How to Coordinate Colours in Outfit, Designer’s Method

How often while putting together the outfit do you limit your use of colour to just a few or rely on neutral hues only?

We all know that choosing colour palette for an outfit could be a time consuming process. A lot of heroic attempts to conquer the colour reel end up going back to a simple traditional combination or, at worst, looking like an over-decorated Christmas tree.

I suppose, perfect sense of colour is possessed by relatively small amount of people, rest of us (myself included) have to content with our own sense of beauty, intuition and, at best, with some knowledge of the colour theory.

There is no doubt that understanding either consciously or unconsciously the basics of the colour theory is essential for creating a balanced set.

To successfully use different hues in an outfit your own personal preferences will need to be in an agreement with certain rules. However, all these rules for creating colour schemes, hierarchy of colours, colour discords, value keys, etc. require a significant investment of time.

Working with my clients I often feel a need to explain principles of colour mixing in brief, so they will be able to use it in real life. Theory itself is a bit dry and I found a good approach that is much easier and more fun.

Extra bonus, it’s handy for other colouristic tasks like composing flower bouquets, choosing napkins for dining room or creating a landscape design for the backyard. It is very versatile and can be a great tool for finding unusual yet pleasant colour combinations.

It is easy, intuitive and always works. Well, you‘ve got an idea, let’s get to it now.

What is it all about?

Did you know that designers quite often set up their colour palette from a single picture?

We can do the same. That’s where landscape photography could be a great source of inspiration. Think of the picture as a set of colours that are combined into a single composition.

Intrinsically, people tend to perceive all nature combinations as harmonious. The nature knows exactly which hues and in what proportions to use to create a masterpiece. To illustrate that, let’s take a classic sample of 2 complement colours such green and red. They are rarely used next to each other as put together they produce maximum vibrancy. However, when we see a strawberry garden patch or big flowerbed covered with red poppies it is always pleasant to the eye, isn’t it? The secret lies in proportions! Let’s get to the practical examples of how that can be used.

How it works?

Say, we have a sky blue dress and would like to find a perfect pair to it.

Now, let see if we can find something that will give us an idea of what colours could work here. While browsing my personal collection I came across a beautiful photograph of the autumn sky. It is much the same colour with the dress and is opposed by strikingly bright red leaves. Blue and red combination does not look too bright here, on the contrary, it looks well balanced.

Blue sky with red leaf
Autumn sky

With this in mind we can start to assemble the outfit looking for reds and different shades of greys. Let’s start from very light and pale (Battleship Grey like clouds) and continue to deep grey, a tree’s branch-like colour. There is no need to use all colours in one set, just choose a few.

Another example is inspired by marcescent fern foliage.

Marcescent fern leaves

Combination of green and pink is quite vernal and dynamic and might be too much for an office dress code. Paying attention to proportion, intensity and hues of mixing colours, however, we can get quiet and restrained look with subtle allusions of wearer’s energetic personality and good taste.

The third set is monochrome one.

It is generally assumed that putting together similar hues is the safest way to create a nice looking attire, when in fact, even a small detail, such a wrong colour temperature of one piece, can offset the whole balance.

Thus, to set a mind in the right direction we will use a picture with subtle colour differences for inspiration, as the one of a summer meadow below.

Summer Meadow

You can see it incorporates not only different shades of green and brownish-grey, but also tiny amounts of purple and yellow which are perfect as accent colours.

This is another great benefit of analysing photos, it gives proven examples on how to use more than 3 colours, an area which usually requires experience and good knowledge of colour theory to get it all right.

As you can see, you don’t need to go far for inspiration and for the tools to create a well-balanced colour palette. It’s all within a hand’s reach, be it a bouquet of wild flowers or a Google search.

There are some great web-sites that can generate colour palette from images on-line. You can also search through existing palettes for inspiration and hints. My favorite one is COLOURlovers with it’s vast range of palettes and patterns.



Right Pants Length: Flared, Bell-bottom, Wide Leg Pants

For the sake of convenience I’ll write about flared, bell-bottom, wide leg and any long pant with hemline wide enough to cover the shoe as Flared. Since they all obey the same length rules.

The flared trousers and jeans are very popular among women of different ages and body types. However, according to my personal observations almost 65% of women wear flared pants which are too short, and 15% wear the ones that are too long. If there was a fine for wearing incorrect length pants the Government would’ve solved quite a few budget problems in no time!

It worth mentioning that flared pants are very capricious and demanding. They can either make a whole look more slender or transform it totally opposite way.
The secret to get the first and avoid the second is to hem the pants correctly. The flared pants of the correct lengths will complement almost every body type.

Wide hem demands long length. They are just designed that way – with lots of fabric not only broadways but lengthwise as well.

The hem should almost touch the floor. It’s ok if they skim the ground. But for practical reason they can be just 0.3-0.5 cm off so they actually don’t touch the ground. Red carpet wearers can certainly make it into exact lengths with the help of their designers.

