Posts Categorized: color

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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Reader Request: Style Tips for Pale Skin

style tips pale skin

Reader Annabeth popped this question into the suggestion box:

Tricks for working with extremely pale skin. I’m very, VERY fair – to the point where, when I go without makeup, total strangers ask if I’m not feeling well. I’ve adopted the strategy of playing up my paleness rather than hiding it, but would always be happy for more tips about that.

I’ve written before about my own marked paleness here and here, but didn’t offer any style-related pale-girl tips. And before I even attempt to do so, I must point you to Forever Amber who has a section of her blog dedicated to pale skin makeup reviews and tips, and has also taken a stand on never, ever giving in to people’s weird, misplaced desires for her to get a tan. Rock on, Amber. Pale girls unite!

As always, none of my figure flattery advice posts should be considered gospel, including this one, and I fully expect you to read them with a grain of salt. Style “rules” are merely guidelines, no matter who is dispensing them. I trust you to use your judgment. And I trust you to take what applies to you, discard the rest, and assume positive intent. That said, here’s what I’ve got for ya.

Don’t worry about it

I’m delighted to hear that Annabeth plays up her pale skin. DELIGHTED, I tell you. Anyone who is policing your body for any reason at all should consider getting a new hobby. Your skin is your business, no matter how tan, not-tan, pale, dark, spotty, or covered in Twilight-reminiscent glittery bits it may be. The end.

Study pale celeb choices

Cate Blanchett, Tilda Swinton (pictured above in all her luminous glory), Nicole Kidman, and Dita Von Teese all rock fair skin. You may have a hard time tracking down photos of Cate and Tilda frolicking about in casual wear, but any outfit shots will show you how they select colors, accessorize, and style their hair to look stylish and chic year-round.

Embrace contrast

As a pale gal myself, I typically shy away from blushes and beiges when it comes to clothes. (Nude-to-my-skin shoes, yes. Nude-to-my-skin sweaters, not so much.) I’m more likely to go for vibrant shades that play off my natural undertones and offer contrast to my light-colored skin. Of course, I have high contrast anyway with pale skin and dark hair, so this is no hard-and-fast rule. And I’d never say to avoid light colors or nude-ish tones altogether, especially if you can work them into a mix of colors. But in summer when many people are showing off browned skin, colors like peach, stone, khaki, tan, and some ivories will likely look stranger against naturally light skin than they will during the cold months.

Consider your makeup

I’m no makeup expert, but I do know that summer is generally considered a casual season and that casualness extends into the realm of cosmetics. Natural, light, glowy tones look fab on fair-skinned gals during the summer months. A flattering blush, light lip color, and a little mascara may be all you’ll need.

Play with pattern

Where big swaths of color can wash you out or alter how your skin tone is perceived, patterns are more forgiving. Obviously some patterns will work better than others with your hair, facial features, and figure, so choose carefully. But be aware that doing patterns against pale skin may appear less harsh than solids.

Fellow pale ladies, what else would you add? Do you dress to play up or downplay your fair skin? A little of both? Any other tips to share?

Image source

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