11 ways to wear colour

Nikki ParkinsonFashion 50 Comments

It might surprise new readers to discover that up until a few years ago colour and I were not wardrobe friends.

I LOVED my neutrals. Particularly black, white and stone (a more fancy schmancy name for beige, don’t you think?).

And do you know what? That’s completely ok if that’s your current colour palette too.

I think you have to be in the right frame of mind to make a leap from neutrals to embracing the rainbow.

And I think it also helps to understand that that leap does not have to be a giant one. It can be as simple as just starting.


I started first by becoming really aware of what was in my wardrobe and then noticing what I kept gravitating to when shopping.

Then and only then did I realise I was ready to bring a little colour into my life.

And by little, I really do mean little.

I started small. With the colour red.

It was a colour I liked and worked beautifully with my existing neutrals. From there I added in more colours. Colours that “spoke” to me. Colours that made me smile when I wore them.

I’ve never had my colours “done”, nor have I done this for clients when I was seeing them on a one-on-one basis.

I hate fashion rules so I preferred that my clients learn to read the spark in their eye and witness how their whole face lit up when trying on certain colours or styles in the change room.

Change-room confidence is key to confidence in your everyday style.

Now, if colour is something you’d like to embrace more in your wardrobe but were looking for ways to start that without fear, you might be interested in a challenge that my blogging friend Vanessa at Style and Shenanigans is running this week.

Vanessa lives in Melbourne and defies the myth that all Melbourne people wear black. Colour is entrenched in her signature style. Each day she’s nominated a different colour to wear. Head to her blog each day for ideas on how to incorporate the colour of the day.

11 ways to wear colour

11 ways to wear colour

If you’re stuck with ideas on just how to do that, here are 11 ways to wear colour every day.

1. Do wear colour but don’t let it wear you. This is one of the key statements on the SY manifesto. I know some people who can wear all the colours of the rainbow all at once and look fabulous doing so. I know if I applied the same combination, I’d look like a clown. The colour would dominate and the real me wouldn’t know how to get noticed. It’s ok to not wear colour if you don’t feel confident in it.

2. Start with accessories. Accessories are the key to bringing an outfit together but they’re also the perfect add-ons if you’re wanting to bring colour to an outfit. This way you can introduce colour without it costing a bomb.

3. Arrange your wardrobe so that colours are grouped together. If if you think you don’t have any colour in your wardrobe, do this. I have a gazillion white tops and tees. They all hang together so I always know I’ve got something to wear. Ditto my grey and black tops. Colours are grouped too. That way I can see at a glance if I’m wearing a neutral pair of pants, which colours are hanging and ready to go. If you don’t have much colour in your wardrobe, take note of the ones you do have there. Chances are, they’re the colours that you should buy and wear more of.

4. Hold up coloured tops or dresses from your wardrobe near your face. This is about recognising how one colour lights up your eyes and your complexion and how another might leave you feeling flat. Go with that feeling. You can’t force a colour to get along with you.

5. Love a colour but your face doesn’t love it being near you? Incorporate it into pants or skirts. This is where my neutral tops come into their own. White always works for me, as does black because of my blonde hair. They distract my face while my bottom half is playing with the colour.

6. Head out to your favourite fashion stores and play. Minimal colour to play with in your wardrobe? Set aside an hour to go and “play” at your fave fashion store. Try on different coloured pieces in the change room and get used to the changes in how your eyes and face look with different colours near them. Create a short list of colours (photograph the ones that work for you if you’re not buying them) and keep them in mind when you’re out shopping in the future.

7. Start by adding colour to a neutral base. You can really make a colour pop this way. It’s how you’ll most often find me working colour into my outfit (unless it’s a frock of course). Strategically placed feature colour on a neutral canvas can really create an outfit that gets noticed for the right reasons.

8. Play around with working complementing colours in the same outfit. Remember the colour wheel from Year 8 art classes? Yep, opposites really do attract. A couple of years back orange was THE colour of the season. My fave combo was orange and navy – almost complete opposites on the colour wheel and almost like splashing a colour with a neutral. Navy can swing both ways as a colour and a neutral in my wardrobe.

9. Forget the rules – colours can clash. Blue and green can definitely be seen. Same goes for hot pink and orange or red. For me, done well these are some most striking colour combinations out there. Yes, they need an attitude to match but hey, if you’ve got it, then I say shows that colourful attitude.

10. Use colour to surprise. Work in a corporate environment? Why not wear red shoes or carry a yellow bag? That bag or pair of shoes will be an instant conversation starter in a sea of grey and black.

11. Start with one colour. Don’t let colour overwhelm set in. Feel your confidence grow as you adopt and wear one particular colour more often. From there, the colour world is your oyster.