Wide leg pants floor length
Right length for wide leg pants

Ideally they should hide the shoe entirely. This does not mean that your stylish shoes will be out of sight. They will poke out when you’re walking or sitting down creating an intrigue for those trying to figure out what shoes you are actually wearing.

If for whatever you don’t feel comfortable with this arrangement, you might as well consider some other styles to wear. “Wear it right, or don’t wear it at all” saying has its place for this type of clothing.

Flared pants with flats

Full length flared pants looks great with high to medium heels. Yet, hemmed for flats or low heels they get creased breaks in the front. This could be fine with denim and rough fabrics, but on most dress and suit types it does look a bit awkward.

Thus, you may want to hem them at slant: longer at the back and sides and shorter at the instep. Such edge will produce a clean break in the front without compromising the length. At the same time this is more laborious job that takes time and that not every tailor would agree to do. It might also cost more than regular hemming as well, but the benefits you’ll get out of correctly hemmed flared pants are definitely worth it.

Illustration of pants with straight and slanted hems
Straight vs slanted hem

A point to be mentioned as well is that skinnies are not very captious of heels. The flared pants, on other hand, certainly are. And as long line created by flared pants is immeasurably complementing to almost every body type it is worth to scrutinize every cm of pants length and heel highs to get most of them. That’s true even if this involves extra spending on tailoring or getting a second pair to be hemmed at different length.




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Right Pants Length: Skinnies

Right Pants Length: Skinnies

The topic of right pants length came up while I was choosing pants for Christmas party outfit for my friend. She suggested to make a handy tutorial about this. Being a pants person for some part of my life I definitely accumulated a bit of knowledge on the topic. It did, however, seemed too obvious to write about. Can’t we all tell how pants should fit?

I parked idea on a side while one Friday night in the City I started to pay attention for girls in pants. Huge crowd of women swept past me wearing jeans, flared, cropped pants, skinnies of various colours and styles. Surprisingly, however, I could count those fitting well with the fingers of one hand. And that’s only taking into account the length, not even the style or fit. I was dazed. The need of a good article explaining the concept was obvious.

What is the Right Length for Skinnies?

I could count 3 ways women wear skinny jeans: tucked, scrunched around the ankle and cuffed. And, actually, there is one more. I do remember seeing a desperate attempt to make skinny jeans reach the middle of 11 cm heels. That was giving an impression of having hoofs. Quite unusual sight.

The version when pants stop at ankle is so rare that I didn’t even count it as “way to wear”. Meanwhile, it is the only right way to wear non-cropped skinny pants. They should hit at the ankle. No trade-offs.

Skinny pants ankle length
The right length for skinny pants

And yes, after some hunting, I’ve spotted one with correct length. They could be about 1 cm longer for heels then those worn with flats, but no more than that.

Skinny jeans, skinny pants, skinnies, woman, right length, correct pants length Skinny jeans, skinny pants, skinnies, woman, right length, correct pants length

Most tapered pants are also obeying “ankle length” rule.

Skinny jeans, tapered pants, harem pants, woman, right length, correct pants length, tapered pants, skinny pants, pleat pants, woman, right length, correct pants length

But what about scrunching?

Well, it depends. I’ve seen very nice look with skinnies slightly scrunched at ankle. The main word is slightly. The other important detail is wearer’s figure, build. It was a quite a lean young girl with narrow hips and long legs. In other cases scrunching tends to break up a silhouette line and makes figure appear stumpy.

photo of wrong way to scrunch skinnies Skinny jeans, skinny pants, skinnies, woman, right length, correct pants length, scrunched skinny

Scrunched skinnies? No, thanks.

Long skinnies have great potential for shortening. Excess of length can be easily fixed, but its lack is a tricky thing to deal with.

Cuffed skinnies

It is one of the major sartorial crimes to cuff skinny jeans and pants to an ankle length. Shortened in that manner pants cry out loud they are not fitted properly (or trend is too original for me to appreciate).

The only way to cuff skinnies is to roll them above the ankle to resemble cropped pants. Of course, made in such way cuffs should not bulge out with all its multilayered fabric glory.

Skinny jeans, skinny pants, skinnies, woman, right length, correct pants length, cuffed pants Skinny jeans, skinny pants, skinnies, woman, right length, correct pants length, cuffed pants
The right length for cuffed skinnies

Colour is another characteristic to think about. I’ve noticed that cuffs look best on light coloured pants where the difference between right and wrong sides of the fabric is not well defined so contrasting cuff does not break off the leg line.

fashion illustration of dark and light denim cuffed skinnies

Practical considerations

Now, before taking a pair of skinnies to the tailor let me mention couple of handy points.

Shrinkage. Any pants (especially denim and linen) should always be washed a few times before tailoring as they may shrink lengthwise. And then, few times more. And even then, many will still shrink up over the time. So it might pay to wait while fabric is settled.

