Neutral Color Fashion: How to Wear Neutral Colors without Looking Washed Out

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As a woman on the go, I prefer wearing dresses because 1) I feel comfortable in them; 2) I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel even just a little bit powerful in them; and 3) trying to match tops and bottoms can be time-consuming. While jeans can go with almost any top, when I want to look a little more formal, it can be tricky balancing colors and styles.

For example, I’ve got a pair of olive green pants that look good but are difficult to style with. I have that one go-to tan-colored shirt that always looks good with it, but I don’t want to limit my pants to only that shirt. But the problem is that it can be difficult to match colors. Some people can pull off a bright yellow top with olive pants, but when I do it, my skin color has an orange tinge. When I wear black with these pants, I look like I’m cosplaying as Kim Possible.

Recently, however, wearing full neutral colors has become trendy once more. If you want to see if you can pull off neutral color fashion, here’s a guide on how to do it stylishly.


What Are Neutral Colors?

Plenty of fashion, art, and interior design blogs have different definitions on neutral colors. Some would say that these are the colors that don’t fall into specific color schemes or range between black, white, and brown. However, colors like baby blue and khaki actually fall under different color schemes (blue and green), so I don’t think this definition really holds water.

My personal definition of neutral colors are muted natural colors that aren’t too bright or eye-catching. I say neutral colors have to be both natural and muted because there are some natural colors (e.g. flowers, plants fruits, animal plumes) that don’t necessarily fall into neutral colors because they’re too bright and eye-catching.

When you see neutral colors in fashion or in interior design, you get the sense that the wearer or the owner of the house is more on the conservative side. You wouldn’t see a politician or a lawyer entering court in a striking yellow suit unless they were doing it to make a statement.

On the other hand, plenty of people wear bright colors to be seen. If you look at Queen Elizabeth II, her style almost always consists of monochromatic bright colors as her way of being seen even from afar. On the other hand, royals like the Duchess of Sussex opt for neutral colors possibly to avoid drawing unnecessary attention to herself.

The most basic neutral colors include white, black, grey, brown, and the various shades of these four such as off-white, cream, ivory, egg shell, ebony, coal, graphite, ash, coffee, chocolate, wood, and many other shades, including the light and dark versions of each color. However, some stylists also accept some shades of blue and green as a neutral color. Olive green and khaki, for example, has a similar shade with brown, so it still falls under neutral. If you’re trying to research what counts as a neutral color because of a dress code, try asking the event host if they consider blue and green neutrals as part of their color scheme.


Metallic Neutral Colors

Because most natural colors count as neutral colors, some natural metals count as neutral colors. The most popular ones include gold, silver, metal, bronze, and pewter. For the color to count as neutral, it should resemble metal in its natural form, not adding colors outside of the neutral palette. For example, metal is a neutral color, but red metal isn’t.

In fashion, metallic neutrals are seen more in accessories than the actual clothing. Jewelry, shoes, and handbags can have metallic neutral colors, but a gold sequin top that isn’t too bright can pass off as a neutral outfit.


Patterned Neutral Colors

Just because neutrals are plain colored does not mean it can only be used as a singular color without any sort of pattern. As long as the style involves predominantly neutral colors, the outfit can still be considered plaid. Some examples include tweed, pinstripes, plaid, and more.


Mixing Neutral Colors

When designing a room, using a mixture of neutral colors and bright colors can create a popping effect that isn’t too overwhelming. If less than 10 percent of a room has neutral colors, then it isn’t predominantly neutral. But if almost 90 percent is neutral, the whole room’s mood will be neutral. This is ideal if you’re trying to make something colorful the focal point of the room.

In fashion, it is possible to wear an outfit that’s completely full of neutral colors. However, this may be tricky to pull off considering some colors don’t produce the same effect as others. If you can master wearing neutral colors, two things can happen. First, you can wear a stylish outfit that doesn’t necessarily draw too much attention to yourself. Second, if you get it right, wearing neutrals can also make you stand out. If you were to wear a white top and white jeans on the street, for example, you’re sure to catch some eyes.


