Over the past few weeks, I have offered comprehensive tutorials on color theory and the different styling formulas I devised to help you with your own wardrobe. In my post on color theory, I talked about complementary styling, which means to combine colors from opposite sides of the color wheel, and gave real-life client examples of this strategy. If you haven’t already reviewed the post, it will be helpful if you did before digging into this one.
I am using the Complementary Styling strategy and creating looks using it to give you more examples of how it can be done.
COMPLEMENTARY STYLING: USING THE COLOR WHEEL TO COMBINE COLORS
Complementary colors, Red and green sound like a combination that is way too Christmasy to use when styling outfits not earmarked for the holidays. However, the key to understanding color is that within one color there are a litany of different shades. In fact, you’ll see that just about all the outfits I created use this combination.
In this look, I am pairing a brick red t-shirt with a pair of dark olive pants from Vince, a pair of sage green slingbacks, and an olive pendant. I finished the look with a white scuba jacket from Anne Klein. Not every piece in your look needs to be part of the complementary color combination.
One could argue that this outfit would be considered Road Map Styling and if I started with the blazer, I’d agree. However, it was quite a fortunate accident that I stumbled on this jacket when I started creating this look with complementary colors, orange and blue. I began with this dress from M.M. Lafleur, added the orange beaded necklace from Wolf and Badger. When looking for a blazer that might work for this outfit, I found this Smythe style and couldn’t resist using it. The look is finished with a Longchamp handbag.
This is another look that could be categorized as Road Map Styling at first glance given the scarf. However, it wasn’t until I was looking for a scarf for outfit #5 below that I stumbled on this style from Fraas. Despite this outfit looking totally different than look #1, the complementary colors in this outfit are red and green. I styled these burgundy jeans with a cardigan and sweater in chartreuse from Eileen Fisher. The outfit is finished with burgundy loafers from Marc Fisher and a burgundy handbag.
This is another combination that is red and green but looks quite different than the other looks. I styled this teal cardigan from J. Crew and bag from Chicos and with hot pink flats from Corso Como to create this combination. I styled these pieces with jeans and a white shirt from Everlane.
Using the Complementary Styling formula isn’t just for people who like a lot of colors in their looks. It can be used in small doses as accents. You can also use colors that are subtle. In this look, I am using burnt sienna pumps from Everlane and the complementary shade in this look is a dusty bluish-green scarf. This combination straddles orange/red with blue/green. I styled these complementary shades with a pair of black wide-leg pants from Mango with a relaxed silk blouse from Vince. The outfit is finished with a warm grey tote bag.
Final Tips on Complementary Styling
- Don’t be rigid with the exactness of the color wheel. As long as you are using opposite sides of the wheel you will achieve this strategy.
- Remember your neutrals and how to use them. Complementary styling can be used as accents and popped off a neutral base.
- Using complementary colors is just one way to use the color wheel. Refer to the color theory post for more ways to apply it. Perhaps I will touch on these strategies in the future
Have questions or comments about using this strategy? Leave them in the comments below.