Shopping suggestions

7 Days 7 Colours

1. Ollie & Max denim dress $149.95 | 2. Verily kaftan $69 (on sale) | 3. Ruby Olive necklace $45 | 4. Erstwilder earrings $19.95 @ Vintage Pip | 5. Zaket & Plover knit $129.95 @ Birdsnest | 6. Trenery pants $119 | 7. Top End wedges $149.95 @ Style Tread

What colours would I find in your wardrobe?

Comments 50

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  2. I have always worked in corporate environments, so it’s very easy to slip into the neutrals uniform, without even thinking about it! I think, for me, it was also a way to try and blend into the background, having not been very confident about any aspect of myself for a very long time. After discovering this blog, and a couple of others like it, and taking your wardrobe bootcamp Nikki, I have learned that jewel tones work really well on my mood, my confidence and my appearance – it’s the trifecta! Slowly, I added colour via accessories – cobalt blues, emerald greens, ruby reds – until I felt comfortable wearing something that drew attention to me. Now, I feel odd if there isn’t some colour in my outfit every day. I still keep it corporate by balancing out a neutral piece with an amazing shoe or top or statement jewellery. I get the most compliments on days I wear the brightest colours, and I feel so much better about myself when I do. Today it’s black slacks with a gorgeous cobalt blue top (that also happens to be breezy and flowy and comfortable – another bonus!), and I feel completely in control of everything in my little cubicle today. Love your tips Nikki – and I can feel I will be doing some online window shopping later today based on those shoes!

    1. Oh Marianne, that’s such a beautiful colour journey story to share. Thank-you. I’m so glad that you’ve been able to build your cubicle confidence on your terms and that it’s working everyday to help you. x

  3. Looking at those red wedges makes me think I should get my gorgeous beetroot coloured suede heels out. I spent oodles on them in London in the 00s but thought coloured heels were ‘out’. Hmm. Maybe with jeans in Autumn. Love your posts, Nikki.

  4. I always dressed in fashionista black for work Before Babies. Now Pink is my new Black; but I’ve also embraced the rainbow. Blame it on the The Toddler and The Preschooler? I’ve recently started wearing colours I never would have been brave enough for before – like yellow eek! Its a mood changer x

  5. Thanks for all the great tips. I am a lover of colour but still trying to confirm exactly which ones suit me. I have always leaned to blue because I felt like that was a safe choice. I think I need to expand my outlook a bit. One colour which has unexpectedly started sneaking it’s way into my wardrobe is green. I have that bye bye birdie dress by Maiocchi and another dress which has a fair amount of green and I seem to get great compliments whenever I wear them. Never thought I would be a big green fan but seems like maybe I should be embracing the right shades of green. I love pink but still uncertain about if it works for me. I think I need to try it out a bit more. I also get stuck in the trap of always having neutral bottoms and adding the colour up top. I think I need to take on board your tip of adding some colour that may not work up top but can be added into pants or skirts.

  6. Thanks Nikki,

    I used to work for a company whose old uniform was Stone, White and a little red and accessories were supplied.. I am still wearing those colours after a number of years in a completely different field of work now as I find them easy to wear as an everyday type of uniform at home in my new job, however.. having been a reader for a while now and occasional commenter 🙂 , I have embraced some blues, pinks, corals and even some black from some of the labels you model and wear Nikki and I find they are my weekend, beachy, mostly casual colours that make me relax and everyone compliments me on. The other 3 colours remain my weekday, workday trusted items so I don’t have to think too hard.

    1. Hello Jen … haven’t seen you here for a while! I actually love that you have a work day “uniform” and the fact that it’s based from a colour palette of an actual uniform you used to wear, all the better! And glad to hear your weekend uniform works in your beachy colours.

  7. Love this post – item 4 on your list is the key! Your eyes will sparkle with your best tones near your face – one stylist I know described it to me as those colours making you look well rested and healthy. If people are complimenting you on looking well, those colours could be the ones!

    For the ladies that don’t have a clue (like my sister, bless her) we took ourselves to Target and did the colours thing until she started to see what worked – a sister, or honest girlfriend, can be a great colou consultant!!

    Thank you Nikki for freeing your lovely readers to embrace the rainbow.


  8. I love fuschia, orange (or coral) and colbalt, all together if possible! But my bright items have taken a backseat this summer as I have had neon hair (fuschia then fire engine red and now almost-orange-copper which tends to clash with my wardrobe and is really a statement all on it’s own without any help lol

  9. I used to wear a LOT of black, but I think that was also because I always had bright unnatural coloured hair, I let my hair do the talking. Now I’m blonde, I’m having so much more fun playing with colour in my wardrobe.

