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7 Tips For Color-Blocking

Whether you are drawn to bright and bold colors or soft pastels, a pop of color can go a long way in taking an otherwise simple outfit up a notch. So imagine what happens when you mix two, three, four or more.

The famed French designer Yves Saint Laurent was one of the first fashion designers to utilize this practice – known as color-blocking – through the iconic Fall/Winter 1965-1966 sack dress, which was inspired by the work of Dutch painter Piet Mondriaan.

Nearly 60 years later, color-blocking continues to be trendy, particularly through the likes of maximalism or through the general stacking of colors. Color-blocking promotes the idea that, when it comes to color, more is more– and it’s not as hard as you think.

What is color-blocking?

Image by YuliiaKa on Freepik

Color-blocking is defined as the use of two or more bright and usually contrasting colors within a single design. It is commonly seen in interior design, architecture and fashion. 

There are multiple ways to achieve color-blocking; for example, one can buy articles of clothing that already contain multiple colors, or combine individual pieces of varying colors in one outfit. 

Either way, color-blocking is a great way to incorporate more color into one’s wardrobe and make a fashion statement.

What colors go best together?

There are a number of ways in which you can choose what colors to combine. 

If you’re looking to combine colors in a more technical manner, complementary colors are a great place to start. Complementary color pairs are two colors on the color wheel that sit across from one another. When combined or mixed together, they can cancel each other out, but when placed next to each other, they can maximize the brightness of one another.

The basic complementary color pairs are:

  • green and red
  • yellow and purple
  • blue and orange

7 Tips for Color-Blocking

You can elevate your outfit one color at a time by considering these seven tips:

1) Start by adding in small pops of color.

Women wearing a white outfit with a yellow shawl to add a bit of color-blocking
Image by halayalex on Freepik

If color-blocking still feels a bit intimidating, you can start by incorporating small pops of color into your fit. This can easily be done through colorful accessories. Start with a neutral toned outfit, pick what colors you want to incorporate, and color-block through your jewelry, shoes, and other accessories.

2) Choose your color scheme.

Photo by Arnel Hasavonic

Color-blocking works best when the colors maintain similar levels of saturation. Bold colors should go with bold colors, pastels should be paired with pastels, and neons should sit atop neons. Once you choose which color scheme or tones you would like to adapt, you can start picking out what types of pieces you would like to wear. 

3) Try separate pieces.

separate pieces color blocking
Photo by Victoria Strelka_ph

While clothing sets are fashionable, easy to throw on and convenient, separate pieces are a great way to start color-blocking. Pairing individual pieces of varying colors can help you ease into the trend and control how flashy you want your outfit to be. Alternatively, you can buy a bold matching set and incorporate other colors via your accessories.  

4) Use the color wheel or color theory.

Woman wearing a Turquoise and Vibrant Yellow outfit in a metropolitan environment.
Photo by Amani Nation

Utilizing complementary colors on the color wheel can offer some direction to your color-blocking endeavors. However, if you aren’t really interested in pairing those colors, you can also use color theory, which asserts that colors can evoke particular emotions. Colors like yellow and orange are said to evoke optimism, while colors like blue and green are said to evoke calmness. But if you don’t care for the color wheel or color theory, you can always combine two or more of your favorite colors.

5) Consider Symmetry vs Asymmetry.

An Asymmetrical Issey Miyake Dress on a mannequin.

The rules of symmetry and asymmetry can be utilized to craft a unique look and aesthetic. Symmetrical color-blocking emphasizes balance through mirrored colors, which creates a cohesive, classic look that exudes stability. On the other hand, asymmetrical color-blocking offers a bold, modern flair by using unexpected color combinations to capture attention and reflect individuality. Whether you’re aiming for a look of polished harmony or avant-garde dynamism, both approaches can create distinct fashion statements.

6) Experiment with Different Shapes.

2 women dressed in very modern outfits with color-blocking using diagonal patterns
Photo by Molly Mears

If you’re wanting to add some depth amidst the color-blocking, try incorporating shapes. Traditional rectangles and squares offer structure and elongate the body while circles and ovals offer softness, drawing attention to areas like the bust. Triangles guide the eye, creating movement, while diagonal lines can create a slender look and add dynamism. Using these shapes can elevate outfits by blending color with intriguing designs.

7) Have fun with it!

There are a number of ways in which you could start color-blocking, so have fun with it! The most important aspect of styling any outfit is making sure that the pieces make you feel your most confident, so let that be your most prominent concern. Then, you can delve into the color wheel, color theory or your favorite combination of colors. Don’t overthink it, and allow yourself the luxury of letting your personality shine through your colorful outfit.

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