23 Tips for Mixed-Up Color-Blocked Outfits: Chic Unmatched, Mismatched, Clashing Fashion
by Tina Boomerina (Christina Gregoire)
I've been meaning to write a fashion article with easy rules for color blocking, but my first draft has been languishing on my computer for months. Instead, I’m going to give you 23 random tips for mixing unique, mismatched, clashing, colorful outfits that won't look stupid. This new, crazy, mixed-up trend will make you feel happy and alive and hip. Yes, wild color combinations are a current trend that will make you look pulled together by looking pulled apart. And, a groovy color-blocked ensemble can be done on the cheap, saving money while styling yourself a trendy, new look!
I love this trend!
Examples of Colorful Outfits
Most of these photos are from Spring-Summer 2018 collections, but I've been saving photos of this cool trend for months, so there's a good chance a few of these items are unavailable. However, if you look around, you can find similar items in these colors.
You can find the stores at the bottom of the article. I'll tell you if the photos are from last fall or if they're current. That will tell you if the outfit uses current Pantone colors for spring or if the outfit uses Pantone colors from last fall.
The only reason you need to know this is that it will probably be easier to find last season's colors on a sale rack at a discount place than in a mainstream store.
However, all the current spring colors will probably go with all the colors from last fall (and next fall) because color trends come in waves. And, if you play around with different combinations, you can absolutely do color blocking using all kinds of different combinations.
Yes! A trend I can wear... a trend I can afford.
Colorful Color Blocking for Women Over 40, 50 60, Etc.
I am writing this for all women of all ages, but I will have special tips for older women when I think of them.
You can yell at me all you want for using photos with 12-year-old models. I'm showing you pictures I get from the stores. I sometimes show you photos of myself, but I'm 65 freaking years old, so uploading pics of Tina Boomerina taken by my impatient husband is not high on my list.
If any of you (older, younger, teenage, any age) have a picture of yourself or a friend wearing a colorful outfit, I would love to add it to the article. Hint: This is a very photogenic style.
23 Tips for Mixing Colors in Your Outfits
These tips are not in any particular order. I'm just writing them down as they pop into my head.
1. Start with 3 colors: You can add more or take one away, but a palette with 3 main colors is the easiest place to start.
2. Wear Solid Colors: I'd go with one print max if you want to try a pattern.
3. Look for Simple Lines: Classic, basic shapes are best. You already have so much going on with your palette that you don't want to overdo it with far-out cuts or oodles of ruffles.
4. Use One Dominant Color: See photo 2 for a cute outfit where green plays the leading role and 2 small pops of yellow and orange support the dominant player. You don't need to follow this rule. Equal amounts of each color can give you a successful look, as well.
Clashing Colors Equal Hip Fashion
So... where do you start? Here are a few colorful themes to try:
5. Bright Colors: The outfit in the main photo at the top of the page (or bottom on mobiles) and the other photos above look balanced and fabulous because all the colors are equally bright (overall). Bright hues turn your outfit into a glorious Fauve painting you can wear! (Fauve means wild animal in French.)
Yes, you can wear this type of outfit if you're over 50. If you're not an artsy type, just tone things down by adding neutrals to the mix.
6. Jewel Tones: One way to do this trend without looking like a pop-art Pop Tart is to swap out the brights for jewel tones. Technically, the photos above show bright jewel tones, but darker, deeper jewel colors can be fabulous together. And, richer hues will give you a totally tasteful look... if you feel an outfit of brights is too avant-garde for you. (If your jewel tones look too muted, add at least one bright.)
7. Pastel Colors: You can also do color blocking with pastels. A soft mix of colors will give you a modern look without being brash. (I guess the yellow and green outfit is a bit bright compared to the pink and green pastels.)
8. Mix Brights & Pastels & Darks: You can, of course, pair dark colors with light colors or bright colors with muted colors, etc. Try everything you own with everything else.
9. Pantone Color Palettes: Every year there are 2 Pantone fashion palettes. All of the colors in that season's palette is meant to be worn with every other color from that season. Try looking at a past season if you aren't getting the look you want. Check out a couple of my Pantone articles for ideas.
I don't want to imply that pastels only go with pastels or brights only go with brights. You can wear soft muted tones with brights. You can wear jewel tones with brights. You can mix different types of colors together in any way that pleases your eye.
10. Never Wear Boring Sporty or Tailored Outfits: If you tend to wear sporty or tailored clothing... normie clothing... it's really easy to fall back on basic navy and white or black and beige or blue and denim. Safe, boring colors can make you look old and dated unless you're wearing VERY high-end designer clothes or fabulous jewelry. So, if you find yourself in an outfit just like granny had, you MUST shake yourself awake.
Hip colors may not make you look younger, but a modern palette will definitely make you look less boring. And, if you can't go the Full Monty, try a few mismatched accessories.
