A Guide to Coordinating the Colors of Your Clothes (+Examples) (P)

The color theory

Color coordination is one of the most important things when it comes to style. A well-thought outfit always has an advantage as opposed to an outfit that has not been so carefully put together. We wrote a while ago a complete guide on how to choose the colors of your clothes. In this guide, we will be looking at the practical aspect of the color theory. If you know how to mix colors well, you will be one step ahead of the game, as a well-coordinated outfit colorwise always looks more harmonious and elegant than something worn at random, unless you are so lucky and pick your colors right at random. There are several schemes you can use to put colors together. This is truly something great, as there is something for everyone and for every setting. Some color schemes tend to look more formal, while others will always be more appropriate for casual outfits.

We chose to exemplify these schemes, by using mostly shirts, ties, bow ties and pocket squares and mixing them according to the schemes. Note that you can use these schemes for any pieces and that they are not limited to bow ties, pocket squares and shirts or jackets. Also, if you don’t like these theories, you are free to make up your own, but we know that following these rules will ensure you an aesthetic look.

When you are putting together an outfit, it is recommended that you wear not more than three colors. These should not be in the same amount: you should have a primary color, a secondary and a tertiary. Of course, the primary color is the one that occupies most of the colored space, while the tertiary is the one that occupies the least. If you have any other pieces you need to put on and don’t know what color to pick, the safe bet is to wear neutral colors. Neutrals are colors that go with anything. These are: black, white, gray, khaki, etc.

 

 

The color wheel

The color wheel is used in any creative field to mix and match colors. It represents a balanced roundup of colors, divided into cold and warm. Some color wheels have more shades on them, while others have less. On some color wheels you will be able to notice different shades and tints, which indicate the intensity of a color. When you are working with the color wheel, you can always take into consideration the fact that you can use colors in different levels of saturation. This way, you can create endless variations, some looking better than others. We’ll explain a little the differences between hue, color and other words with which you might not be very familiar.

 

The color wheel

The color wheel

 

Hue and color basically mean the same thing and refer to the color family or the basic color of a certain shade. For example, blue is the color root for navy.

A tint is also called a pastel. It is any color to which white has been added, resulting in a paler version of the root color.

A shade is the opposite of a color: it refers to any color with black added.

Tones are created by adding both black and white to a color. A color mixed with gray is often called a “grayed down” color. Tones can be more soothing to the eye as they are not very strong. Some people consider them more subtle, complex and sophisticated.

 

 

Color schemes

Analog colors

 

Analog colors

 

Creating a combination of analog colors basically means that you will be choosing one color from the spectrum, skip one and then choose the next one. These combinations are very simple yet highly elegant. Such combinations are found in nature and look great.

 

A tie and a pocket square matched according to the analog colors scheme

A tie and a pocket square matched according to the analog colors scheme

 

 

A tie and a bow tie in another scheme with analog colors

A tie and a bow tie in another scheme with analog colors

Complementary colors

 

Complementary colors

Complementary colors

 

A combination of complementary colors involves choosing two colors that are found on exact opposite sides of the color wheel. These colors are highly contrasting and look very bold if put together. Such combinations usually draw the eye and stand out very well. To give you a few examples of such combinations, we can mention: red-blue, yellow-purple, etc.

 

Blue always goes great with orange, as they are complementary colors. You can tone the blue down in order to get a better effect

Blue always goes great with orange, as they are complementary colors. You can tone the blue down in order to get a better effect

 

Split complementary colors

 

Split Complementary colors

The split complementary color scheme

 

A split complementary color scheme will result in a more calm, toned down look than a combination of complementary colors would, but still with a very big impact. Basically, to create such a combination, you need to choose two analog colors and the complementary color of the one that is found between them.

 

A purple checkered shirt goes great with a turquoise tie and an aqua-green pocket square. The more shades you use, the more subtle your outfits will be.

