Dooney and Bourke

Carefree Coordinates: How to coordinate colors without looking "matchy"

Photo Credit @lizv photography

Photo Credit @lizv photography

Visual interest. Achieving visual interest in an outfit is what makes people stop you and say, Ooh, I love your outfit. Generally there's something that their eye is drawn to, and they can't help but comment. Visual interest can come in a lot of forms, most notably through color, pattern, texture, and shine. Subtle (or bold) cues involving these themes speak to us in a third eye kind of way -- we don't know why we like it or what it's doing to us, but girrrllll, you look good.


One of the questions I get asked a lot as a stylist is, what goes with what? How do I know what matches, or goes together?

When I was still working full time as a consultant in public education reform, colleagues would say, "I never would have thought to put that with that, but I love it!" Now that's one of the things I love hearing most when I help my styling clients with their wardrobes. So how do you achieve visual interest at home?  

Let's start with color. I could write a treatise on this, but we're going to keep it simple.  

Step 1: Choose a base item.

A base item could be a skirt, pants, a top -- whatever you're excited about pairing with something else.  

Pencil Skirt, J. Crew (old) Similar  here

Pencil Skirt, J. Crew (old) Similar here

I wanted to wear this printed skirt. I like the paisley print and textured fabric. But tops to pair with it..., hmm. 

Matchy shirting choices: red, powder blue, white. Totally appropriate, but devastatingly boring. 

We can do better.

Top, Comptoir des Cotonniers; similar  here  Belt, LOFT, similar  here

Top, Comptoir des Cotonniers; similar here Belt, LOFT, similar here

Here's the trick:  

Choose one color in the base item and pair it with something in a color adjacent on the color wheel. I chose blue, and purple is next to blue on the color wheel. So, blue and purple are friends. Instead of a dark purple I kept the look light and summery by going with a lighter purple shade in this lavender top. See? Easy peasy.  

I also could have gone orange (or peach for a lighter tonal version), or pink, both sitting next to red on the color wheel.  

Saddlebag, Dooney & Bourke

Saddlebag, Dooney & Bourke

I kept my accessories neutral. You've gotta have a good tan or beige belt in your arsenal, and I'm a sucker for the classic styling of this mini saddlebag. I got mine in 1998. Yes, I am old. You can find similar ones here and here.  

Happy Pairing out there! Tag me @brandeisnicole on Instagram in pics of your newly paired outfits! 

All Photo Credit @ Liz V. Photography

Dooney & Bourke, $148 (sale), Free People, $40 Rebecca Minkoff, $195, Kate Spade, $198