The Ultimate Guide on Clothing Colour for Your Wardrobe

Sticking to neutral tones is an easy way of avoiding a faux-pas, but your outfit will rarely stand out from the crowd. With that in mind, colour needs to be embraced, but it’s quite easy to get the wrong combinations if you’re not aware of what goes together well. Read up with this guide, and you won’t go far wrong with your colour coordination.

Colour Harmony

The primary goal in combining clothes in an outfit is to create harmony. Harmony reflects the balance and order of what you’re wearing. It sits in the middle ground between looking bland and looking chaotic, holding the interest of others.

If you reckon that colour coordination seems like something that can’t be measured, it’s not! Introducing the scientific approach to colour co-ordination – the colour wheel:

The Colour Wheel

Colour wheel chart

The colour wheel consists of 12 colours: 3 primary colours (red, yellow and blue), 3 secondary colours (green, orange and yellow) and 6 remaining tertiary colours, and is the foundation of colour co-ordination.

Describing a colour can be done by assessing 3 basic properties – hue, value and intensity. They are defined as:

  • Hue: The name of the colour
  • Value: Degree of lightness/darkness of colour
  • Intensity: Strength/purity of the colour i.e. how bright or muted it is.

As you can see each segment consists of 5 colours demonstrating the lightening of the outer or ‘basic’ colour.

From the colour chart can be drawn 3 essential rules for colour co-ordination:

  • Adjacent colours on the wheel are similar and therefore easy to coordinate e.g. blue and violet.
  • Opposite colours (red and green, yellow and violet, blue and orange) are complementary but difficult to pair when at full strength. As a rule of thumb you should mute one colour.
  • Triad colours (3 that are equidistant from one another, e.g. yellow, red and blue) are contrasting and provide a good basic scheme for a complicated outfit. Triad colours can be deployed in dynamic harmony by combing two ‘cool’ with one ‘warm’ colours, or vice versa e.g. navy suit, light blue shirt and red tie.

Colour Wheel explained Gif

Building on the Colour Wheel

On these foundations are built the essential colour combinations of fashion. Here are several:

  • Anchor light colours with a dark grey or black. It’s a way of managing the boldness of a bright garment. Grey in particular complements bright colours.
  • Dark tones pair better with vivid rather than light colours (it tends to over-power the light).
  • Colour works best in the summer. Light pastel colours are suited to summer conditions, earthy colours (rust brown, green) to autumn.
  • Consider how all colour works with you skin tone. Most are versatile – a rich blue will work pretty much anything – but still look to gauge how a certain colour complements your complexion. For example, as a general rule, high contrast between hair colour, eye colour and skin tone favours sharp, stark and clear coloured garments. Low contrast between these features favours neutral, muted and pastel colours.
  • Loudly coloured trousers should for the most part to be avoided – they can easily come off as clownish.
  • Dark colours make you look thinner, whilst light colours project and make you look bigger. Dark colours are also more formal than light.
  • A monochromatic look uses only one colour, but deploys different shades, tones or tints. Don’t be afraid of experimenting with this.

In Practice

Here are several classic colour combinations:

Jacket Shirt Tie Trousers Belt/Shoes
Navy White, Blue, Pink Blue, Yellow, red, Burgundy Grey, Tan Black, Brown
Black White,Light Grey,Blue Black, White Grey, Blue (All Primary Pastel Colours) Grey Black
Grey White, Grey, Yellow, Pink, Blue Black, White, Grey, Navy Blue (All Primary Pastel Colours) Grey, Black, Navy Black, Brown


Written By
Sticking to neutral tones is an easy way of avoiding a faux-pas, but your outfit will rarely stand out from the crowd. With that...
" />