How to Wear Marsala: Pantone’s Color of the Year

Marsala Pantone Last week, Pantone announced its color of the year as Marsala.  A dusty burgundy that is warmer and more yellow based than most commonly know burgundy to be.  On the day the color was shared with the world, I asked the subscribers of my Facebook Page what they felt about it.  It wasn’t positive.

It’s understandable that few people love this color.  It’s a tricky one for most to wear.  Personally, I love it.  But, look at me, a color like this is made for those with warm undertones and red hair.  However, I was still surprised by just how many people really disliked Marsala.

That being said, I still want to talk about how to wear this color because, like it or not, it will be in the stores.  Additionally, I think that falling in love with a color (or at least tolerating it) takes more than just putting the shade in front of someone and asking their opinion.  That would be the same as putting a carton of eggs in front of them and telling them it’s a cake.  Yes, eggs are part of a cake, but it’s not the cake.  Marsala on its own may be unappealing or hard to visualize, but when combined with the rest of the ingredients of an outfit, the color may be more attractive than most think it is.  This is not to say that I have a hidden agenda to convince people to like this color, but I do think some further explanation is needed in order to show why Pantone chose this color as worthy of being voted the “it” color of the year.    I mean, it’s not like the folks at Pantone blindfold themselves and throw darts at random color swatches on the wall.  A lot more thought and expertise goes into their choices.

Why did Pantone choose Marsala as its color of the year?

The first thing you have to understand about Pantone is that the company is a color resource for industries beyond fashion and beauty.  Their selections are chosen beyond clothing.  This does not mean that Marsala wasn’t chosen for its versatility in fashion, it’s just not limited to this industry, is all.  You can read more here about how this color was chosen, but, basically, according to Pantone’s website:

“Much like the fortified wine that gives Marsala its name, this tasteful hue embodies the satisfying richness of a fulfilling meal while its grounding red-brown roots emanate a sophisticated, natural earthiness. This hearty, yet stylish tone is universally appealing and translates easily to fashion, beauty, industrial design, home furnishings and interiors.”

You may not agree with Pantone that Marsala is universally appealing, however, the color certainly is versatile, not only for the fact that it is a color that can also act like a neutral, and be worn as such like in pants and other bottoms, but it is also a shade that is a bit of a chameleon.   While it does have a warm appearance at first, depending on what you put next to it, the shade can also take on cooler and more bluish tones, which is better for those who can’t wear warm, autumnal colors.

How to Wear Marsala: Pantone’s Color of the Year

Below are five outfits using Pantone’s Marsala in five completely different ways.  As you will find, there are solutions that everyone can embrace, should they want to, in both big and small ways.  Like I have talked about in the past, there are always ways to make unflattering colors flattering, which can be really helpful when you love a color more than it loves you back.  Check out these outfits and tips to learn how you can work with Marsala in your wardrobe.

Outfit #1

In this outfit there are few ways to wear Marsala.  You can go with all of the suggestions or choose the ones that you can live with.  First, if you love the color and think it is a good face shade, go for a sweater, like this one from J. Crew.  What I love about this color is how well it works with other neutrals, particularly colors like olive and camel.  However, Marsala is also a shade that really can add some richness to black and other cooler neutral shades.  In this outfit, I styled this sweater with a pair of olive skinny jeans from Boden and used cognac booties from Steve Madden.

Next up, leather-goods.  I think that Marsala is a gorgeous color for handbags.  In this outfit, I added a handbag in Marsala from MICHAEL Michael Kors.  Like the color but don’t like it anywhere near your face?  Choosing a Marsala handbag is definitely the way to go for a versatile handbag pop color.  Lastly, in this outfit, I added earrings from Max & Chloe that pick up the slightest bit of Marsala, and casually finished the look with a gold chain bracelet from Banana Republic.

Outfit #2

Remember, by accepting this color into your wardrobe does not mean that anyone is asking you to wear it from head-to-toe.  Marsala may be easier to swallow when considered as a color in a print, like the way it is shown in this Reiss blouse.  What is also happening  to the Marsala shade in this print is it is casting cooler because it has been paired with grey.  For those of you who can’t wear warm shades, try wearing it with a cooling the color like I am here.

In this outfit, grey is the entire base of the look, with this Tory Burch cardigan, Calvin Klein pencil skirt and grey pumps from Zappos, and the Marsala just comes in as a pop .  What you also see in this outfit are little pops of Marsala thrown into the mix, like the same bag I used before and a Marsala bangle bracelet from Ann Taylor.  Again, if you don’t want to wear Marsala just accessorize with it, like I am here.

