How Color Can Make an Ordinary Outfit Look Extraordinary

colorThis past weekend, I helped a client of mine put some outfits together.  We have been working together for a few weeks and it was time to show her how to bring it all together.  I was thrilled when I got permission to share her outfit photos because the looks we created illustrate how color, and how it is combined, can make such a huge difference in looking really stylish.

First, I’ll start by giving this client an alias because I never reveal the identities of the women I work with.  I have decided to name this client Ms. Sophisticated (I have also made a mental note to get a thesaurus because I am starting to run out of adjectives.)  Nevertheless, sophisticated truly is a great word to use.

When I left Ms. Sophisticated’s home after our first appointment, I clearly remember saying to her, “When I grow up I want to be you.”  Ms. Sophisticated is a bit older than me and over the years, she has curated a life and an environment that is truly beautiful.   She has lived all over the world, is bilingual, has a beautifully well appointed home, is cultured and carries herself with a dignified grace that seems to be a mannerism that is going the way of the dinosaur.  Yet, what I find absolutely charming about Ms. Sophisticated is that despite her even keeled demeanor she can sling a few zingers like the best of them.  She’s funny, self deprecating, open and really fun to be around.

Ms. Sophisticated also has amazing coloring.  She has these large blue eyes that jump off her warm skin tone and hair and she and I seem to be the last two humans on earth who don’t look sickly in shades like mustard yellow and acid green.  This is a woman who needs color, but not shocking, in your face, color.  Like her, her colors still need to maintain a look of sophistication.  Working in finance, Mrs. Sophisticated’s wardrobe is full of professional clothing making her a prime example of being able to show how color, and how it is combined, can make the most basic and ordinary  work looks come across as sophisticated and interesting.  Below, I am sharing a few of the looks we put together to show you how you can use color to create more inspired work looks.

How Color Can Make an Ordinary Outfit Look

Extraordinary

 

Outfit #1

color

It’s not the pieces in this outfit that makes it interesting, it’s the colors that do.  What you have here is a basic shell, cardigan, skinny pants and a few jewelry and shoe options.  I am sure you have worn this look to work more times than you care to count.  It was when I laid these colors out for Mrs. Sophisticated that she was blown away.  She never would have considered these forest green Akris Punto pants with the sleeveless blouse from MM. Lafleur in chili flake along with the goldenrood MM.Lafleur cabled cardigan.  The outfit was finished with three shoe options Ms. Sophisticated already owned, including this grey pair from Stuart Weitzman and L.K. Bennett’s classic nude pump.  For jewelry, I added the colorful necklace that was in  Ms. Sophisticated collection and a similar Design Lab necklace purchased at Lord & Taylor.

Outfit #2

colorEven though you can’t see much of this outfit, I had to share it because the color combination is so rich.  I used another cardigan from MM.Lafleur in their color True Olive and styled it with Nic + Zoe’s Perfect Tank in their Baltic color which is this stunning deep ocean blue shade.  The pants are the always popular Audrey pants from Piazza Sempione in khaki, and I finished the look with B Brian Atwood block heel pumps in olive and Robert Lee Morris earrings.  Again, all very basic pieces made more exciting with color.

Outfit #3

color It’s important to point out that when combining color, particularly for work, that an outfit be grounded or anchored with a neutral.  If you have been a longtime reader of my blog, you may have heard me refer to this as the Color Tripleplay which means that an outfit is built with three shades, a base neutral, an accent color and a pop to finish things off.  The base colors are typically the neutrals in your closet, like black, navy, grey, olive, camel, and so on.  The accent is often your face colors, like your tops or jackets, and the pop is found in your accessories, scarves, jewelry, sometimes topper pieces, etc.  The accent and pop relate to each other and play well off one another.  This is a broad definition, but I think you get the idea.

As you can see in the outfit above, I used two base neutrals to give Mrs. Sophisticated two options.  On the left is the Greenpoint skirt in Russet from MM.Lafleur and on the right is a navy pencil skirt from BOSS Hugo Boss.  The accent color in this outfit is the sleeveless Sadie top from MM.Lafleur and I added a pop with the forest green shrug from Akris Punto.  When wearing the russet MM. Lafleur skirt I suggested the grey Stuart Weitzman pumps or B Brian Atwood pair.  With the navy I suggested the Cole Haan navy block heel pumps.  In both cases, Ms. Sophisticated can use all the jewelry options I laid out.

Additionally, Ms. Sophisticated can branch out with her neutrals even further.  She can wear this outfit with black, navy, grey and camel bottoms.  The neutral base is interchangeable.

Outfit #4

colorNeutrals don’t only have to be worn on the bottom.  When Ms. Sophisticated tried on the Foster Pants in the color Chili Pepper from MM.Lafleur we knew she had to buy them.  The color is so rich.  In this case, the color is on the bottom and the neutral is found on top.  I styled the Nic + Zoe tank and Four Way cardigan in Baltic.  To finish the outfit, I added the Cole Haan Pumps, Vionic leopard flats and the same jewelry as used in previous looks.

Outfit #5

colorHere you can see how neutrals can be swapped.  This is the same Nic + Zoe tank and cardigan, this time in olive and  I am using the same pants in chili pepper as the last look.  I finished the outfit with the leopard Vionic flats, used the B Brian Atwood olive pumps and finished the look with gold jewelry.

Ms. Sophisticated and I only had a short amount of time to put some looks together.  We had spent the morning shopping and were pretty burnt out by the time we started putting looks together.  However, I plan on visiting her again in August, giving her plenty of time to play with the pieces we purchased.  At that time I will be helping her with more outfits.  I am sure she’ll be happy to let me share them with you again.  Until then, my thanks to Ms. Sophisticated for letting me post some of her photos publicly.  I hope they help you styling your outfits.

 

  • tgchi13

    What fun! I’m in awe of your ability to bring out her style while keeping it sophisticated and finance-ready. Love love love!

    • Thanks! It’s actually remarkably easy. But, it was funny, my client kept making me assure her I would show her how everything goes together while we were shopping. Haha. It was too cute. There are still so many options I can put together for her but we were pretty burnt out by the time we started putting outfits together.

  • Julia Kingham

    Absolutely beautiful, and your little helper in the last photo is adorable

  • Kim

    I dress remarkably like this (although more casual pieces). I really enjoy looking into your sources, as I am not familiar with them and am at a point in my life where I’m ready to spend more on pieces. Thank you!

    • I am so glad you found this post helpful. Yes, brands like Akris Punto, Piazza Sempione (just their Audrey pant, really) and MM.Lafleur continue to be excellent brands if you are looking to spend. Akris’ Franca pants is one of my absolute favorite pants.

  • I have a hard time with flat-lays but I really love the top + forest + navy combo. Very interesting!!

  • robin woods

    That first outfit is perfect!

  • Stacies Busseys

    Thank you, Ms. Sophicated for sharing your wardrobe looks! My coloring is different so these colors do not look good on me, but this gave me so many great ideas. Thank you again

  • lauren

    You are a color wizard! Wow- chili, mustard, and forest green… love it. I am continually learning from you. Thank you thank you thank you for sharing and teaching!

    • Thanks Lauren! When I was at FIT, I remember the guy who worked at the fabric lab telling me that I had a natural ability with color. Since then it has always been my thing. It just comes easy to me. I honestly wish I could share how I do it but it’s all instinct.