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Incorporating Color Into My Mostly Neutral Wardrobe

There seem to be two camps: those who solely wear neutrals and those who embrace color. But is there really no happy medium?

I've been pretty neutral wearing my entire life. With the exception of my purple-loving self when I was 9, a jewel toned stint in middle school, and a few brighter pieces here and there, color has never been a big part of my wardrobe. Until now.

Since I've almost exclusively thrifted clothing since September 2019, I've welcomed some color back into my life. Yes, even purple. It opened up a whole new world.

For most of us neutral wearing folk, incorporating color can be intimidating or even uncomfortable. I'm all for experimenting with style, but when we push too far out of our comfort zones, we become unrecognizable, and that doesn't feel good. It's hard work being something we're not. I feel and look my best when I am as authentically me as I can be. In every sense of the word, including my clothes. You're probably the same.

Chloe Alysse of @ChloeAlysse hosted 9 days of color for The Color My Closet Challenge: pink, red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, brown, and animal print. The challenge also brought an awareness to the Australian relief funds, which ended up raising $1477. Pretty cool for a styling challenge!


Here are the looks, from pink to animal print. For us neutrals, we might first think about pure shades when we think about color. We might think of the red of a red rose, orange tangerine, yellow sunflower, or green grass. It helped me embrace color when I started to explore various shades and combinations that felt good to me and didn't compete with my coloring.

I'll detail a bit about how I went about pulling together my 10 outfit pieces and color story.

PINK: Flattering Blush

Pink can be a divisive color. The great news is there are tons of shades of pink. If you're not ready for bright fuchsia, then go for a blush, which looks great on everyone. I just love this Victorian style vintage blouse, but realize it could get costumey fast. To rough it up a bit, I paired it with distressed denim and changed up a more expected silhouette by going with a full leg. Sneakers and a cognac bag also help make the overall look more casual.

The top and bag were thrifted, and everything else was shopped from my closet.

RED: Go for Wine (Does this even need to be said?)

I gave away many of my true red pieces years ago (minus this beret). I liked the idea of them, but I never actually wore them. And my closet real estate is too valuable to store pieces I don't wear.

When I'm looking for a red accent, I'll go for a orangey red lip or one of my wine pieces. I found this faux fur bomber at a consignment shop during a trip down the coast. It pairs incredibly well with everything. And since I tend to feel like faux fur skews girly, the bomber style is the perfect masculine compliment. And next to me is the little one who will soon be stealing all of my clothes.

My pants were thrifted, the tee gifted, the jacket secondhand, and the sandals from my closet. The 10yo's entire outfit was thrifted, minus her pointe shoes.

ORANGE: Add Denim & Cognac

Orange is one of those colors that has managed to pop into my wardrobe over the years. I specifically remember a cropped pair of orange chinos that I often paired with my light blue cardi.

Admittedly, this vintage leather jacket is really extra, but when I thrifted it, I loved its vibe and specifically felt like it would pair well with denim. I could probably go monochromish with this jacket as well. It would go well with tones of rust, clay, yellow, neutrals or contrasting pastels like charcoal grey or mint green.

The sneakers and jeans are the same ones I wore for Pink Day. Do you ever rediscover something from your closet and then want to wear it on repeat?

The jacket and bag were thrifted, and everything else was shopped from my closet.

YELLOW: Paired with Browns & Creams

Yellow is a ray of sunshine. What better way to brighten up your day?

Sweater on sweater injects some major softness and texture into an outfit. I paired the set with a wide flare for a different silhouette. A great way to try out yellow is by pairing it with tones of cognac, beige, tan, cream & denim. The color combo feels fresh and neutralizes the color a bit.

The sweaters and bag were thrifted, and everything else was shopped from my closet.

GREEN: Mint + Olive

Pastels are definitely having a moment. And although I'm not a huge follower of trends, I am loving the infusion of pastels to brighten and lighten our otherwise neutral palettes. You can find pastels at the thrift shops, because believe it or not, this isn't their first rodeo!

I went with knit on knit again, with the outer layer sleeves zhushed up for an extra reveal of the base layer sweater. I went with two shades of green--an olive green and mint. Mixing varied shades of the same color is an easy formula to incorporate some variation into your outfit. Belts can change up your silhouette quite dramatically.

The entire outfit is thrifted, minus the boots which are secondhand, and the hat, which was shopped from my closet.

BLUE: Cerulean + Navy, plus Something Unexpected

This cobalt blue top is really out of character for me. But I've started a small collection of long sleeved vintage silk tops from the thrift shop and I couldn't be happier. They have gathering, pleating, and finishes that are so unique and a fraction of the cost of new. And they take very well to gentle hand washing and air drying, so don't let a fear of dry cleaning deter you.

I went with two shade formula again, pairing the bright blue with navy. Both the bright color and the ruffles have a lot to offer, but I think they balance each other out without being too over the top. This vintage jumpsuit was missing a belt so I either go unbelted or get creative with the belting. And because the outfit is essentially monochromish, I went ahead and wore my leopard sneakers. It's always fun to add something unexpected.

The top and shoes were thrifted, the jumpsuit secondhand, and the belt bag shopped from my closet.

PURPLE: Lavender + Wine + Yellow

Thrifted silk dresses like this one are the reason I've nearly completely sworn off polyester dresses. You cannot beat silk for drape and breathability, and the way it takes color is truly amazing.

The color story behind this outfit started with a monochromish base. I chose purple and wine, which are close to each other on the color wheel (3 colors in a row are analagous colors, like red, orange and yellow). It's a similar idea to styling using different shades of the same color, with a bit more contrast.

Adding yellow, the complimentary color to purple, adds a big pop in a small dose. And we know I like yellow + shades of tan, cream, and brown (see Yellow).

This entire outfit was thrifted, minus the socks and hat, which were shopped from my closet.

BROWN: Brown + Lavender + Camel

Do you either love or hate brown? Again, there are so many shades of brown to choose from. I hate to say I was pretty anti-brown for a few decades. Come on, admit it. We all were. I think dark brown in particular had been "out" for so long that a lot of us had purged most of our pieces. I know I had.

As we've slowly started to welcome brown back into our lives, I've discovered that it's a more unexpected, warm and soft alternative to black in my outfits. In my search to add some brown to my closet, I've thrifted a handful of vintage pieces--a tweed blazer, a silk top, and this wool dress.

The color of this dress is hard to describe, but it's brown with mustard and olive undertones. Although it's a vintage dress, I was drawn to it because it feels really fresh and unexpected. The construction and details particularly on the cuffs and collar drew me in.

For the color story, I wanted the dress to be the star, but decided to soften and lighten it a bit with pops of lavender and white. Then I added camel, essentially a shade of brown.

The dress and beret were thrifted, the bag is a free reusable tote, and the shoes are shopped from my closet.

ANIMAL PRINT: Snow Leopard on Leopard

Did I or did I not jump on the bandwagon and search the thrift shops for over a year for the leopard bias cut skirt everyone and their mom had? I did.

Did I find some leopard skirts? I did. But they were pretty much all damaged beyond repair. So I didn't get my skirt.

But I did find this snow leopard dress and these leopard wedge sneakers, and they more than satisfied my craving to own my little corner of leopard. The dress needed a minor repair, which I attempted myself. But it looked like Frankenstein did it, so I finally took it in to get properly fixed.

If you have a bold print, try going head to toe in it for an even bolder look. Because it's all neutrals, that helps tone it down a bit. I also added a bit of a breather with the dark grey tunic layered underneath and the black suede bag.

This entire outfit was thrifted.

Are you a neutral wearer or a bold embracer of color?

Can you find a happy medium?

You decide.

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