Monday, November 11, 2013

Two Neutral Colors - Dozens of Options

I get a lot of emails from people who are concerned about building a wardrobe around neutral colors, because they're worried that they will end up looking like everybody else.  If you devote yourself to black, and you live in a major city, that is certainly a valid concern!  But I think that there are more neutral colors around than you immediately think of, and that if you can focus on two colors as your predominant theme, you have dozens of options.

First off, let's choose a palette of possible neutral colors.  This palette is NOT exhaustive, and the colors as they are shown here are NOT intended to reflect the beauty and the depth that the color actually exhibits in three-dimensional garments and accessories.  I tried to consult a number of color website about how to best show the colors that I had in mind, and the advice I found was conflicting...  So we'll have to use our collective imaginations a little bit on this.

images and names of 14 colors that can function as neutral in a wardrobe

 So, if you choose one neutral color as your "foundation" neutral, and then choose another neutral for your "secondary" focus, you have many choices.  First up, you can start with black and then add in any other neutral to use as the basis of your most expensive and pivotal purchases (shoes, handbags, outerwear, etc.)

13 possible combinations of a second neutral color with black


And from there, the combinations go on and on.  I've numbered them to facilitate commenting; I'm curious as to what combinations hold appeal - I'd love to build some wardrobes around some of the more popular or intriguing choices.

13 combinations of a secondary neutral with dark grey

13 combinations of a secondary neutral color with light grey

13 combinations of a secondary neutral color with navy

13 combinations of a secondary neutral color with charcoal grey

13 combinations of a secondary neutral color with camel

13 combinations of a secondary neutral color with olive green

13 combinations of a secondary neutral color with petrol blue

13 combinations of a secondary neutral color with beige or tan

13 combinations of a secondary neutral color with maroon or burgundy

13 combinations of a secondary neutral color with dark chocolate brown

13 combinations of a secondary neutral color with saddle or cognac brown

13 combinations of a secondary neutral color with camel

13 combinations of a secondary neutral color with rust

NOVICA

48 comments:

  1. Fabulous! Some folks don't quite understand the roll of that a limited number of neutrals play as the building blocks of a wardrobe. This schematic should help to explain this concept further.

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  2. Great fun! too many to choose from but my quick pick list would include:
    3/40,66, 48, 121,128,130,173
    I also see some of these pallets as more summery and others more wintery - I could see having two wardrobes with some crossover but largely different color focus depending on the weather. thanks janice!

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  3. Amazing! I could look at these color combinations all day.

    Also, I've always wondered about pairing navy and black. Sometimes I wonder if there's enough contrast between the two. Would love to hear your thoughts on this.

    kris

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  4. What a great idea and, like the second person who commented, I too would like to see summer and winter palettes. The best combinations for me would be 2, 3, 16, 29, 42 or 94

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  5. I really favor light gray as a foundation. I would like to see 31 and 33 as wardrobes, maybe using taupe for dressier items and denim for the more casual ones.

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  6. This is so smart! I favor navy as a base, but have been having a tough time coming up with another basic color. Thanks to your graph, I really see the possibilities with cordovan and camel.

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  7. Oh my! Now I'm really conflicted. The choices are endless and I love so many. How do you just pick two! I feel like Homer Simpson at a candy machine. Hmmm.

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    1. My problem as well. I like way too many of these combinations.

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  8. There is such a genius to your method - I saw at a glance that my neutrals are the top row of your chart - plus white/ivory/cream - and now I can see some really great ways to mix the neutrals - something I really have only dipped my toe into trying. The visual illustrations help so much - thank you for doing this! Genius!

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  9. This is a wonderful chart and bless you for the hours you spent compiling it! It's so easy to see the combos that favor your coloring and level of contrast (despite the limitations of computer monitors, etc., etc.)

