Wearing color – loads of it, in big pile-on style outfits – used to be one of my greatest joys in life. And whenever the Trend Dictators declared that this season it would be JEWEL TONES! Or NEONS! Or SATURATED 70’s SHADES! I was thrilled.
And never surprised when very, very few folks actually indulged in these color gluts. Style bloggers may hop on the Technicolor train quite cheerfully, but the rest of the clothed world typically remains standing on the platform.
Because black? Black is eternally cool. Neutrals are perpetually chic. And most women want to as look cool and chic as possible as many days as possible. Neutrals are also a palette unto themselves and generally look fabulous worn in virtually any combination. They’re not only cool and chic, they’re relatively easy to work with.
I mean look at these women swathed in their carefully-crafted all-neutral ensembles. They’re so cool that your eyes are getting frostbitten just looking at ’em, am I right?
If I – or even someone with more money and better taste than I – were to re-create these outfits using similar shapes and fabrics, but swapping in rich reds and bold blues, or warm yellows and majestic purples for all the black, tan, and gray, the result might look interesting or fun or quirky. But it wouldn’t look quite as cool.
A “pop of color” here or there is definitely permissible. In fact, some of the best neutral ensembles throw in a dash of color for contrast and interest. But the foundation must remain neutral to maintain that classic, eternal, enviable vibe of coolness.
Years ago, bold, energetic, fun, and even on-trend nearly always meant more to me than cool and chic. And most days, I was fine with that. I figured since I’d been 15 flavors of dorky my entire life, why attempt to achieve coolness this late in the game? Especially when wearing color lifted my spirits AND the spirits of those around me.
Yet sometimes I looked at my tights-encased, Muppet-colored legs or caught a glimpse of my bright-on-bright-with-a-side-order-of-bright outfit in a reflective surface and though, “Whoa, Momma.” Bright is bold, color is attention-grabbing, and wearing tone-on-tone takes more chutzpah than wearing neutral-on-neutral. Or even tone-on-neutral. Which means that color pairing is relatively tricky, as dressing practices go, and therefore more likely to fail. Some of my most peacock-reminiscent outfits ended up being my least favorite in retrospect, and I occasionally wondered if I should tone it down a bit.
And I did. I got older, my preferences changed, and I shifted my palette accordingly. I feel happier now, and more like myself. And I do feel cooler … most of the time. Though I also recognize that while stripping color from my closet added perceived coolness, it also may have removed perceived creativity or boldness. Color may not be cool, but it is brave and celebratory and statement-making. I’m happy to be making fewer statements with my clothes these days … but I still enjoy watching others do so from the sidelines.
All images via Facehunter.