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.

Simple Shoe Classification, Part 2: Toe Styles, Brogues

About a month ago I’ve posted a Simple shoe classification – a comprehensive guide for identifying men’s classic shoes.

Today I’m about to extend it a little. And firstly I am going to talk on a topic of a toe style.

Toe style

There are 5 basic toe styles each of them imply different degree of formality. Have a look at the table below that shows what each one is about.
table showing main styles of shoes' toes:plain toe, cap toe, wingtip toe, moc toe, apron toe, bicycle toe

Most classic and versatile are captoe and plain toe shoes, they are suitable for any attire and could be found on vast varieties of styles.
A grade down are Moc (Apron) and Bicycle toes. They are mostly used in semi-dress foot wear, on those occasions where shoe discipline is not so crucial (think relaxed Friday lunches).

And at the last comes Wingtip toe (my favourite one at the moment) which is most often worn with a casual style. Wingtip shoes usually have brogueing (perforations) as decoration.


All perforated shoes are brogues either they are oxfords or derbies. By the amount of perforation and toe style brogue shoes themselves divide into 4 categories.

table showing main styles of brogue shoes: full brogues, half brogues, semi-brogues, quarter brogues, longwing brogues

If oxford full brogues or semi-brogues have wingtips and cap toe (and sometimes the lace panels) in contrasting tones we can tell they are Spectator shoes.Fashion illustration showa difference between saddle shoes and spectator shoes

Not to be confused with another 2-tone low-heeled casual shoe – Saddle shoes!

These are usually plain-toe oxfords made in white or tan leather with a darker saddle-shaped piece sewn across the mid foot. The “Saddle” part is traditionally black, brown or red, although who could really stop shoemakers doing something new?

Well, I have expanded original Simple shoe classification a little bit to cover almost all types of men shoes by now. Hope you find it useful.

And remember, they say you can tell personality of 90 percent of all the people just by looking at their shoes. So, it could be even a psychological tool for those who master it.

On the pictures below there are some models from selected e-stores just to illustrate the idea and give you a hint what to look for.

Brogues, Full Brogues, Semi Brogues
Leonardo Principi Dark Brown Full BroguesFratelli Rossetti dark Brown Semi Brogues

Quarter Brogues, Long Wing Brogues shoes
N.D.C. Made By Hand Camel Quarter BroruesMFW Collection Black Longwing Brogues

Black and white Spectator shoes
Dsquared2 Spectator Shoes

You may also like to read about:
Simple Shoe Classification. Part 1: Shoe Styles

Simple Shoe Classification. Part 1: Shoe Styles

Recently I’ve found a pair of wonderful shoes neglected for a couple of years after unsuccessful attempts to build a look around them.

I forgot about them because they are not quite my style – a kind of a variation of men’s classic shoes for women. Nevertheless I decided to give them another chance. Being convinced that footwear is the staple of one’s look I made meticulous research to classify men’s shoes and figure out what to wear with a particular style.

I’ve found out that men’s shoes come in four styles – oxford, derby, monks, loafers
(well, not exactly… The fourth category is slip-on’s, but for the sake of convenience and clarity let’s agree about loafers to be the part of this classification:).

Each of them calls for a particular dress style.
Table demonstrating difference between shoe styles:oxford shoes, Balmoral, derby, blucher, monk, loafers

Now, the most formal shoes are oxford. These black patent leather shoes paired with tailcoat equals white tie affairs. For the black tie dress code it is appropriate to put on black leather oxfords with tuxedo. At the less official events derbies and monks are the best choice, whereas loafers are mostly considered as casual footwear.

Back to my shoes, they turned out to be derby:) But that’s not the end of the story and shoe classification.

Plain Toe Oxford Shoes
Rochas Plain Toe Oxford ShoesCostume National Homme Plain Toe Oxford Shoes

Cap Toe Oxford Lace Shoes
Doucal's Dark Brown Cap Toe Oxford ShoesDoucal's Black Cap Toe Oxford Shoes
Derby shoes
Dsquared2 Cocoa Derby ShoesDoucal's Dark Brown Derby Shoes
Monk Shoes, Buckle Shoes
Fratelli Rossetti Dark brown Suede Monk ShoesGivenchy Light grey Suede Monk Shoes
Loafers, Moccasins
Malo Cocoa LoafersMaison Martin Margiela 22 LoafersFratelli Rossetti Loafers

You may also like to read about:
Simple Shoe Classification, Part 2: Toe styles, Brogues