    I've built my wardrobe around milk chocolate and natural (152) and milk chocolate and camel (156) for many years. It's easy to find leather pieces in chocolate and not that hard to find other main pieces in the other colors. And, to my surprise, other neutral step in very well, too: I just bought a winter coat in a dark warm gray (couldn't find one that fit me and my pocketbook in chocolate or camel) and I'm delighted to report that it looks wonderful with my milk chocolate boots! (145)

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  10. I typically favor navy so my picks would be 16 and 29. The addition of grey modernizes the neutral; navy so easily reads nautical cliche.
    These charts are fantastic! Thank you for the time and care you put into this blog. It is a delight to read and so useful to your readers.

    Lindsay

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  11. I'm trying to turn more towards navy than black as black now seems a bit harsh on me. I really like #45 (navy & olive). It feels very modern and it is a great color combination for me as the green matches my eyes . Also #52 (navy and camel which matches my hair).

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  12. Yes please do wardrobe with navy and either taupe, camel, chocolate or khaki as the 2nd color. ( actually I have stuff in all 4 second colors! HELP!

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  13. Brilliant visuals!! Thanks for putting this together.

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  14. Thanks for putting this together. I will study this in more detail.

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  15. Navy and camel(52) are the basis for my winter wardrobe (or that's the theory) so I would love To see some ideas That would help me put this into practice. Thanks for doing this, it is really very helpful!

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  16. Navy and camel(52) are the basis for my winter wardrobe (or that's the theory) so I would love To see some ideas That would help me put this into practice. Thanks for doing this, it is really very helpful!

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  17. This is incredible! Thank you so much! I use navy, light grey, and camel as my neutrals and would love to see your combinations of any 2 of these. Jen W

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  18. This is brilliant! Please do one with cordovan with either black, or shades of grey. Or cordovan with anything!

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  19. My favourite is set 20

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  20. On my screen, camel looks like rust and denim looks like a dark greenish blue. Keeping that in mind, my combos with either color being the foundation one are 43/56, 46/95, 52/173, 59/96, 65/174 and 104/177. In times past I would have chosen black instead of petrol, but not as I get older. This is a fantastic way to show these combinations. Thank you so much for creating it.

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  21. This is great! Thank you so much.

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  22. I would love to see black and the "Carmel" or as it looks on my computer,rust. Thank you!

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  23. Janice this is truly genious. I like many of your readers have struggled to decide exactly my best neutrals, and hav e slowly come to the decision to focus on grey and navy. However when I saw the colours as you arranged them, it helped me define why I dont prefer the navy at this stage of my life. (60yo). I love black with light grey and the numerous variations in between. I would love to see you do a capsule wardrobe using these colours. I have also started buying Eileen Fisher pieces and so far have only chosen grey, black and a little white. Thank you so much for your thoughts.

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  24. I'm working my 'new' capsule wardobe in taupe and denim. So sometimes it's 72, sometimes it's 97. Sometimes natural/cream and navy will come out to play with the taupe and denim, respectively. I'm still looking for a pair of winter boots, close enough to taupe, with no luck. So till then, all the colours have to play nicely with my brown knee-highs.

    Bookbutterfly

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    1. My vote goes to Cordovan - from my browsing the archives, you've never handled it as a neutral (in a crazy 8, or wardrobe post), only as an accent colour (as burgundy). So although I never get enough of seeing combinations with taupe, I think Cordovan is missing.

      BB

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    2. I love taupe, too. I bought a pair of taupe boots from Clarks this year and they are super comfortable.

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  25. My favorite is set 11. I love reading your blog.

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  26. My default is black and black:) I think I need to step out of my comfort zone a bit. I'm interested in 29. Light Grey and Navy.

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    1. I second Christina's suggestion. Also would like to see dark or medium grey and navy. Thanks so much.

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  27. I would love to see some wardrobes built around 42 and 52. This layout really helped me define the neutrals I want to concentrate on- so thanks! Reading through the comments I've been surprised to see how many people prefer navy as I always have difficulty finding it.

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  28. 20 and 59 are two favorites... And this is interesting, we readers are really all over the place with these picks. Proof that neutrals are not obvious!

