Five Ways to Style a Basic Dress, No Matter What Color It Is

Five ways to style a basic dress You can’t be a woman without knowing how important it is to have at least one good, basic dress in your wardrobe that acts like a workhorse.  You know the type of dress I am talking about.  It’s easy, goes with everything, can be dressed up and dressed down with little effort and fits perfectly.

A recent correspondence with a blog reader inspired this post when she asked me about the versatility of a non-black basic dress and if a brown dress could be as wearable.  Well, considering I don’t wear black and have never felt at a loss for a good basic dress, she asked the right person.  In today’s post in this series, I am not only going to show you five ways to style a basic dress but also show you that it really doesn’t matter what color it is.  As long as it is a neutral shade you can do just about anything with it, as I will prove below.

Yes, basic black dresses can be very versatile, but don’t discount the other colors that can do the same exact thing.  If you want more variety in your wardrobe remember this simple tip: Any color you can wear with black you can wear with any other neutral color.

Using these five dresses, a black dress by T. Tahari, a brown dress by MICHAEL Michael Kors, a camel dress from TOPSHOP, a grey dress from Boden and a navy dress from Reiss.   Now, the actual dresses aren’t as important as what I am about to do with them.  I like these dresses but am using them as examples of basic neutral colors that are versatile.  If you have a dress in this color or buy one in one of these five shades you can still follow my tips below.

Five Dresses

Five Ways to Style a Basic Dress


Outfits #1

Accessories 2

The beauty of having a pair of nude shoes, like these from Fitzwell in your wardrobe is that they will work with everything, from solid neutrals to colorful prints to bright, fruity, solids.  Personally, I think a pair of nude shoes is far more versatile than a pair of black shoes any day.  Next, a mid-brown bag, like this one from Aldo.  The beauty of this shade is that it works with any shade of neutral, including black.  Lastly, when your entire outfit is comprised of all neutral colors you are free to pop the outfit with accessories in any color you wish.  Here I chose a slate blue from Flying Lizard and chose a pair of simple gold earrings from Anne Klein.

Now check out how all these accessories work with whatever neutral color your dress is.

One Item, Five Fashionable Ways. Look 1


But wait, there’s more…

Outfits #2

Accessories 3


I am now going to take these three accessory pieces and style them with the exact same dresses.  A tip: you can never go wrong with a metallic handbag, like this one from Furla, or having a novelty gold necklace, like this one from Stella & Dot, on standby.  When it doubt they will work.  I also love the way a pair of burgundy pumps, like these by Michael Antonio, add richness to any neutral shade.

Now look how these three simple accessories work with any neutral dress color.

One Item, Five Fashionable Ways. Look 3


Outfits #3

Accessories 1


Don’t be concerned that to get the most variety out of your neutral dresses you will have to stick to accessories that aren’t colorful.  In fact the very opposite is true.  A neutral base, no matter what color it is, allows you to have the most fun with color.  As you can see here, I chose a pair of coral shoes by Nine West, a Hobo clutch and a green pair of earrings by Seraphina.

Bam!!  These accessories work with every dress color.

One Item, Five Fashionable Ways. Look 2


Outfits #4

Accessories 4


Next, I want to talk about yellow.  You know, that color that everyone hates but is so versatile?  Yellow is a color that works with any color that you are wearing and the beauty about wearing yellow in your accessories, particularly in shoes like this from Nine West, is that they are nowhere near your face, a huge reason why most women don’t wear yellow.  Next, a colorful tote, like this one from Kate Spade.  I chose it because of the fact that it is so colorful and allows multiple colors to be worn with it.  If you don’t like yellow, you can try a pink pair of shoes, blue shoes or pink shoes.  You have multiple options.  Lastly, another versatile color, green.  Green, like yellow, is incredibly easy to work with because it is considered a colored neutral, it goes with everything, like this Stella & Dot necklace will.  When in doubt, go green.

Here are the same five dresses accessorized with these items.

One Item, Five Fashionable Ways. Look 4


Outfits #5

Accessories 5


Lastly, lets talk about metallic shoes, like these by Seychelles.  Metallic shoes, of any shade, will get you just as much mileage as a metallic handbag will because they go with everything while still adding some interest and novelty to an outfit.  Metallic shoes also allow you to add any color to a look when wearing a neutral colored dress.  In this case, I chose this Lodis turquoise bag because I fell in love with the color.  For earrings, I chose these tonal blue earrings from Stella & Dot.

Here is the fifth way these dresses are styled.

One Item, Five Fashionable Ways. Look 5

Remember, you little black dress doesn’t have to be black, it can be any neutral shade.  Perhaps we should change LBD to not mean little black dress but little basic dress, instead?  What do you think?

Shop basic dresses

  • Sarah

    Little basic dress sounds great to me. I have a brown shirt dress that I could wear in any of these ways; thanks for the inspiration.

    • Ha! I have a basic navy dress that I call “Old Blue” because it goes with EVERYTHING! I am glad this post gave you some inspiration!

  • Laura

    I love this post!

  • Stacie

    I LOVE this post!! I have a grey sheath dress that is 6 years old…I have quit wearing it because I am bored with it…Thanks for the ideas!!!

    • You are welcome! Just remember any color you can wear with black you can wear with grey, or any neutral color, for that matter.

  • Christine

    Thanks for showing dresses in cuts that would suit many different figure types!

  • Melissa Daly

    Wow. My mind is kind of blown by this post. I have so many similar accessories to what you have used here (and so many similar dresses). Thanks so much for sharing.

  • Pat

    Thank you, Bridgette, for helping the millions of women that “don’t do black”.
    Your thought process about how to use color rocks! No black in my closet.
    A faithful fan,

    • I love that my color thought process helps others! Color can be so much fun and add so much variety.

  • Judy

    That is one of the most amazing posts I have ever seen! Being very warm colored, I’ve always envied the ease of the Little Black Dress that would look terrible on me. But a Little Brown Dress? I could do that! This also inspires me to get a metallic purse. I’ve been using metallic shoes (gold tones) as a neutral for years, but the purse didn’t dawn on me. Thank you!

    • Hi Judy! Thanks for the kind words! I am sorry I only saw this comment now! I am glad it was helpful!! Yes, get a metallic purse and you will never need a boring black one again!

  • JanieBabes

    Love the suggestions, they all look fantastic. Curious question, how would you add a coat/jacket to these looks in the cooler months? What color would work best with the accessories etc

    • I think for all these looks a camel coat would be gorgeous!!!

      • JanieBabes

        I’m actually cool toned, so would I be looking more grey or charcoal (if I didn’t go the boring black look)?

        • Absolutely!! A great solution!! Try popping it with a bright scarf too!

          • JanieBabes

            Thanks. For me I need the suggestions for coats etc as I’m in Australia and its mid-winter here with temps around 12c (around 53f)

          • That makes sense! It’s hotter than hot here in NY today!

  • Stacie

    I LOVE re reading your posts, they help to see new things….With the statement gold statement necklace and burgundy shoes –would you wear an earring or bracelet? I have a thin silver and diamond bracelet my husband bought me for our 25th wedding anniversary that I wear ALOT, but don’t want to look “overdone” if I have a statement necklace….

    • Thanks!!! If the necklace is a statement I’d either go no earrings or very small ones. The best way to wear jewelry is to break up the space. Often a big necklace and larger earrings is too cluttered looking. Did you see the post I wrote on how to be coordinated vs. matchy matchy? I talk about this in that post.

  • Stacie

    Thanks! I’ll re read the post on coordinated vs matchy matchy!!!