Outfit #3

Depending on the fabrication, Marsala can have a dustier appearance to it, like in this dress from Modcloth.  For some people, this washier quality can be too light to wear.  In this outfit I am solving the problem by grounding it with a deeper brown shade using a chocolate boyfriend cardigan from J. Crew and a pair of brown boots from Nine West.  Of course, if brown isn’t your color you can ground Marsala with black.

Next, I want to talk about the versatility of Marsala.  Before you assume that you can only wear neutrals with this shade, think again.  Marsala is more of a neutral than it is a color and it is a gorgeous base shade to pop other colors off of.  Take for example how I styled this outfit with a teal Coach handbag.  Together these colors are gorgeous.  Additionally, colors yellow, light blue, shades of green and even some pink tones will make beautiful pairings with this color of the year.

Outfit #4

Marsala bottoms, like pants and skirts, are a great way to wear this color without  wearing it anywhere near your face.  Here I am doing this with a pair of Jones New York corduroy pants.  What you will notice is that this Marsala shade in the pants is definitely darker than the true Marsala Pantone color.  However, this is okay.  Nobody is going to run after you with a Pantone swatch to make sure you got the color exactly right.  Many colors in the upcoming season will be inspired by Marsala, not an exact match.  Besides, it is my guess that you will want to wear darker colors on the bottom of your body.

Next, as I mentioned earlier, Marsala is a bit of chameleon, meaning that it can change in tone depending on what colors it is paired with.  If this Marsala is just too warm and rusty for you, all you have to do is partner it with colors that take it in a different direction, like I am doing here with this chambray shirt from Madewell and Nicole Miller scarf that has shades of pink, blue and burgundy.

Finishing this outfit, I used the same Marsala accessories as used earlier and added a pair of flannel Tieks in grey.

Outfit #5

Lastly, the best way to wear Marsala without actually wearing it is through shoes, like shown here with a pair of Marsala pumps.  With navy, like with this Reiss suit simply layered over a white Boden v-neck, a beautiful color combination is created and the shoes get to take center stage when a subtle grey and Marsala necklace from Nordstrom and grey handbag from Macys are added.

Even if you are still not totally in love with Marsala, I hope that these tips have given you some fresh ways to see this hot new color.  If you don’t like it in clothing, definitely check it out as a makeup and nail lacquer shade.

Shopping for Pantone’s Marsala?

Check out these additional styles below!

  • Renee

    I like it! Of course I just made chicken marsala for dinner the other night. Poured from the bottle the color is everything the folks at Pantone say it is. Thanks for the ideas, Bridgette!

    • Too funny! I am glad that this post was helpful for you, Renee!

  • tgchi13

    Gorgeous!! 🙂 Also, I think, this is a really good example of why to by quality and not buy ‘almost right’ when YOUR color comes along, you want to have money available to indulge and fill in your wardrobe.

    • Thanks! That is a good point. Plus, there are always ways to wear a color in a way that is flattering. I think the color is gong to appeal to people more as they see it in the stores. What I am curious about is how it will work for spring and summer. It is such a rich and carnivorous color. I guess we’ll have to stand by and wait for that.

      • tgchi13

        I agree with both points! Our lovely autumn foliage colors don’t often translate well to warm weather clothing. And the tips for incorporating colors you love, that may not love you back, are always welcome 🙂 in fact, I just purchased some olive green jewelry (a statement necklace with very little bling, a dark grey statement bracelet with understated olive bling, and simple silver ‘cage’ earrings with a clear olive stone in cage — does that even make sense?!) to help balance out some items that I love more than they love me. Thank you Bridgette, for helping me remeber how to dress. You are wonderful, lady!

  • Diversity

    I happen to love it. It’s a very rich color that’s flattering on warm or neutral skin coloring. True, it’s not going to look good on those with cool coloring, but those women already have plenty of cool colors to choose from. Those of us who aren’t cool have to wait and wait and wait for our best colors to come on the scene.

    • I like it too and I think that those with cool coloring can wear it in their own way; just not near the face.

  • Hmm… I’ll stick to my pinky-purple toned burgandy, thank you very much. As a ‘winter’, I love purple-y burgandy but brickish reds are not my friends.

    • That’s the beauty of burgundy, lots of different shades!

  • I think it’s a huge improvement over last year’s radiant orchid!

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  • Miracle SD Tan

    Hello Bridgette!
    will it look good to combine gold and silver accessories? Because most if the time if I wear gold (maybe accessories or anything gold on the outfit itself) I don’t like a touch of silver on my ensemble or is there a rule otherwise?