Casual Attire

People who wear casual clothing in neutral colors are laid-back but are still conscious about dressing with some amount of style. Going back to the olive pants, there are plenty of neutral styles you can match it with. If you have a pair of pants in your wardrobe, you can pair it with a simple white shirt and then accessorize with a jacket or simple metallic jewelry if you think a plain shirt is too boring. Colored shirts like black, white, beige, and grey would look good on a pair of olive pants for a full-neutral outfit, but plenty of bright colors could also work. But for me, if I want to dress simply, I let the green of the olive pants serve as the color piece of my outfit and then wear a white, black, or gray shade top.

For other types of casual outfits, try to mix and match colors. I don’t believe in giving readers exact clothing to wear because it’s possible that color blends that look good on me may not look as good on anyone else. But if you’re worried about looking too pale or boring when wearing a full-neutral outfit, try adding simple accessories that can tie your whole outfit together.


Formal Attire

Neutral-colored attire is often used in work-related events where people must maintain a sense of professionalism even in their formal attire or in events where the color scheme is dictated as exclusively neutral colors. In many corporate events, the “little black dress” is often the go-to choice for women, but if the event calls for a formal gown, women may have to look for long gowns to stick to the dress code.

In weddings, for example, the couple might think it would look best if everyone showed up in a specific neutral color rather than a party filled with multiple colors that could clash with the wedding ceremony and reception’s theme color. If there is no strict dress code, going to a wedding in a neutral-colored dress is a good idea if you’re worried about upstaging the bride. The only neutral color you shouldn’t wear to a wedding (unless the invitation says that is the theme) is any shade of white, as it is traditionally bad manners to wear white or dress extravagantly as others may mistake you for the bride.


Office Attire

In companies where dress codes are still being implemented, neutral colors are the best option. Office attire is about professionalism and looking smart, and the best way to do that in the office is to wear neutral colors that don’t unnecessarily attract too much attention.

Nowadays, women can wear either skirts or slacks, depending on their preference. These must be a neutral color because some bright colors are too informal and loud for a formal office setting. These are paired with collared or high-neckline blouses, closed shoes, and usually a blazer that matches or complements the color of the skirt. It is still possible to wear some bright colors and patterns, but if you want to keep it within the realm of professionalism, make sure your outfit is dominantly neutral.


Can Neutral Colors Go with Anything?

While neutral colors can go with almost anything, you might want to remember that some colors and styles look better on other people or when complemented with other accessories. For example, I have fair skin, and I prefer wearing darker colors because wearing white makes me look too pale unless I complement it with a lot of dark-colored accessories. Maybe some fair-skinned women can pull off an all-white look I can’t, but for my preference, I prefer darker neutral colors.

Photo from: Pixabay

You also have to consider that some colors just blend better with others. Let’s say you’re wearing a bright multi-colored dress and, to make it more professional in the office, you want to pair it with a neutral blazer. A black blazer will definitely look better than a beige blazer because black has totally no color while beige can be an eyesore because it adds another color to the outfit.


What Does Wearing Neutral Say About Me?

As mentioned earlier, people who wear neutral are trying not to draw attention to themselves because it is easier to blend in with the crowd than stand out when wearing neutral colors. These are the type of people who either want to play it safe, or are in an environment where they have to dress conservatively and not draw too much attention to yourself.

Photo from: Pixabay

Someone who likes wearing neutral is a type of person who isn’t keen on making a bold statement about themselves. Maybe it means they’re shy or don’t like attention, or maybe it’s possible they let the other aspects of their life speak for themselves. Take a look at Steve Job’s outfit, for example: he wears the same black turtleneck, jeans, and sneakers despite making millions from Apple. His reputation precedes his outfit, so don’t underestimate anyone who prefers to wear neutral outfits.


Neutral colors in fashion can go with almost anything, making them essentials for every modern woman’s wardrobe. However, there are certain things you should follow if you’re looking at color, style, and the occasion you’re dressing for. Now that you understand how to style yourself a fashionable all-neutral outfit, check out your closet and try to mix and match all your neutral-colored clothes. If you find that nothing is working, feel free to try mixing in at least one piece of bright colored clothing or accessory and see what kind of style suits you best.