How to Create Colorful Black and White Outfits

Black and white outfits At this point most women know that any color can be added to black and white outfits.  For example, a bright pair of red shoes looks great with a black and white dress, a colorful cardigan looks wonderful over a black and white printed top and, certainly, nothing makes a dull pair of black pants and white shirt look more interesting than some color thrown in.  If you don’t know this already then you’ve been missing out.  Yes, you can treat black and white like solid black and in today’s One Item, Five Fashionable Ways, I am going to use this black and white Alice + Olivia skirt to take it even further, I am going to add two colors.  Yes, I’m going to live on the wild side today, and maybe later I’ll drink my organic almond milk one day past the expiration date.  We’ll see if I’m feeling that daring.

I chose this skirt because, if you’re a regular reader of my blog, you know that black and white worn together near the face doesn’t work for most people (read here if you missed that so you can get caught up) and this skirt, being nowhere near the face, is a safe bet for everyone.  It’s also super cute.

Treat black and white like black

As I said earlier, treat black and white prints and patterns like solid black.  Doing this gives you a lot of room for versatility.  Imagine you get a black and white dress home.  You’re excited to wear it because you love it so much.  However, after the first few wears you find you’ve grown bored with wearing it the same way, with your black shoes, a black handbag and, maybe, some jewelry in silver or black.  “Ho hum”, you think, as you break the same outfit out to wear again the same half dozen times you previously wore it.  Yet in your closet are all these wonderful options staring at you and you don’t even know it.  Start treating your black and white like solid black and all these alternative styling ways will appear.

Typically, black and white prints and patterns are very sleek, optic, modern and bold and demand that the colors you wear with them be equally strong in color.  However, this doesn’t have to be limiting.  Perhaps you’ve stepped out with a red pair of shoes with your zebra print top and black pants and now that has started to bore you and you’re ready to take the outfit a step further.

How to add two colors to a black and white outfit

Seeing black and white as solid black it is very easy to add two additional colors to one outfit.  The key is to have these two colors work with each other.  Just like you might wear a green top and cobalt blazer with a pair of black pants, you can do the same if you’re wearing a black and white skirt, which you’ll see below, and more.  What you want to do is rule the black and white piece out of the outfit equation entirely and focus on creating harmony between the additional two colors you are pairing with it.

Colorful black and white outfits

Here are five outfits using the same Alice + Olivia skirt to give you some inspiration.  And be sure to check out the other black and white pieces below that you will now know how to jazz up with color.

Outfit #1- Turquoise and Yellow

Last week I talked about the versatility of yellow accessories because the color works with any color it is paired with.  Here I took a bright turquoise top from Mango and added a yellow Steve Madden handbag, and Nine West pair of sandals.  To bring all the colors together I added a pair of yellow and turquoise earrings from Anthropologie.  Accessories can be great road maps when you are looking for help on color combining.

Outfit #2- Cobalt and Green

I mentioned cobalt and green earlier and here is an example of this color combination using a green cap sleeve top and cropped cobalt cardigan.  As I like to say, “when in doubt, go green.”  Green is like yellow, it works with every color and is often considered a colored neutral.  If you’re looking to step out with color combining start with green, you can’t fail.  Again, the Stella & Dot necklace pulls the look together and I found this turquoise/green handbag from LAUREN Ralph Lauren with a touch of blue to also tie the whole look together.  The outfit is finished with a versatile pair of gold wedges from Jessica Simpson.

Outfit #3- Pink and Blue

Now, colorful black and white outfits does not mean you have to abandon black altogether.  Here I styled this skirt with a black top from Reiss and then added color through the accessories alone.  With the simple addition of a pink Kendra Scott necklace, pink ballerina flats and a cobalt blue handbag from Vince Camuto, the outfit has some color interest without going over the top.

Outfit #4- Coral and Turquoise

A color combination that I love in the summer is coral and turquoise.  In fact, I have a coral dress that I wear with my turquoise flats all the time.  You can actually see it here in this very short Instagram video.  Playing on this color combination, I used a coral top from Boden and added the same handbag as used in look #1 and used the earrings from Bauble Bar and bracelet from Anthropologie to pull everything together.  The outfit is finished with a pair of coral wedges.

Coral and black vs. orange and black:  It may be because I grew up in a town where my high school colors were orange and black, or maybe it’s because when I see this color combination all I can think about is Halloween, but I’m not particularly a fan or orange and black worn together.  However, there was one day where I wish I was fast enough with my camera because I saw half a dozen women wearing orange and black outfits, not looking bad at all.  Orange and black as a color combination can be fine, however, personally, I tend to prefer coral and black.

Outfit #5- Yellow and Cobalt

When I chose this skirt I knew I wanted to style it with yellow.  Yellow and black is just a fun color combination, heck even bees wear it (stupid joke, I know), so I chose this yellow tank from Topshop and, because I not only like to show in this series how one item can be worn five ways but how you can wear several items multiple ways, I chose the cobalt blue cardigan from the first look again and used accessories to pull the colors together through this blue and yellow collar necklace from Bauble Bar.  The outfit is finished with the same Vince Camuto handbag used in the second look and the same yellow sandals from look #1.

Shop for black and white

Now that you know how to add lots of color to your black and white pieces, here is some black and white to check out.  Don’t forget to add some brightness!

  • Stacie

    I love this next challenge!! I have finally stepped up my black and white with the occasional red or yellow, but never with 2 complementary colors! I can’t wait to try it! Thanks for your great tips!

  • stacie

    I’m sooo excited and proud of myself!! I finally have tried black and white with 2 colors…pink & blue and mint & coral…THANK YOU!!! for sharing your wisdom and helping your faithful fans move to the next level!!

    • This is SO awesome to read! A++++++++ for you! Thanks for sharing!