  10. I love injecting colour with accessories – that’s why I have a rather large & always growing collection of hair flowers; at least that’s what I tell my husband lol!

  11. Black, grey and denim is my wardrobe. I even shy away from white because I was told it makes me look even darker (I’m half italian). Light pink looks horrible of me too apparently. I’m trying to use more colour – in my shoes, handbag or just on my kid who is often attached to my hip so is therefore kinda like I’m wearing it, right?! Even our house had barely any colour… it was a massive thing for us to get a red clock! But now we are into colour colour colour…. just got to get it in my wardrobe! Thanks for the helpful post x

  12. I’m loving the 7 Day Colour Challenge! It’s so easy for me to revert to black, black and more black in a corporate office but Vanessa’s style challenge is helping me choose colour instead. In my wardobe, there’s a lot of hot pink and leopard print. I want to add more orange and yellow into the mix. I think those sorts of colours really work for me.

  13. You will be surprised to hear that I used to wear a lot of black ,everything was black ,until as I told you I got asked numerous times wether I was sick?when I wasn’t and my mother actually told me I looked old I admit I had darker hair but that was when I started to incorporate couloirs in my wardrobe accessories first and shoes like you said Nikki and then came the clothes.I own a lot of colour now and feel funny if I am wearing black ,my favourite colours are orange and all the orange family and pink and blue and aqua ,I really don’t like green,and like a pop of yellow sometimes.Great post Nikki colour makes me happy!

  14. I’ve worn all black for years. Talk about funereal! However in the last couple of years I have embraced colour – truck-loads of it! Mostly orange and green (not sure why) – in fact I think I’m going overboard with it so need to tone it down! But it’s fun! My sister-in-law thinks it’s like – oh here’s the green outfit, or here’s the pink outfit and feels that you can wear the same black top several days in a week without people realising it’s the same top, which I do agree with in a way, so I’m wondering how to work around this.

    1. I really don’t think people have time to “clock” that we’ve worn a certain top or dress one week or month to the next? I think you actually get noticed because of the colour and how it makes you smile, more than being noticed as wearing something you’ve previously worn?

    2. I really don’t think people have time to “clock” that we’ve worn a certain top or dress one week or month to the next? I think you actually get noticed because of the colour and how it makes you smile, more than being noticed as wearing something you’ve previously worn?

      1. Yes, this should be the case most definitely. However in my case one does get “noticed” for what one wears and how one presents herself even tho’ I feel this can be rather intimidating 🙁 Sad eh?

  15. Ha! Today I am wearing a bright yellow Seed condom dress (the short version) under a vivid purple Metallicus shift. Not afraid of colour here!

  16. I have lots of white, navy and black but whenever I wear the right blues, purples and greens I get compliments. I think part of the secret to wearing colour is to also wear lipstick-by brightening my face it seems to prevent the washed out look. This might be worth a try for others?

      1. I’m a recent convert to the lippy and can’t believe how lazy you can be with the rest of your face with the right bright colour on your lips. My current favourite matte red orange is Nars Red Square.

  17. I love colour and since moving to the Gold Coast, I have found its a license to wear colour as much and bright as you like .- anything goes – No more black and grey for me. Favourite colours are blue,yellow,coral, emerald.

  18. Thank you for the shout out Nikki! I really appreciate it!

    We’ve all got a colour journey. My wardrobe was dominated by black in my corporate days but I always introduced a splash of colour – pink, green or red. It’s only been since I have been at home with small children that I have had more opportunity to experiment and that has opened a whole new world to me. My neutrals are white/cream, denim and navy mostly. Thanks for sharing your colour journey too. It’s nice to know our style is not “set in stone”. PS I love those red wedges! x

  19. I’m a blue girl Nikki. Love every shade of blue especially cornflower and cobolt. Whatever store I walk into I find myself gravitating towards it. I’m the same in the men’s department when buying for Jonny – thank goodness blue suits him too! xx

  20. My standard uniform used to be black pants and a top, usually black, grey, white or beige. Now I’m all over colour. I think the tone is so important. I look terrible in mustard but give me sunshine yellow and it just works!
    By the way I bought the Ollie and Max denim dress the other day and just live it. One of the most comfortable fabrics and super versatile. My mission is to find a pair of tan boots to wear with it this winter

  21. I always make a beeline for grey!. Grey is not a good colour for me at all, washes me out completely. I think I must have been a Zen monk in a previous life. Your comment about keeping favourite, non flattering colours away from the top half gives me hope! I can do greys in pants and skirts. Now why didn’t I think of that? Thanks Nikki.

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