Tapering. Initially skinnies are made to be tight enough at the ankle. However, shortening can make them wider around the edge. So the hem of the pants which is designed to be the narrowest and sexiest part of the jeans may start to jiggle around. Even an extra 2 cm of excess fabric may be enough to throw the whole look out of balance. So check it twice and ask your tailor if something could be done to slim the ankle if necessary.

To be continued.

Some pants shown in this article are available from The Iconic store at the time of publishing.




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Right Pants Length: Flared, Bell-bottom, Wide Leg Pants.

Maternity Style Tips. Look Stylish when They Say You Can’t

It happens that three of my friends are about to give birth, subject which is a very exciting on its own. But for me as an enthusiast style consultant it is also a chance to challenge my knowledge and sense of style. It is good to have a challenge anytime, and especially in such rapidly changing environment as a wardrobe of a pregnant woman.

Today I’m going to share one trick that can help to save not only “second-and-third-trimester” outfit, but also one that looks heavy and stout. I’ll put a bit of theory to explain the works.

Every day while processing new information we are constantly matching it to things we already know and seen, engaging our brain to look for reference points. We might pick only the meaning we can reference to and skip any further thoughts of it. It might be not the ultimate meaning, just one we came across, the one that looks right (all optical illusions are based on such perception anomalies, by the way).

Now, going from theory to practice and from abstract visions to women figures and clothing, it is primarily a shape (silhouette) that our brain is looking for. Therefore, if we think the figure lacks something from a quick glance over it, the task of make-believing bears heavily on clothes.

As I do not consider corsets and other instruments of torture as a solution what then should it be? Well, almost everything that creates strict, distinct lines which could be a reference point of shape for the brain.

For example, one of my friends uses a cropped stiff corduroy jacket with usual “maternity” dresses. The dress made out of a floral jersey gently wraps the body, but the fabric itself is not heavy enough to define a silhouette. All this dress needed was a well-defined form and jacket provided it along with outlining right proportions.

The other friend of mine uses slinky skirts paired with wide, hip-length blouses and snug fitting shoes. Skirt and shoes act as “shapers” helping to emphasize the best features as well as serving the purpose and giving a reference point of the shape. That, at the end, is creating a balanced and attractive look.

vector fashion illustration of two pregnant woman one of them wearing dress and denim jacket, and other sheer loose blouse and tight skirt

Heavy fabrics that make gorgeous folds work the same: they do provide clean lines and create clear silhouette. Actually, it could even be accessories (belt, bangles, geometrical bag, a scarf tightly tied up) that help to change “stout and heavy” into “elegant and balanced”.

Try to look around yourself when you are in a big shopping centre and watch for pregnant looks. I’m certain you’ll see some “shapers” and give them a credit for style.



Colour of The Year 2013

Pantone has revealed the colour of the year 2013. And the winner is Emerald, a graceful green-blue hue.

Pantone swatch of Emerald colour
Picture courtesy of Pantone

Well, this choice was quite unexpectedly anticipated as different shades of green were showing up across every fashion retailer since October. And more blueish green shall be awaited considering the jewel-toned colours took off on fashion runways for Spring-Summer 2013. Can bet a dollar, winter collections will be no exception.
Appropriate for every occasion as stated in the official report and, indeed, Emerald is not such overpowering hue as its predecessor Tangerine Tango is. It is versatile and will flatter considerably more people than orange. And that’s the best thing I like about Emerald: it looks as good on a background as it does being an accent colour.

So what to pair the Emerald with?

I suggest to wander away from traditional combinations of green, orange or red. Yes, they do work well together, but why not to try something just tiny bit different?
The rich redish-brown hues are perfect substitute for red shades. They are close enough to the classic, yet distinctive to be considered a specialty. For example, Burgundy, Firebrick, Oxblood Red or Rosy Brown are still vigorous and energetic, but more noble than plain Red or Pink.
Colour swatches of Emerald with Burgundy, Firebrick, Oxblood Red, Rosy Brown

For subtle and airy look the analogous colour scheme will be a good choice (read using shades of green or blue with Emerald). I especially like how colour of 2013 looks next to Blue Gray (first swatch below). But try not to overdo it with greens unless it is St. Patrick’s Day.
Colour swatches of Emerald with different shades of blue and green

If I had to choose just two pairs, my personal favourites will be emerald with grey and nude. Imagine a jewel-green knee-length dress teamed with nude patent leather heels and half an inch thick belt. Elegant and crisp! *Shall I consider this to be my Christmas party outfit?
Colour swatches of Emerald with nude and grey
And don’t forget, we can always use textures to add some extra creativity into the emerald sets (e.g. leather and lace, or jersey and silk). With this trick even classic green + red will get another chance to shine.
One more thing to remember: green makes red hues appear brighter (as it is a complementary colour for red). In practice this means that people with a redish skin undertone might need to opt for green accessories rather than a full green gown (e.g. wearing green bracelets or an emerald scarf around the handbag, point is not to wear green shades close to the face).




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How to Coordinate Colours in Outfit, Designer’s Method