shoes that match exactly and want them in multiple colors, that’ll get expensive. If your accessories are either all one color or in mix-and-matchable neutrals/colors, you’ll have more variety using fewer pieces.

What are your rules for matching accessories? Would even two matched items feel like too much to you?

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Reader Request: Adding a Third Color

color triad

Reader Jill had this question:

I would love some advice on how to add a third color to an outfit. I just bought a turquoise and brown suit, and I love the colors together. But the jacket needs a cami or top under it, and I don’t know what color to add … and I’m thinking I would carry that color to shoes?

Great question, and one with MANY answers! Let’s start with the scientific one.

Consult a color wheel

I’ll be straight with you: The chances of me, myself, doing this approach zero. Color wheels make me itchy, just like music theory makes me itchy: I’d rather make choices with my gut than be constrained by rules about how to make artistic decisions the “right” way. HOWEVER! Not everyone is wired that way and I know that clear systems with comprehensible rules are absolutely invaluable to many. So, if you’re looking to add a third color to your outfit, you can definitely work with the color wheel. The graphic above is from this post about color schemes that does a spectacular job of explaining why some work and others don’t. This one will help if you’re dealing with neutrals, since brown and gray are shades and tones.

Add a tone, tint, or shade of one of your colors

Instead of bringing an entirely new color into the mix, consider utilizing a tone, tint, or shade of the two you’ve already selected. Tints result from adding white, tones result from adding gray, and hues result from adding black. So if we think about Jill’s example, she could add a lighter tint of turquoise, a deeper hue of brown, or a more muted tone of turquoise and the colors would be harmonious. This can get tricky because all turquoises aren’t the same and you need to watch your undertones, but it’s fun to tinker with.

Look to existing patterns or prints for guidance

The best color cheat in the world, if you ask me. Find a print, pattern, or graphic that includes your first two colors, and pick a third from within the design. A person who gets paid to group colors has just made your decision for you. If you’re doing an outfit of solids, adding the printed or patterned item can serve as a bridge, but it’s not strictly necessary.

Poke around online color resources

This is a great way to get color-grouping inspiration overall, but can also help out if you’re in a pinch looking for a third color to complete an outfit. Color blogs like Design Seeds and Colour Lovers are great resources, but I also love poking around Pinterest. I’ve got a color board, and Imogen has an amazing one, too. For general help you can search for “color schemes” or the two colors you’ve already selected – here are results for turquoise and brown. Another great Imogen-created resource? Her Polyvore sets. Even the ones that aren’t directly related to color theory or color groupings are inspirational.

The one tactic I’d suggest avoiding? Making white or cream your fallback third color. Yes, they’re neutral, but they don’t always look harmonious in color triads. White can be jarring, and cream doesn’t often add anything to color groupings. If possible, do a tone, tint, or shade instead.

Got any other suggestions for adding a third color to your outfits? Link to resources if you’ve got them!

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Reader Request: Color Pairing Inspiration

color pairings

Reader J had this request:

I know you’ve talked about it in the past, but I’d love some more advice on how to get inspired about new color pairings.

Mmmmm, color pairings. Even though I’ve shifted to neutrals myself, I still love a colorful, visual feast and seek out inspiration to help my clients create bold color mixes. Here are some resources and tricks that I use:


I hoard color-pairing inspiration on this board, but find that following a few fashion- or design-focused pinners is a great way to unearth unexpected combinations. Grown and Curvy Woman is a color fiend and has a color-focused board. The Perfect Palette pins lots of event-related groupings, but those can be repurposed for outfits, too.

Design Seeds

The subtitle of Jessica’s blog is “For all who love color.” Design Seeds offers photo-inspired palettes that can be used in home decor, outfits, graphic design projects, just about anything. Most are heavy on the dusty shades, but a few go bold. Subscribe to this blog for daily inspiration.


I’ve mentioned this several times, but am delighted to have a chance to call it out again: Printed, multi-colored scarves are a fabulous tool for palette creation. The person who designed the scarf put a lot of thought into its colors, and you can reap the benefits by looking at the grouping and pulling out individual, solid colors. Assemble an outfit from those solids, and add the scarf to tie everything together. Or don’t – just use the palette as outfit inspiration.

Textiles, logos, and existing designs

In fact, all textiles that feature multiple colors can show you groupings you might not have thought of on your own. And although you might not want to dress in the colors on your toothpaste tube, labels and logos have also been given long and serious consideration by professional designers, so you just never know.

Color-centric blogs

Design Seeds deserved its own shout-out, but there are GOBS of blogs that focus on palettes and color pairings. Here’s a roundup from HuffPost, and another from Colour Lovers.

I’d love some more suggestions! What gives you color pairing inspiration? Other resources or tips to share?

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