Color Blocking 101

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I absolutely LOVE color.

All colors speak to me on this deep emotional level that’s borderline creepy. One of my favorite artists is Rothko, and his art always makes me cry. Don’t even get me STARTED on the Rothko Chapel in Houston.

Color is SO important when it comes to fashion.

It is a way to express yourself, challenge yourself, and change your mood. Unfortunately, it’s SO easy to get stuck in a color rut. When you find a color you feel comfortable in or know you look good in, sometimes your closet becomes a single hue.

Don’t get me wrong, my closet has massive color chunks too. Red is MY color, so I have a large collection of that. And, despite popular belief, almost a third of my closet is black.

But introducing new colors and pairing them in new ways can help you break free from the style box you’ve put yourself in and become a bolder, braver version of the fabulous human you are.

BUT. Where the hell do you start when it comes to adding color into your wardrobe?

One of the most common comments I get is:

“OMG I love that outfit! I never would have thought to wear those colors together.”

This can be the hardest part, especially if you weren’t a total art nerd and have a creepy obsession with the color wheel and how many variations of blue there are. 

Color blocking is the simplest, chicest way to figure out how to wear more color.

Color blocking in fashion is when you combine solid chunks of color. That can be multiple items in solid colors, or it can be one item that has blocks of color. This idea typically avoids patterns in favor of solid items.

Color blocking has so much potential when it comes to style. You can combine colors in a subtle way for chic simplicity or you can pair items in bright, bold colors for a damn STATEMENT.

The cheat sheet for color blocking is the color wheel. This wheel is an art class that that shows you how colors are related to one another. Almost like seven degrees of separation, but less Kevin Bacon and more cerulean.

If you don’t have this memorized (tbh, most of us don’t, so no worries), you can straight up google it. Here’s a simple color wheel:

Simple color wheel with 12 colors on it

The trick is figuring out how to pair the colors. Here are three ways to use the color wheel for color blocking in your wardrobe. I’ve used some of my FAVE Universal Standard pieces because they are the queens of chic color usage.

Complementary Color Blocking

Top: Universal Standard; Pants: Universal Standard

This style of color blocking uses colors that are near each other on the color wheel. I like to think of this as picking siblings or color BFFs.

Complementary colors are already used to being next to each other, so they play nice together already. Depending on which end of the spectrum you pull from, these colors can be bold (i.e. red and orange) or they can be softer like blue and green.

Top: Universal Standard; Pants: Universal Standard

You can also break these up with black or white. Consider these the neutral third parties that always work well!

Contrasting Color Blocking

Tee: Universal Standard; Pants: Universal Standard

As someone who loves to be as bold as possible, this is my favorite type of color blocking. This method takes colors that are opposite of each other on the color wheel. Their direct opposition actually makes them pair in a fantastic way, such as pink and green or blue and orange.

This type of color blocking can seem kind of scary. If you’re not used to mixing colors, it can feel rather loud. But you can always mix muted versions or add in a black blazer to tone it down a bit.

Tee: Universal Standard; Pants: Universal Standard

This type of color blocking is what always catches people off guard. Pair your complementary shades, and you’ll be convincing everyone you’re the witch or wizard of color palette creation.

Monochromatic Color Blocking

Bodysuit: Universal Standard

This style of color blocking combines colors of the same hue. It’s easy to go monochromatic when you realize you own ninety five shades of the same color because it’s your favorite.

Bodysuit: Universal Standard

But word of caution, this type of color blocking can be really simple, but it can also be sort of difficult. For example, if you have a bunch of shades of blue, some of them may not pair as well if they have different undertones (i.e. warmer colors versus cooler colors).

Here are some examples of really strong monochromatic color palettes:

But let’s get real. You don’t have to be a damn color mixologist. If you put the blues together, and you’re digging it? Wear them all. If you’re not feeling it? Try switching it out with other pieces.

Color blocking is a super fun way to bring more color into your wardobe!

Start small and tie a bright orange scarf over your blue dress. You’ll build your way up to the bold soon!

What color blocking method is your favorite?

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