How To Use Color In Your Outfit

The difference between an outfit and a great outfit is the understanding of color, texture and fit. Understanding how to use color and when to use it to your advantage in your outfit, will be the first step of creating your unique style.

Color Characteristics

  • There is the color itself – red, blue, green etc – often referred to as the hue.
  • Then you have to take the intensity of a color in mind. New clothes often have vivid colors, but over time and after a lot of washing, the color will lose its saturation and your clothes will start looking dull.
  • Lastly a color can vary in brightness and darkness. For example the difference between a grass green and a billiard green color.


When you take the color wheel in mind you can figure out the opposite colors. Red and green are opposite to each other on the color wheel, so the contrast between them will be very stark. Black and white are even more extreme opposites.

The same goes for the saturation. A washed out jeans will contrast extreme with a new shirt, whereas when the saturation of two colors are similar, they are more harmonized. The same goes for two colors next to each other on the color wheel, like yellow and orange.

Contrast can also be created with the textures of clothing. A person wearing a mix of cotton, wool and silk will create an enormous contrast in an outfit.

Color wheel infographic.
Color wheel infographic.


One common way of choosing colors in your outfit can be the season you’re in. Pantone comes every year with their “color of the year”, a symbolic selection of colors, representing our modern culture and an expression of attitude and mood.

In Spring you can bring out the softer pastels, whites and cream. Light blue, light pink, light green are common colors. Colors reminiscing you of the nature surrounding you. You can apply a lot of solids and less patterned items. Pantone has already made their top 10 picks for Spring 2017.

Screenshot from Pantone.
Screenshot from Pantone.

In Summer you can bring out loud and bold colors. Bright summer colors, printed shirts, big patterns. Create a contrast in your outfit by pairing one or two items this loud to a more moderate background.

In Fall you will see more earth tones; brown, maroon, wine, tans. You can start layering more with thicker textured clothing, when the weather permits it. Pairing earth tones with a more vibrant color – olive green or Bordeaux – will be playful and gives an alternate structure to more typical outfits.

In Winter you can rely on monochrome outfits. White, grey and black can be layered with sweaters and coats. Either a few thick layers or more thin layers. You will see less pastels or bold colors, but you could add color to your accessories, like scarves and hats. You can create contrast with the color or the texture, like Herringbone and houndstooth.