A purple checkered shirt goes great with a turquoise tie and an aqua-green pocket square. The more shades you use, the more subtle your outfits will be

 

A green shirt makes a good combination with an orange tie, and a violet pocket square. Notice how the color scheme follows the rule

A green shirt makes a good combination with an orange tie, and a violet pocket square. Notice how the color scheme follows the rule

 

Triad colors

 

Triad colors

Triad colors

 

Triad colors are colors that are found equidistant on the color wheel. If you are using a 24-color color wheel, you can count from 8 to 8 starting from any color to find the right matches (in our case, we have a 12-color color wheel so we are counting from 4 to 4). Such combinations will result in more unconventional, strange combinations, but nevertheless harmonious. They go best with formal clothes, but can also be used if you are putting together a club or party attire.

 

Triad colors can look more serious if you use shades

Triad colors can look more serious if you use shades

 

But they can also look funky and electric

But they can also look funky and electric

 

Monotone chromatic

A monotone chromatic color scheme, as technical as it might sound is a scheme where you use only one color. You can use it in the same shade or you can use variations of that color. Such combinations are very hard to pull off, but if you manage to do it, you will look extremely subtle and elegant. Such combinations go great at semi-formal or formal events, but you can wear them in other settings as well, as they are very sophisticated.

 

These orange pieces would work great with a neutral jacket

These orange pieces would work great with a neutral jacket

 

Monotone achromatic

Monotone achromatic color combinations are the same as monotone chromatic, just that the color you are using is a neutral. Different shades of gray put together make a very elegant look. So do browns combined, different shades of khaki or wearing an ivory outfit.

 

To avoid any '50 Shades of Gray' references, we chose to showcase all-beige pieces

To avoid any ’50 Shades of Gray’ references, we chose to showcase all-beige pieces

 

Wearing color can be something anyone can do with a little effort and time put into it. We encourage you to take these examples and create your own style, your own identity and to experiment with different combinations so that you discover what you like and what you don’t. You can always be changing your preferences, that’s not a problem. In fact, that’s what style is all about!

 

Fraquoh and Franchomme

 

 

 

 

 

Further reading:

The complete guide to mixing patterns and prints

Choose the colors of your clothes like a pro!

Choosing the colors of your clothes according to your skin tone

Discovering what colors to wear according to your natural features

Choosing the best color of clothes for dark skin tones

Color combinations that work for any skin tone, hair and eye color

How to match your tie and shirt

P.S. How do you like to coordinate the colors of your clothes? Which scheme do you like to apply?  Share your feedback, questions or thoughts in the comments below! For more articles on style, fashion tips and cultural insights, don’t forget to subscribe to Attire Club via e-mail or follow us on Facebook or Twitter!

 

43 thoughts on “A Guide to Coordinating the Colors of Your Clothes (+Examples) (P)

  1. I absolutely love this article! Very explicit and helpful, I do try to incorporate at least one colour in my outfits, but it’s pretty hard since I usually wear some kind of all neutral everything. Excellent work, I’ll be passing this around to friends ^_^

  2. hey there! i LOVE color theory!!! this is a great explanation of this. i haaatttee to be nitpicky (because i always hate it when people do it to me) but the red-blue combination is actually part of the “primary color scheme” red/blue/yellow are the primary set of colors for subtractive color mixing (as opposed to CMYK for print, and RGB for additive color mixing)

    complimentary colors would be red/green, yellow/violet, blue/orange

    sorry i’m such a nerd.

    • Hi Jennine,

      Thank you for the comment! Red blue and yellow are “primary” colors in the sense that they are colors that represent the basis of any other color. Primary in this article refers to the color you will be using most.

      Red and blue are primary colors in that sense, but they are also highly contrasting colors, since they lie on opposite sides on the spectrum. Red is complementary to green indeed, but you can also match it to blue, as the contrast will also be big (but not as big as it would be with green).

      Thanks for the input!

  3. Love your site, very easy to navigate. You really get an A+ for your series of colour posts.

    I was searching frantically for a blog post that just breaks it down when I was redirected to your site. I have learnt so much. Interestingly (the outfits you’ve used as examples here) dont look anything like a big crayon box, the colour wheel resembles. That’s because you picked the darkers hues which really show that intensity of the colour, whether triad or split.

