Color Combos

By Sharon Mosley

July 8, 2011 5 min read

Think you can get away with wearing that same old black suit this fall? Think again. Fashion is all about color this year, says Lee Eiseman, color expert and executive director of the Pantone Color Institute. And it's not your typical dark greens and browns sprinkled with a little cinnamon on top. It's time to get creative with your fashion coloring box and put together some new combinations that will make your wardrobe feel like a work of art.

"Designers are taking a painterly approach to fall 2011 by artfully combining bright colors with staple neutrals, reminiscent of how an artist would construct a stunning work of art," Eiseman says. "Much like a painter's masterpiece, there is a certain romance to this season's palette."

But you know creating a masterpiece isn't all that easy. So how do you go about putting together your own art show? There are plenty of designers out there who can inspire you with some new ways to incorporate colors in your wardrobe.

One of Eiseman's favorite new combos is phlox (a shade of purple) teamed up with cedar green and deep teal. "I also feel that honeysuckle -- the holdover from spring -- is a great mix with phlox and cedar," she says. These colors are great for color blocking -- another trend taking over runway designs -- i.e., juxtaposing strong colors one on top of another.

Coffee liquor (a shade of brown), bamboo (yellow-green) and emberglow (soft orange) are more typical fall combinations, according to Eiseman. But take another not-so-traditional approach and try mixing nougat (warm tan) with quarry (gray) and orchid hush (a tone of gray with complex orchid undertones). "These are fall's quiet neutrals that look good together or juxtaposed singly against other combinations mentioned before," she says.

Many designers take their color cues each new fashion season from Pantone, a well-known color authority, to give their collections fresh color palettes that consumers will want to buy to freshen up their wardrobes. This fall, there may not be one "it" color, but there are definitely ways to combine what you already have with other pieces in more unusual ways.

Here are a few tips from Pantone to get you started on creating your own artful masterpiece:

--Bamboo brings in a warm, exotic flavor to the season. Like a filtered sunset on the waning days of fall, bamboo is a standout yellow with a subtle green undertone. This dappled shade pairs dramatically with several of the top 10 Pantone fall hues, including phlox, teal and honeysuckle.

--Radiant emberglow, a traditional autumnal tone, conjures up the warmth of a glowing fire. Combine emberglow with coffee liqueur for a classic look or with honeysuckle for something a bit more retro. Add a spark with shoes or a handbag in emberglow or perhaps a patterned scarf combining phlox or deep teal.

--Honeysuckle was such a hit from spring that you won't be surprised to see it again on the fall palette. This playful reddish pink works with any other color in the fall Pantone palette, especially the fall staples coffee liqueur and nougat. Honeysuckle also takes on a darker tone for fall in deep reds -- such as crimson, another favorite hue of designers. To add some contrast, pair these reds with complementary bamboo.

--Phlox is a deep purple with a hint of mystery and makes an outstanding statement when worn on its own. Add phlox to this season's neutrals to create a bit of drama, or combine it with cedar green, deep teal or coffee liqueur for something out of the ordinary. To add even more drama, pair phlox with honeysuckle or bamboo against a cedar background -- a combination inspired by Mother Nature.

--Cedar is a versatile midtone neutral green and is a natural with deep teal and sophisticated with phlox or orchid hush.

--Deep teal, my personal favorite this fall, is a strong blue-toned green. It is very new and interesting when teamed with cedar, its neighbor on the color wheel. Deep teal is also a unique counterpoint to honeysuckle. As you can with any of the stronger colors in your wardrobe, set off deep teal with the classic fall neutral coffee liqueur, which is a great alternative to basic black.

--Nougat (sounds good and tastes good) is a softer tan, and it also sets off phlox, emberglow or orchid hush.

--Quarry is a medium gray you can expect to see cropping up in the artistic fashion color palette this fall and is another relief to black. It will blend perfectly as a great background to bolder colors.

The best color advice for fall? "Just do something unexpected," Eiseman says. "Experiment with different color combinations that you've never worn before. It will be chic and modern."

Sharon Mosley's column, "In Fashion," can be found at creators.com.

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