We can do better than this! Image courtesy of Gymboree.com

It is the proverbial question that we have all heard standing in the fitting room, waiting on a friend, (mother, lover, acquaintance—hey, I don’t judge,) “do these match?”  It is 2012; can we eliminate that phrase from our repertoire?  I know it is hard to break the habit of putting together matching outfits and accessories the way our mothers did for us, but that was at least twenty years ago—or longer.  So, sorry, but I am finally kicking mom out of your closet and your shopping trips.  Welcome to the world of contrasting.

Mix up your accessories: One simple thing you can do is stop matching your accessories.  Think of it as the gateway drug to contrasting.  Once you do this, your accessory options will multiply.  No more lugging those hot new turquoise pumps around the mall to find the perfect belt to match.  Gold or any jewel tone will look amazing with such a rich hue.  Plus, if all else fails there are always neutrals . . .

Neutrals: Another way to ease yourself off of matching and onto contrasting is to throw some neutrals into the mix.  Pair anything with a brown, black, white, gray or navy and you can never go wrong.  I also consider metallics neutrals, just make sure you are keeping the occasion in mind.  A little shine can go a long way.  Try a metallic flat or pump with your usual tee and jeans or work separates for an updated look.

Lookin' good, Mother Nature! Image courtesy of Carillon-beach.com

Think green: Take your contrast cues from nature.  If the color combination occurs naturally, say on a flower or in the ocean, you are good to go!  Mother Nature has great style, she will never fail you.  Pairing sea-foam sandals with an ivory strapless sheath and navy clutch?  Sounds like a day at the beach.

Brights: There is something about bright colors that make it acceptable to contrast them in ways we would not usually mix their more muted cousins.  Just keep it to one or two pieces per outfit and stay away from neon if you are over twenty and it is after 1989.  Bright red skinny jeans would look fantastic with a black and white striped tee and topped off with a bright blue scarf.

Color Wheel, Image courtesy of Paintdrawpaint.com

Know your color wheel: So your school cut funding for art classes?  No biggie, I will review anyway.  Analogous color schemes, with colors next to each other on the color wheel, are great for muted outfits.  Complementary color schemes, with colors opposite from each other on the color wheel, will make your outfit pop.  Carry a wheel around with you when you shop, if you have to.  Who cares if people stare, you will look amazing in your new duds.

Tory Burch, Spring 2012, Image courtesy of Style.com

Pattern mixing: If you have made it this far in the contrasting crash course, you deserve a special treat.  Pattern mixing is by far the most enjoyable—once you master it.  Take what you have learned from mixing your solids and now apply it to your patterns.  It can be done!  There are a few guidelines.  Stay away from like patterns in the same outfit, (stripe on stripe, plaid on plaid, etc.) unless there is a major size difference.  It helps to break them up with a solid neutral or bright in between if you are a little unsure about the pairing.  Feel free to pull the colors from the pattern itself.  Easy ways to start pattern mixing are with a floral blouse over neutral, muted plaid trousers; or with a printed scarf over a color blocked tee, jeans and bright crocodile flats (faux, if you wish.)

Now that we are all ready for a little contrasting, I am looking forward to a brighter and more patterned spring.  Happy contrasting!

Much love and good shoes,