    Thanks for this post. Before it, I hesitated with colour, (fearing looking like xmas deco) and only sticking to red, with neutrals *snooze* but now I see how colour can be worn successfully.

    • Hello Nokthula,

      Thank you for the comment! We are glad you enjoyed it and made use of it! That’s the reason why we do these posts!

      Best,

      F&F

  4. great post ! its definitely a topic I don’t see written about a lot so im glad I came across it ! I should start using the color wheel (:

    xoxo Rei
    couturecrush.net

    • Hy Maya,

      We are glad you liked the post! Mixing shades can be tricky, but if you know which color goes with which, there are fewer chances to go wrong.

  5. Nice post, i will certainly use this.

    My question: what about trousers? With a trouser-shirt-jacket outfit, what should be the primary-complementary colour?

    Thanks! 😀

    • Hi! Thank you for the appreciation and for the feedback. When it comes to trousers-shirt-jacket combinations, the same rules apply. You can use these combinations for any kind of outfits.

      Also, you can opt for each of the main pieces to have a strong color or for just some to have bright colors and to keep the others neutral. For example, if you have a neutral shirt, you can create a three-color combination using the colors of your jacket, pants and let’s say vest.

      The thing you should always remember is that the brightest color will be the one that draws attention most. Therefore,if your primary color is the one of the pants, the focus will go on your legs, if it’s the one of your shirt, the focus will go on your torso.

      Let us know if you have any other questions!

      For more on the color theory, read this article: attireclub.org/2013/01/05/the-professional-way-to-choose-colors/

      Best,

      F&F

  6. ok…what about choices for shoe colours? is there a rule especially when you’ve introduced some different colour combinations?

    • Dear Sandra,

      Thank you for the question!

      Your shoes should be part of color combination, as well as your other accessories. When you are creating a color scheme, make sure you include your shoes, your necklaces, bracelets, watch and everything else in it.

      If you choose your shoes to be the pop of color to your outfit, you can be sure that they will attract attention. Our advice would be to wear the color of your shoes at least one more time in your outfit or to make sure it’s so outstanding that it qualifies as a “fashion statement”.

      Let us know if you have any other questions or need more details!

      F&F

  7. I mistakenly rated your site “awful” when I only wanted to point out a few inaccuracies. For example, Shades are not the opposite of color. They are opposites of tints. Also, your color wheel is very misleading in your example of a Triad Color Scheme. Having said that, I think overall your site is very helpful and breaks down color planning in fashion in an easily understandable way. Sorry for the mistake!

  8. Man I love your website, been search for a website like this for a long time!!! Perfect sound tracks too!!
    Kudos!

  9. I hAve a question: u said that the whole outfit should have only 3 colors, let s say suit, shirt and tie. This means that the square should contain any of the 3 colors? Nevertheless, a great article

    • Dear Alustor,

      Thank you very much for your question.

      When it comes to wearing both a tie and a pocket square, it is advised that these two differ very much, both in terms of color and fabric. The reason behind this is that a pocket square should compliment a tie – there is no point in wearing the same thing twice.

      To learn more about wearing ties and pocket squares, read this article: http://attireclub.org/2014/05/09/matching-your-tie-to-your-pocket-square/.

      Basically, you should wear three colors, patterns or prints, but you can match these to any and as many other neutrals. In fashion neutrals are colors that go with any other color and with each other. These are black, white, gray, khaki, tan, ivory, beige, dark blue, etc.

      So, basically, you can wear for example a gray suit (neutral), with a pink shirt (color #1), a light blue tie (color #2) and a yellow pocket square (color #3). Of course, then your shoes, belt and socks would be black or brown, which are neutrals.

      The three colors you wear can be on any of the pieces. Once you have these three pieces/colors established, it is recommended to keep everything else neutral.

      Please let us know if you have any other questions, we are always happy to reply!