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  29. Love this Janice! Thanks so much for putting it together. It seems a lot of us are leaning toward navy these days; I would love to see something in 16 and/or 29.

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  30. It might be late but I don't know how to read this. In combination #1, is black say the dress and dark gray is for the shoes, handbags, accessories, etc?

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  31. 1 & 93 would be my choices. Tonal combinations tend to be my favorites. I love nearly all the combinations but find many wouldn't work well next to my face. I'm not certain why but browns & olives are very tricky for me. I was surprised not to see burgundy or winter white or anything in the purple range. Winter white with pale gray could be a stunning. Have these colors been omitted for a reason? Are they troublesome as neutrals?

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  32. Love 82,85,89 and 90. Love teal, purples and winter white too.

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  33. I asked myself, scanning this boggling array, why certain neutrals (black and denim especially) far outnumber the others both in stores and if I look at the crowds on the street. It is quite rare to see someone in the cordovan/navy or some pf the other combos. So I wonder, does the market drive our choices, or do people simply prefer certain neutrals, and the market responds?

    When I check the hip boutiques, the yellow-based khakis are entirely absent- maybe a bit of cream and certainly grey, but no brown and no khaki. Why is that?

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    1. As someone who looks better in light to mid-tones, I have often wondered why fall and winter collections are so often seas of black and bright jewel-tones. I have to say, though, black is versatile.

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    2. I am convinced the market drive our choices. The more I look around, the more I realize, 95% of all items can be had in black. It makes it so easy for the manufacturers, rather than provide all basics in all the neutrals in the first picture. Most of the other neutrals rotate - Thanks to Pantone, etc. and we follow suit, as our eyes get used to new combos, and the other choices seem to be non-existent. The more I look, the more confused I get.

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  34. There is definitely a book in this! You ARE keeping good notes? right?

    Still sticking to black and the lighter gray. this really confirmed for me that the whole brown spectrum is not for me. Leaning toward 27-30, 33 and 46! where did that come from? Thanks for making me think about it.

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  35. Wow! Thank you for this lesson. In fact, you are teaching me a lot with each entry...

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  36. I love 138 for casual; 139 and 142 for dressier options. In fact, I love all browns and have a really hard time limiting my choices to build a solid foundation. I am trying to build an investment collection in taupe and dark chocolate.

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  37. Wonderful Janice! I cannot give away my black pieces - I have tried believe me! - but I balance these with navy (I count my dark denims as navy as well) and the occassional grey piece. These all work well together. White also plays a key part for tops and accessories. My current accent colours are cobalt blue and bright pink and they work beautifully with all my neutrals.

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  38. Well then. I've just discovered my entire wardrobe and all accessories are neutral, except for coral and turquoise. And here I thought I was jumping outside the box when I paired black accessories with a navy base. btw The first time I saw black and brown was in Italy years ago, and was gobsmacked at how elegant it was, so that's been my favorite ever since. Favs here: 160, 151, 147,11 and 6. p.s. Great article, I've just figured out about 50 new combos I never thought about.

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  39. Wow! I recently found you and have catching up and learning so much along the way. Ive started trying to wear a bit more color and am learning by costly trial and error what looks good together on with my complexion. These graphics are incredibly useful. Its all here to examine. Thanks so much for putting these together! My favorites are 29, 43, 46, 49, 133, and 134. I'm taking note!
    Lynn

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  40. I'm wondering why you didn't include white or a cream/ivory as one of your neutrals.....? I am a new reader of your blog and find it very inspirational! Thanks for your insights.

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  41. I am rather late to the party, but I just found your wonderful blog and am learning so much! I am drawn to 5 and 12. I was taught to never, ever mix black and brown, but my favorite boots, shoes, and leather pieces are either black or an almost tobacco brown. I'd love to be able to have a wardrobe that uses both and still looks coherent.

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  42. wow! just spectacular!
    thank you!
    these are mind blowing awesome!

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