How To Wear More Color To Work
Easy ways to brighten up your look.
Here at MM, we often sing the praises of neutrals and classic colors like black and navy. But there’s a place in every wardrobe for something a bit bolder — or a lot. The daily grind doesn’t have to be dull! Our VP of Brand Marketing, Jennifer Braunschweiger, makes the case for wearing more color to work.
In college, people who didn’t know my name called me “the well-dressed girl.” Mostly it’s because when I moved from San Francisco to Boston, I didn’t replace my floral thrift-store clothing with more dorm-friendly jeans and turtlenecks. Instead, I stuck with my purple leather motorcycle jacket and red cowboy boots and stood out in a sea of preppy. Back then, I’d never met a pattern I didn’t like, and if I liked two, I’d wear them both.
And that’s how I learned. I’m sure I looked like a hot mess more often than I would care to remember, but I did figure out what worked — and what didn’t. After all, making mistakes is part of the process of engaging fully with something. And if you engage with fashion, then you’re going to buy things you don’t wear, and wear things that don’t look good. But you’ll push your boundaries and figure out what suits you, which means that you’ll learn how to take creative freedom — and how to turn fleeting fashion into enduring personal style.
By now, after many years of dressing for myself in a corporate environment — blending in and standing out simultaneously — I’ve pushed a lot of boundaries. The one that people ask me about most often is how I am able to wear so much color. And I do: I wear a lot of color. A friend once told me that she rarely wears more than two colors at a time, and that got me to start counting: four, five, even six shades in a single outfit is not unusual for me. People often ask for my advice about how to incorporate more color into their wardrobes, and so I wrote it up: my guidelines for brightening up a look.
Tip #1: Pick colors you love.The beautiful thing about color is that it’s so individual. I like primary and secondary colors, and within that, I lean toward blues, purples, reds and pinks for no other reason than that I like them. I stay away from olive, crimson, and mustard because I don’t. And that’s okay! Many people love those shades — and to them I say, yay you.
Tip #2: Take baby steps.If you’re like my friend Kate, who only wears black but wants to branch out, start small. Pick one color you like and buy something in that. How do you feel when you’re wearing an emerald green dress? Do you like the comments you get? Yes? Then buy something else!
Tip #3: Buy clothes that aren’t black, beige, or denim.You can’t wear more color if you don’t buy more color. This sounds obvious, but believe me, your closet is not going to magically produce a sunflower yellow cardigan if you don’t buy one. The next time you purchase something, get it in red. Repeat that process enough times, and you’ll have options. Still nervous? Try picking up an item you already love in a bolder color. If your favorite black pants come in rust, get a pair of those, too. The next time you reach for the black pants, wear the rust ones instead.
Tip #4: Experiment with neutrals.If you work in an office with a business formal dress code, some colors may attract more notice than is appropriate. But color doesn’t have to be neon to make an impact; neutrals can be elegant when combined in interesting ways. One of my favorite combinations is a black shirt with a white blazer; it surprises by upending expectations about how to layer colors, and always looks great. I also love an all-beige outfit, especially with gold jewelry. Or try head-to-toe navy blue; c’est tres francais.
Tip #5: Get the proportions right.I’m going out on a limb here, but I believe that you have a lot more freedom with color than you think. If the outfit’s proportions are good — the pieces fit your body well, the shapes are modern, the elements work well together — then you can fill in those outlines with almost any color or pattern and it will gel. Of course, this assumes you have a degree of visual sophistication. When I mentioned this theory to the head designer at MM.LaFleur, she gave me a look and said, “That would be a huge mess for many people.” I get that. Use caution. Use the next tip.
Tip #6: Take a photo.There’s something about seeing an outfit in a picture instead of in a mirror that makes it easier to interpret. Take a photo of your full body. If you saw the photo on Instagram, would you like the outfit? No? Adjust accordingly.
Tip #7: When in doubt, don’t be.What’s the worst that could happen? You tried a weird color combo on Tuesday. Who cares? I say, go for it! Life is too short to never wear your favorite shade of pink with your new lavender coat. ROYGBIV for the win.