      Yours sincerely,

      Fraquoh and Franchomme

      • I understand. So if i have a turcoise suit, a white shirt and a yellow-orangeish tie, acCording to the triad colour rule i should get a purple square, but can i get a analog or complementary colour to any of the suit/tie? How about a white tie? Thanks for the above reply

        • Dear Alustor,

          Thank you for the reply.

          If you have a turquoise suit, a white shirt and yellow-orange tie, you can get a purple square, but you can also get a pink one – this could be a very good choice (think split-complementary color scheme). We would not recommend mixing up color schemes. If you are choosing three colors create a three-color color scheme, if you only choose two, create a two-color color scheme.

          A white tie works as well in terms of color, because white is a neutral, but we would skip it in this case. White ties are usually suited for dressy occasions and on a dressy occasion you should not wear a turquoise suit (the shade of the suit depends too: a darker shade could go) The outfit you are describing seems appropriate for daytime or for a very casual, yet dressed up event.

          As a further tip, if you want a very elegant and subtle look, you can replicate one of the colors, but in a different shade. For example, if you have a yellow-orange tie, you can wear a shirt that is light peach.

          Let us know if you have any other questions!

          F&F

  10. My sincere apologies, i meant to say a white square, even though i read that it should be used mostly in business meetings. I am asking because i will attend to a end of faculty banquet, where the dress code should be elegant, but not sober. One other thing that i wanted to ask is if i can get a square with a mix of turquoise/orange-yellow/purple-pink, any of the two or three colours. If you want i can post a picture after the banquet, so u can observe how the advices given to me developed, which i am very grateful for, and sorry for the square/tie confusion created. Btw my suit has a slightly darker blueish tone, not actually turquoise and i think it will work. Thanks again for the reply

    • Dear Alustor,

      Thank you for the comment. A pocket square that features the other colors you are wearing should look good on such an outfit.

      Of course, we can’t give you exact advice, since we have not seen the pieces and don’t know that they look like individually.

      We would rather go for the colorful pocket square than for a white one, if you are going for a colorful look, you should keep it that way!

      Please let us know if this clarified your question or if there is anything else you need!

      By the way, we would love to see the outcome!

      Yours truly,

      F&F

      • This totally clarified my question, thanks alot. It was very kind of you to answer my questions and i will glady show you the outcome. Have a nice day

        • Dear Alustor,

          Thank you for the reply! We are looking forward to seeing the picture!

          Have a great time at the party!

          Feel free to always send us your questions!

          Yours sincerely,

          Fraquoh and Franchomme

    • Dear Henrietta,

      This combination might work, but you should make sure you use clearly defined shades, otherwise they might blend and it will not be a very god look.

      F&F

  11. Hi..thanks for sharing. Very insightful. I saw this very nice melon coloured skirt. What colors could I wear this skirt with?

    • Dear Mickey,

      Thank you for the question.

      We have covered this subject in our article: “Prom Style: Should You Match your Date?”, which you can read at:

      http://attireclub.org/2014/03/20/prom-style-match-date/

      The article refers to prom, but the tips can be applied to any formal party.

      In short, you can choose to match your partner or not. If you choose to, you can go for a deep brown for example, and if not, you can go for anything else.

      Take a look at the article and let us know if you have any further questions!

      F&F

  12. i live in honduras……and i’m new to all the…femenine world……i found this to be the most useful article on this topic in the web!!!
    THANK YOU SO MUCH…

  13. Asante sana kwa somo lako zuri la rangi. Nimekua nikijifunza ubunifu wa mavazi nadhan nimeongeza ujuzi mkubwa sana..

    In English
    Thank you very much for the Color leason .i have been learning my self fashion designing and i think you had expand my knowledge

  14. I’m from tunisia and I’m recently started working in a shop of garment men. I would like to be creative and be an effective employee. I have to learn how to coordinate colors, so I can get good clothes’ display. Thus, I can go ahead in my career.
    I need to learn all sides of colors’ combination and how match them to look great to the public .

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