How to color your clothes

For decades, ROSIE GREEN has remained in the safe space of her wardrobe, opting for a navy palette. But this year’s trend for bold colors prompted her to confront her fear of fashion…can she learn to color block?

PHOTOGRAPHY: DAVID VENNI STYLING: STEPHANIE SOFOKLEOUS

I’m a card-carrying color phobic.

I wear navy, white and black. Maybe floral prints in faded pastels if I’m feeling really wild. And that’s pretty much the range of shades in my wardrobe…the one I’ve been pretty happy with for 25 years, thank you. Because, the truth is, no one can make fun of you in beige. (They might pity you or ignore you, but you’ll be safe from ridicule.)

Recently, however, I have felt prompted to come out of my neutral shell; want a little light in my life. I actually found myself drawn to the color blocking trend.

It’s – for those who don’t know – wearing not one bright shade, but two, or even three. Bold single-color pieces in clean, simple shapes that you combine with each other for visual impact. They can clash or not, as you wish.

I love the look when I see it on others. And I love how colors like sunny yellows, ocean blues, and sunset oranges bring me joy. And it’s not just me. Science Fact: Looking at bright colors has been proven to stimulate the release of dopamine, the feel-good hormone. And, God knows, we could all do with that right now.

However, while my pared-down palette now feels like it’s missing out on me…I’m afraid to wear color. Which is crazy. After all, I’ve worked in magazines and in fashion for my entire career. I should be confident in my styling abilities now. I’ve dressed some of the most famous women in the world, for God’s sake!

But it was being immersed in the fashion world that scared me in the first place.

Let’s go back to 1996.

Diana and Charles are getting divorced, the Spice Girls rule the airwaves, and I’m an intern at vogue. The week before I started there, I bought myself a candy pink suit from a department store in Birmingham. I thought it looked like the Chanel tweed two-piece I’d seen the models sport on the pages of the magazine. But when I walked through the doors, I found the vogue staff in a gray V-neck uniform and slim black Prada pants. They were at the forefront of the new era of Kate Moss-inspired cool. Clean, discreet. Nervous. A touch of nonchalance, a touch of rock ‘n’ roll.

They looked at me in abject horror. Pink, or any bright color for that matter, seemed clumsy, embarrassing, difficult and unsophisticated.

I still haven’t recovered from the mortification.

But that was over two decades ago, and it’s time to face this thing. To get away from the dark side.

So I recruited YOU stylist Stephanie Sofokleous to help me. Knowledgeable and empathetic, she combines fashion sense with a practical understanding of women’s insecurities and needs.

‘I understand. People worry about inadvertently breaking color rules,” she says.

Oh, the rules. Red and green should never be seen. Same black and blue.

She doesn’t let go of me though. “All old-fashioned,” she says, shaking canary-yellow wide-leg pants.

In fact, the room is full of rainbow-colored clothes.

If this is therapy, then we’re about to do some extreme exposure training.

Some pieces do indeed make my heart throb with fear (a yellow double-breasted jacket particularly dismays me); others, I admit, also arouse a bit of enthusiasm (Jimmy Choos cherry).

We set out to try them all. The costumes remind me of “shopping chain host” and I feel safer with shoes and bags. So I ask Steph if we can limit ourselves to accessories but she doesn’t have any. Apparently, we “go hard or go home”.

Once she persuaded me to wear the clothes, I’m interested to find that the shades I’ve ruled out for decades – thinking they clash with my skin tone – don’t make me look washed out. as I had thought. Which is a good lesson to recognize that your complexion changes over time and you may need to re-evaluate what the Color Me Beautiful lady told you in the 90s.

After the fitting session, I’m excited, but still a little intimidated. And overwhelmed by the choice.

Stephanie brings me back from the brink with the good news: there are different versions of the trend, some requiring more courage and style than others.

So here it is, your guide to embracing color.

KEEP IT SIMPLE

STYLING LEVEL: EASY

pink green
Dress, £700, edelinelee.com. Shoes, £95, dunelondon.com

Embracing color blocking doesn’t get any easier than this – a piece where the designer has done all the shade matching for you. Beautifully cut, this dress by Edeline Lee combines hues of aqua, forest green and ocean blue to stunning effect and is super easy to wear – just slip it on and, bang, feel sophisticated and edgy. It’s a piece I’m going to save because nothing makes me feel exposed and it’s colorful enough to give me that dopamine hit.

RESET TONES

STYLE LEVEL: MEDIUM

Sweater, £240, paperlondon.com. Trousers, £550, sassiholford.com. Shoes, £169, pretty ballerinas.co.uk

This is a more tonal version of the look: think of different pieces that all belong to the same color family. Here, I’m wearing shades of rich plum and hot pink, which together make my heart soar. You can also go tone on tone by choosing a strong color and adding more pastel versions, as shown here with my cobalt blue dress and softer blue accessories.

Dress, £150, samsoe.com. Necklace, £95, monicavinader. com. Bag, £420, noirgaze.com. Sandals, £40, schuh.co.uk

I found this second look so easy to wear because it’s shiny but not “out of the ordinary”. The only rule when doing tones is that the shades can’t be too similar because you’ll end up looking like you tried to match them but made a mistake.

SLIDE INTO NEUTRAL

STYLE LEVEL: MEDIUM

Blazer, £700, brogger.co. Dress, £378, reiss.com. Sandals, £30, schuh.co.uk

Here we take a neutral shade like navy or khaki and, by associating it with a very bright color, we give the neutral punch. The result is both bold and striking. Take the khaki dress I’m wearing ‒ it’s a neutral tone, but styling it with the yellow jacket makes both shades look strong and create a color-block effect. This outlet is ideal for people who need the security of a safe neutral.

Top, £405, edelinelee.com. Trousers, £59, costores.com. Sandals, £395, dearfrances.com

Another example of this look is my orange top and navy pants combo. Dark jeans and a bright neon t-shirt would also work.

OPT FOR PRIMARY COLORS

STYLE LEVEL: HARD

sweater, £245 and skirt, £131, Alice + Olivia, theoutnet.com. Shoes, £30, Raid, asos.com

This bold look takes the most sass, but pulling it off is simply a matter of confidence and joy in your favorite colors. Choose from red, yellow and blue pieces and match them to each other. You can also use non-primary colors, but they should be opposite on the color wheel and strong, garish hues – think shameless rainbow shades like green, orange or indigo. If possible, also try mixing textures – as seen here with my knit top and satin skirt.

THE RESULT

The shoot is over and I feel 100% more confident about the color. However, to make sure I don’t look like a children’s entertainer, I ask Stephanie for some final advice.

“Stick to no more than three colors, keep the cut and shape of the pieces clean and simple, and avoid anything too feminine like puffs, ruffles or Peter Pan collars,” she tells me.

Noted. I’ll still never buy a pink suit (there are fashion traumas you never recover from) but I’m saving up for the Edeline Lee dress. And I re-evaluated what colors work for me (looking at myself in the mirror, not ideas from years ago). I also realized that experimentation is the key to feeling good about your clothes. Just like being a little brave.

By embracing the sparkles again, I rediscovered the risk-taking, fashion-loving girl I was before that fateful day in vogue. Let the sun in…

FASHION ASSISTANT: JESSICA CARROLL. PHOTO DIRECTOR: ESTER MALLOY. MAKEUP: AIMEE ADAMS USING SCULPTED BY AIMEE. HAIR: ALEX SZABO AT CAROL HAYES MANAGEMENT WITH MARIA NILA. JEWELRY THROUGHOUT, IF UNCREDITED, ROSIE’S OWN


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