Save Money With Color-Blocked Outfits
I love this mixed-up trend just... because. But, there are also some good financial reasons to start playing with color:
11. Wear What You Own: Mixing colors is a good way to wear the stuff in the back of your closet that you bought for its great color, but you never wore much because... it's purple.
12. Buy on Sale: You can save money buying those weird carrot-yellow designer shoes that your feet love or that bubble-gum "It Bag" that other shoppers were afraid to buy. Many high-end items are too over-the-top for average women. Don't be average.
13. Thrift Stores are Fun Again: You now know how to wear those chic consignment-store finds that others thought too brash or gaudy.
Colorful Fashion Trend for Older Women
I want you to sit up and pay attention if you're a boomer.
14. Intentional Mismatching: It's especially important for older women to make sure their unmatched outfits look intentional. We don't want the clerk at the grocery store to think you're a senile old biddy or a homeless person.
15. Repeating Colors: Whenever your mixing and matching doesn't feel intentional, try repeating one of the colors in some other part of your outfit. (Repeating a color is NOT necessary, and it is actually frowned upon by color-block purists.)
16. Obvious Color Themes: If your color choices don't quite give you a cohesive look, try using a theme, like all-pastel or all-primary colors. After you've played dress up a few times, you won't need any tips.
Color Theory and Color Wheel
You may already know color theory, but some of you like to follow rules, so I'm going to give you my Super Simple Color Theory a la Tina Boomerina. It's everything you need to know in a few sentences.
(I made this chart with watercolors I had on hand, so the colors may not be exactly right.)
17. Opposite Colors: Colors that are opposite on the color wheel are called complementary colors. They are also called holiday colors.
- Red and green = Christmas colors
- Purple and yellow = Easter colors
- Blue and orange = Hanukkah colors (In reality Hanukkah colors are blue and gold, but it's close enough for rock n roll.)
18. Similar Colors: Colors that are next to each other on the color wheel are called analogous colors. See photo 7 for a good example. Orange, red, and yellow are pretty much next to each other. (Ignore the purple earrings for now.)
Tip: The middle pic in photo 3 shows another outfit with similar, analogous colors. Yellow, green, and orange are somewhat next to each other on the color wheel. Hint: Brown is really orange.
19. Triangle Color Scheme: A triad color scheme includes any 3 colors that form a triangle on my color wheel. The primary colors of yellow, red, and blue make a triangle. All triadic color schemes are considered harmonious.
I'm making up these definitions, even though what I'm saying is technically correct.
20. How to Find a Good Color Scheme: You can throw on whatever colors feel right to you, because there are no rules for this trend. However, if you don't like what you've put together, you can always come back to basic color theory by using hues that are opposite, similar, or triangular on the color wheel.
Normal Suburban Women in Middle America
Here are some easy ways to slide into this trend without leaving your comfort zone. I know many of you are hesitant to think of yourselves as fashion forward.
21. Rely on Denim: Start with denim as your base. Add interesting colors.
22. Add Colorful Accessories: Add any bright, solid colored purse to an outfit you feel comfortable wearing. Then put on bright earrings and some yellow shoes before you leave the house.
23. Turquoise: The color turquoise seems to go with everything. Chartreuse is a close second. If you see a cute pair of boots in turquoise, you might want to get them.
(I miscounted. You get extra tips.)
24. A Stash of Brights: You need a stash of colors in your closet and in your box of costume jewelry. It's very difficult to play with color if you only wear black.
25. Add a Pair of Random Shoes: I've read that street-wise fashionistas put on a randomly colored pair of shoes or boots to liven up their normal, everyday outfits.
Use these photos and others on Pinterest for inspiration. If these pics are too small to see, click this link for my Pinterest Color Blocking fashion board.
All of my tips are just suggestions, because street style has no rules. If you're happy with your outfit, you're good to go.
Let me know what you think of all these mismatched outfits. Would you ever wear this trend?
- Main Photo Bright Mixed Colors: NewLook.com (from about 2012 or 2014). I saw a British teenager wearing a similar outfit in these same bold colors back around that time. That's how long I've been obsessed with this cute look!
- 1: River Island Fall-Winter 2017-2018.
- 2: River Island plus, Spring-Summer 2018.
- 3: Topshop, last winter (notice the green pumps). River Island plus, Spring-Summer 2018. Topshop, recent.
- 4: Hobbs, Spring-Summer 2018. This is a store for fashionable adult women. Even Hobbs shows color blocking.
- 5: River Island, Spring-Summer 2018.
- 6: River Island, Spring-Summer 2018. Miss Selfridge Christmas 2017. River Island (might be last Christmas), River Island Spring-Summer 2018.
- 7: River Island, Spring-Summer 2018.
- 8: My own chart.
- 9: Marks & Spencer, Spring-Summer 2018.
- 10: River Island plus, Spring-Summer 2018. Topshop, about a month ago.
I have so many photos I couldn't fit them all into one article. I may have to write another.
More Great Articles for Groovy Fashionistas of All Ages: