I member of my Facebook Group asked if I would do a post on tonal dressing, specifically on using colors other than neutrals. Tonal dressing means to select different tones of one color in the same outfit. Often, you see this in neutrals, like tonal shades of black and grey or shades of camel, khaki and tan. Advice on how to create outfits in actual colors, not neutrals, is harder to come by, which is why I was asked to do a post on this.

How to create a colorful tonal outfit

I think part of the reason there is little advice out there is because it’s hard to create a colorful tonal look without looking clown-ish. Even I had to be mindful of this when putting outfits together. Sure, colors may work tonally, but will anyone actually wear them?

That said, below I have put together three colorful tonal outfits. Check out the looks and tips on how I put them together so you can create your own looks.

Outfit #1

colorful tonal outfits

Remember, dressing tonally does not mean dressing in all one color. Typically, that is called column dressing because a consistent color is worn from head to toe, creating a column. Tonal dressing means dressing in tones of a shade. Imagine one of those paper strips of paint swatch colors that go from light to dark, if that helps. When choosing colors in a tonal outfit, think of the range of the color. An outfit like this will also be more visually interesting.

In the outfit above I chose tones of pinks and included colors as light as petal pink and went as dark as burgundy. As long as the undertones of the shades you select to wear together are the same, the tones should work.

I styled these burgundy pants from Halogen and styled them with a soft petal pink v-neck sweater. Finishing the look, I added a pair of pink suede booties from Boden, blush pink bag from Nordstrom and a tonal scarf in shades of pink to really bring the colors of the outfit together.

Outfit #2

colorful tonal outfits

Next, you want to think about colorful tonal outfits in colors that you’ll actually wear. Sure, you can wear a tonal yellow outfit, but would it really be all that attractive? Second, look to create colorful tonal outfits in a shade where the whole color spectrum is appealing.

Teal is not only a color that easy to wear, it’s also a shade that has a large range of tonal shades, from light minty greens to deep, rich hues. It’s an easy color to work with and is typically flattering on most people’s skintones.

Another thing to consider is an outfit does not have to be in all solid colors to be tonal. To break things up a bit, I styled this tonal printed blouse from Lafayette 148 with a deep teal pencil skirt from Akris Punto. Using the lightest shade of the teal tones, I added these pumps from Marc Fisher and finished the look with a teal handbag and emerald earrings from Kate Spade.

Outfit #3

colorful tonal outfits

This last look shows how you can create colorful tonal outfits in a realistic way. Instead of using a clear orange, I worked tonally with burnt orange shades. There is no right or wrong way to create a colorful tonal look, but it is important that the outfit you put together doesn’t sacrifice what feels comfortable to you simply to create a colorful outfit that works tonally.

I styled these deep burnt orange velvet jeans from J Brand with a metallic orange marl sweater that contains up multiple shades of burnt orange. Instead of choosing orange boots (because who would really wear orange boots?), I choose this cognac pair from Rag & Bone because the cognac shade works tonally with this color palette while being realistic. I finished the look with an orange vegan bag from Urban Originals and wood hoop earrings from Bp..

I hope these three looks and tips give you some direction on how to create colorful tonal outfits.