Adding Colour to Black (or other neutrals)


Adding Colour to Black by imogenl

The gorgeous La Belette Rouge recently asked for some advice on how to add a dash of colour to her otherwise black wardrobe. She tends to wear outfits of black, but has a few coloured jackets, and wants them to look tied together, rather than just an afterthought. So I’ve Polyvored up a selection of black outfits with coloured accessories and jackets.

The general rule is, if you wear neutrals from head to toe, and want to add colour, you need to add 2-3 accessories in the same colour or colour palette to make it look like it’s purposeful rather than an accidental use of colour. More than 3 uses of the colour will start to overwhelm – not everything has to match.

Remember, this rule doesn’t just work with black, but any neutral – you could be wearing shades of brown and a pop of colour, shades of deep olive green, shades of beige or camel – the rules remain the same.

Oh and yes – I put the parasol in as a bit of a joke!


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  • I love this post. Really, I have learned something big here. 2-3 accessories in the same colour to make it purposeful!! That is what I was not doing and why it didn’t work. I want the green outfit, the red one and that last one is also fantastic. They all are!! Thank you, Imogen!!! This is so nice of you to do.
    Merci et bisoux!

  • Thanks, Imogen! I’ve managed to do this once of twice by trial and error. Your post was an “aha! Now I get it moment” for me. This is going to help make better color choices for my accessories too. Do you think the accessories have to be exactly the same color?

  • La Belette – Thanks for asking me for the advice – sometimes I forget that what I think is obvious others don’t know, so I may skip the whole topic.

    Please – anyone send questions.

    Kellygirl – glad you’ve had your ‘oprah’ moment. The colours don’t have to be exactly the same, but in the same tonal range and must work togther not clash (eg.not blue green with yellow green, or cherry red with orange red). Thanks also for commenting – I love your feedback!

  • As always, an expert post!

    Okay, question. What if you wear brown pants and a grey sweater. Is that the same starting point as wearing only one neutral from head to toe? And I’m still not sure about mxing the “tones” in the accessories. Can you do, say, a burgundy shoe with a pink bag? They go good together, right? I wish I could show you what I mean.

    P.S. Is “purposeful” too contrived? Isaac Miz says to make it look like you threw it all together!

  • P.S. Why not yellow greens with teals? I read somewhere that greens are especially easy to mix, as they are all mixed up in nature…

  • I agree, this was a very helpful post. I too was not adding two to three accesories. I love to wear black and now I know how to add the color. Thank you Imogen.

  • I never knew to add color in threes. It does make sense, and I love your examples. I usually don’t wear green, but I love the example outfit with green.

    What if you paired a navy sweater with black pants. Would both be considered the neutral and then add an accessory color?

  • Neutrals don’t count as colour – so black, grey, navy, brown, cream etc count as non-accent colours.

    I think there is a difference between purposeful and contrived – when all the colours aren’t quite the same, rather than the shade being exact (can be too much), or when there is more than 3 accents of a colour it becomes contrived.

    Wendy – you never look accidental and have a fabulous style!

    Karen – teal is comsidered to be almost a neutral – but say a forrest green with a chartreuse may not work so well together, and don’t work as colour accents as they’re too unrelated.

    And yes – you could try shades of burgundy and pink if they related well – do me a polyvore!

  • IMogen, what if you are dressed for a party. If you take off your colored coat, then put down your colored purse, all you are left with is colored shoes! That is one item! If you add a colored belt or necklace, you’re into four or five “colored” items and when you have the coat and purse on it will look like overkill. How does one calculate for this. Shoes and belts are the only accessories we actually have on our bodies. oh jewels I guess. Purses and coats and hats we only see coming and going!

  • LOVE these black and colour combos! I think black is the best fashion colour ever! And I ADORE the addition of BRIGHT andFUN colour!

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