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The fashionista is in: Mixing the taboo

We’re doing it wrong.
Left: The black and brown make sense together when paired with leopard print flats. Right: Navy and black are no longer taboo when the proportions are correct.
Image by Bridget Bennett
Left: The black and brown make sense together when paired with leopard print flats. Right: Navy and black are no longer taboo when the proportions are correct.

At some point in fashion’s history, rules developed that dictate what we can and cannot wear. Don’t wear white after Labor Day! Horizontal stripes make you look fat! Shoes and belts must match! Let’s face it: Rules — especially fashion rules — are meant to be broken.

There is no reason white shouldn’t be worn after Labor Day — a basic white T-shirt is timeless. Horizontal stripes aren’t the problem; wide stripes are. And the only time your belt needs to match your shoes is if you are interviewing at a company where creativity is the enemy. Otherwise, feel free to break the rules.

One of my favorite breakable rules is mixing taboo colors. Since preschool, we’ve been taught that pink and red shouldn’t be paired together and that gold and silver clash. But that’s no longer the case. I give you full permission to mix whichever colors you want, so long as you follow my advice.


The basics

It’s easiest to wear forbidden color combinations when they’re already together on an item. (Side note: Just because maroon and gold are mixed on your Minnesota sweatshirt does not mean it looks good.)

Search for pieces, such as a striped or plaid shirt, that incorporate the two colors effortlessly. In most cases, it’s safe to assume that the designer knows what he’s doing when it comes to mixing colors, even if you don’t.

The second-easiest way to integrate two clashing colors into your outfit is to pick a dominant color and an accent color. Use one as your base, and throw in small doses of the other.

For example, you can wear black and navy by pairing a dark blue sweater with black pants, black boots and a leather jacket. Because the colors aren’t competing for attention, it works.


Red and pink

Until fairly recently, red and pink were never mixed except on Valentine’s Day. Because they’re such similar shades, it only seems natural that they be paired together. In fact, color blocking — wearing several solid colors in one outfit — with red and pink is very trendy right now.

There are two secrets to wearing red and pink simultaneously. The first is to keep the proportions comparable. If you wear a red outfit with a touch of pink — such as a red dress with a pink cardigan — it’s going to look weird. Try wearing a pink top with a red skirt. The two items will balance each other out so you look chic and not crazy.

The second tip is to make sure the colors are of the same brightness. You can’t mix pastel and neon, at least not with pink and red. Bright versions of these two colors are going to look best together. I suggest wearing hot pink with a vivid red for the perfect color-blocking combination. Also, when wearing pink and red, it’s best not to throw in any more colors; otherwise, your look will be overwhelming.


Navy and black

Navy and black is quite possibly my favorite color combination. The most important thing to keep in mind when mixing the two is that the navy shouldn’t be super dark.

If the navy is too dark, it won’t look good with the black, because people will be too distracted trying to figure out what color you’re wearing. Be sure you can tell the difference between your black and navy pieces before you leave the house.

That being said, I would advise making black the dominant color in your outfit. Try wearing all black — such as black jeggings, tall black boots and a black T-shirt — with a navy blue peacoat or even a navy leather jacket.

Because these are relatively neutral colors, you can mix in other colors without your having your look fall apart. Gray and red will integrate seamlessly into this color combo. Throw on a red scarf or add a gray beanie to break up your (almost) monochrome look.


Brown and black

Brown and black are easily two of the most difficult colors to wear together. Many people try, and most fail.

Brown and black can work, but like the black and navy combination, you need to make sure the brown isn’t too dark. Your chocolate brown boots don’t work with your black leggings, but an orangey-brown pair will. Dark tan is another acceptable solution.

One of the best ways to unite brown and black is to wear leopard print. Just keep it minimal — we don’t need anyone looking like they belong on “Jersey Shore” — with a leopard print cardigan over a black sheath or a pair of leopard ballet flats with black pants and a brown sweater.

Brown and black can easily be worn with red, nude and pink. Feel free to throw on a red belt or a pink statement necklace to make your neutral ensemble more fun.


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