Wednesday, January 11, 2012

{Colour Theory Week} Neutrals & Wardrobe Basics

Strictly speaking, neutral colours are black, white, and shades of grey, which have no hue (although actually grey fabrics normally have a slight bias towards warm or cool). In fashion, shades of cream and beige are often also considered neutrals, along with chocolate brown and navy blue. These are the background colours. They can be used as a 'base' for a colour scheme with brighter hues, or worn with each other.

Beige on beige for sleek, chic sophistication - Sears, 1957

When combining neutrals, you can create contrast by varying value, proportion and - if applicable - saturation, to avoid the blah factor or (particularly concerning navy with black) the "got dressed in the dark" effect.

Combining Neutrals

Black with Tan - Everywoman magazine, 1949

Neutrals are the mainstay of your wardrobe. With the addition of a neutral, a monochromatic scheme becomes two-colour, and a two-colour scheme becomes three, allowing it to gain interest and flexibility without risk of a clash.

Neutral accessories don't interfere with the colour scheme

Wardrobe Basics

Although I've often seen red described as a 'neutral' on the grounds that it goes with everything, I wouldn't consider it one since it isn't a background colour: it might overpower pastel shades, or compete with other saturated colours like emerald green or royal purple or Persian blue. Yes, it can be worn with these colours, but red will take an active role in the colour scheme unlike passive grey, black or beige. Besides, under the "goes with everything" definition pink would also be a neutral, along with lemon, aqua, and probably many more. Colours like this can be wardrobe basics (red certainly is in my life), but this doesn't make them de facto neutrals. Being aware of the difference makes creating successful colour combinations less hit-and-miss.

Your favourite colours will probably form the basis of your wardrobe. These are the colours you feel most comfortable wearing, the ones you can build outfits around. Red and pink are probably mine - even though I don't actually have that much red or pink clothing, any time I want to inject more colour into an ensemble I'll usually reach for either red or pink (or both!) accessories.


  1. I love to combine browns with blacks at the moment. For some reason I always shied away for years, before thinking 'hang on, if leopard print works, so will brown-black-gold...'. It immediately makes a humdrum outfit look a bit daringly luxe.

    I don't use red as a neutral, but I do use a very dark wine as a base colour sometimes. As you say, it's more of a colour which happens to work in many schemes than a neautral (a bit like blue, another staple of my wardrobe).

  2. PS. For some reason I can't type/spell today. Gah. More coffee methinks.

  3. My favourite colour has to be green - which fits since I'm a redhead. But I usually prefer neutrals like white/beige and black. Though I also came to like brown, yellow and teal^^
    For me it depends on the season. I'm more a yellow/green person in springtimes, and a brown person in autumn. And I agree black and white goes with everything.

  4. Wow you obviously know your stuff! All those pictures are gorgeous! I don't know why but my favourite colour has been pink for many years, but I've never really worn it. I love turquoise now which I do wear. The main colours I wear are silver, green, blue, purple, red and a bit of black. I have light blonde hair and very pale skin, so these colours seem to suit me best. I'm trying to get into wearing more yellow and orange now which I've always been wary of due to my pale skin and blonde hair. I'd love to be able to wear white, peach, coral and pastel colours but I'm too pale! I've taken notes on your Wardrobe basics! XxxX

  5. It's always bugged me just a little bit that navy blue is so often considered a neutral. I feel like, if that's the case, then similar shades/tones of other colors would have to be considered neutral as well -- like say burgundy or forest green. In my head I tend to think of dark, muted colors as "neutral-ish" rather than true neutral. But then again, I tend to treat blue denim jeans as neutral, so....

  6. I know what you mean - I consider navy and brown borderline, since I don't like wearing them with all colours and for me they're active in a colour scheme.

    xx Charlotte


I'd love to hear your thoughts!


Related Posts with Thumbnails