I got a request to do a post about how to add a pop of color to an outfit. Adding small bits of color to finish a look in a sophisticated way is definitely what I am known for as a stylist. In fact, I can recall a funny story about a time when I did some filming with some clients who came in to be recorded on video. At the end of the day, the production assistant remarked how every client who showed up had interesting shoes on and that none of them wore black shoes. My clients who heard this remark said, “Why wear black when a pop of a shoe color can make an outfit so much more interesting?”

What I also realize is that often my advice gets misinterpreted or confused when it gets shared with the masses. I learned this when I suggested someone pop an outfit with a pair of yellow shoes and a member of my Facebook Group chimed in to ask if a person can only wear a pair of yellow shoes if the yellow is also found somewhere else in an outfit. “Absolutely not,” I replied. This is what inspired today’s post as there seems to be some confusion about how to do do it.

How to Add a Pop of Color to an Outfit

Adding a pop of color to an outfit doesn’t just have to done through a pair of shoes, there are many ways to do it. In addition, a pop of color doesn’t even have to be a bold shade. Take a look at the outfits I put together below to get some tips on how adding a pop of color can finish a look and make an outfit more sophisticated.

Outfit #1

pop of color

To you more analytical readers out there, I wish I had some sort of a magic formula or method out there that I could share with you to help you know exactly how I figure out how much of pop of color should be added. It’s similar to every time I ask my mother-in-law the recipe for her marinara sauce. She has no recipe, she usually goes by instinct. Quite often this is the case with me when adding color. I usually look for balance and pull back when I have added too much or add when an outfit needs something.

Specifically speaking of the outfit above, I started with the neutral base of a navy top from Gibson and khaki/olive chinos from J. Crew. With a neutral base like this, the pop of color that can be added is practically limitless. Going with burgundy was simply a choice by me. After I added the burgundy loafer flats from Steve Madden, I added this yellow bag from MICHAEL Michael Kors. Like Burgundy, yellow is another color that tends to complement any shade that it is paired with. So the thought process here was neutral base and two pop shades that complement each other. To avoid too much color, the pop shades are used in a small way. My decision to add a simple gold necklace from The Sak was because it felt like adding a colored necklace to an outfit that had enough pop already would be too much. If I matched the necklace to the shoes and/or the bag I felt the outfit would be way too matchy-matchy.

Even if you were to pull the bag away (which in most cases you put it down at some point), the burgundy shoes still add a nice pop to the khaki and navy.

Outfit #2

pop of color

Adding a pop of color doesn’t just work when wearing an outfit that is neutral. In this outfit, I added teal pumps from Talbots to a rose colored dress from Gal Meets Glam. I could have stopped right here and the outfit would have been more than finished looking, but I felt like it needed just a touch more. Again, this is purely instinct on my part, not some sort of formula that dictated my decision.

Still wanting to keep it sophisticated and subtle, I went for yellow again, this time with a butter yellow handbag from Coach that worked tonally with the shoes. Again, the two pop shades work best when they complement each other. In the last outfit, I noted that a piece of jewelry that pulled the pop colors together would come across as too matchy-matchy, yet in this outfit, it felt right. Again, instinct, not formula. So I added this jeweled necklace from Bauble Bar to connect all the colors together.

Outfit #3

pop of color

Often, I have suggested that if you struggle with color combining or adding pops of color to look at the prints you own to learn how to combine color. Prints are like little road maps. I created this very neutral based outfit of a grey sweater from Eileen Fisher and jeans from Wit & Wisdom. I added a pair of grey slip on sneakers Blondo. With these pieces a completely neutral color is created. Truly, the steps you can take with this type of outfit you are looking to finish is without boundaries.

Wanting to add some color, I shopped for a scarf that could be wound around the neck for a punch. I found this orange tonal scarf from Nordstrom and loved the way the orange worked with the grey. With the scarf selected, I added an orange bag from Rebecca Minkoff.

Again, no formula here, but what I do know is if I was to go with a pair of orange shoes instead, I would have likely chosen a grey bag instead of an orange one because an orange bag, shoes and scarf would likely be too much. There is a very fine line between being coordinated and being matchy-matchy. The goal is to be able to instinctively notice the difference. When putting an outfit together, if it feels like too much, it probably is.

Outfit #4

pop of color

I wanted to put together an outfit that shows a pop of color that doesn’t have that expected ” bright pop” that many assume that an outfit needs to have. As someone who typically dresses in mainly neutral shades, I have found a way to add more interest to my outfit is to do by popping my neutral look with other neutral colors.

Using the example outfit above, I styled this cognac leather skirt from BOSS Hugo Boss with a cream colored sweater from L.K. Bennett and popped the outfit with olive, olive pumps from 1.State and an olive bag from Michael Kors. Lastly, I added a small touch of the cognac with these drop earrings from J. Crew.

Pops of color don’t need to be seen from the moon.

Outfit #5

When people think pop of color they think accessories, like adding a bold pair of shoes or a fun handbag. These are all great ways to add a pop, but it can also be done through clothing, like a pop color of a blouse under a jacket or cardigan or through a pair of pants, like I did in the outfit above.

I started with a navy and ivory striped blouse from Banana Republic and was reminded of someone who was recently gifted a navy and white striped top and I suggested she wear it with a pair of colorful pants like I styled above with this pair from J. Crew. Red is one of the more challenging colors to pair other colors with, so instead of brining in more color, I kept the rest of the outfit neutral using these navy mules and Sondra Roberts handbag, and added just a splash more of pop with these red statement earrings.

When it comes to adding a pop of color to a look, the best way is to think of it in terms of percentages. A pop works best when it makes up a small percentage of color in an outfit. If adding more than one pop of color, the two colors you use should complement one another. The pop doesn’t have to be found elsewhere on the outfit and, lastly, don’t go too far when adding a pop. A little goes a long way. Avoid treading into matchy-matchy territory by keeping the places you add a pop color to no more than two places in an outfit. While I don’t have a specific formula, these few tips should give you some practical guidance.