I love wearing neutral colors year-round. No matter the occasion or season, they’re always appropriate! In today’s post, I wanted to share a full guide to styling and wearing neutrals.
How to wear neutral colors
The beauty of wearing neutrals is that they all pair together. Because they don’t compete with each other, you’ll have no problem pairing any of the two or three pieces together. That’s why it’s so important to build your wardrobe staples with neutral pieces, that way you can make the most of your closet.
What are neutral colors?
True neutral color is any color that you don’t see on a typical color wheel, meaning it actually lacks color pigment. I like to think of a neutral color as something that doesn’t compete with any other color. Meaning it can blend in and pair with almost anything. That’s what makes them such great wardrobe staples because you can mix and match neutral pieces together and not worry about anything clashing.
Neutral colors include shades of black, white, ivory, cream, and gray.
Some colors have neutral-like characteristics, such as earth tones like sage and olive greens, burnt orange, sand, and shades of blue including navy and denim. For my wardrobe color palette, I also consider pale blush a neutral color because of my light skin tone. Click here to read tips on how to pick your color palette. These variations aren’t technically neutrals but could be worn like a neutral because they’re calming and relaxing to the eye.
7 Key Wardrobe Staples to Buy in Neutrals
- White jeans or black jeans
- Tan coat
- Black trousers
- Cream/beige sweater
- Knee-length little black dress
- Black and tan boots (either black/brown leather or suede)
- White basic tee
What color shoes work best with neutral outfits?
The easiest shoe to pair with any of your outfits is either black or nude shoes. This limits the shade variation if you’re worried about clashing with your outfit. You can pretty much guarantee that having the right nude or black shoe will work with any outfit in your wardrobe. That’s why they are both wardrobe staples!
When looking for a nude heel, you want to get one that matches your skin tone as close as possible. This can change based on the season if your skin tans easily, so consider having two options in your wardrobe.
When it comes to pairing brown shoes with your outfit, I don’t stress over having the exact same shade, but I do try to keep it in the same color family. I usually pair warm browns together (those that lean more camel and orangy), and cool-toned browns together (those that lean more taupe or gray).
Of course, don’t be afraid to add a pop of color, too. If your outfit is head-to-toe neutral and you’re craving color, add a fun-colored heel or handbag to brighten up the look. If your accessories don’t match perfectly, I usually pick one or the other. Here, I added a pop of pink with my Hunter rain boots.
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Keep your undergarments neutral
One mistake you want to avoid is wearing white undergarments under white clothes. White basics will brighten the white, making them more visible. Wear nude, preferably seamless undergarments under white or light neutral pieces.
I recommend investing in nude, seamless thongs so you never have to worry about visible panty lines. My favorite no-show bra is an adhesive bra. I never have to worry about straps showing and they’re the most comfortable option I’ve tried. Click here to read Bra 101.
With darker neutrals, you can wear pretty much any undergarment, just be sure to check for visible panty lines in bright light before leaving the house. If you’re wearing a darker dress, double-check for sheerness in between your legs. If you notice this, pair a nude slip underneath.
Neutral Color Outfit Ideas
Here are examples of me wearing neutral outfits throughout the seasons.
wear a monochromatic neutral outfit
I think one of the best ways to pair neutrals is to wear a head-to-toe monochromatic look. People often do this with black, but don’t be afraid to wear white or beige, too! The shades you choose don’t have to be identical to one another. In fact, I think it’s more interesting when pairing different shades together instead of making it seem like you purchased a matching set.
Use neutrals as a backdrop to a fun pop of color
Add patterns or textures to keep it from looking boring
Look for materials such as lace, eyelet, wool, or silk to pair with basics such as cotton and linen. You can also add in a print, such as stripes, floral, and leopard to add interest. Great wardrobe staples to look for with interesting textures include a brown leather skirt, an earth-tone scarf, and a white lace or eyelet top.
Here I paired a neutral sweater dress and a white dress with snake print booties. I know animal prints can be scary for some to style, but that’s what is great about wearing neutral colors – you can pair them with anything and it will work!
Outfit first seen here
Here is an example of how I use blush as a neutral. I added interest to the outfit by pairing a suede textured skirt with an ivory cami a neutral dolman sleeve cardigan and tan booties. I think this is a great example that shows how neutrals can pair with anything. I love using blush as a neutral because my skin tone has more of a pinky undertone, so sometimes it can look like more of a nude on me. Especially during winter when I don’t have a tan.
This is a great example of mixing both textures and prints for a head-to-toe neutral outfit creating interest. My OTK boots are suede, paired with faux leather leggings and an oversized oatmeal sweater. I added a leopard beret to add a little print to tie in both the black pants and tan sweater together. It’s also an example for my next tip.
pair black and brown:
I remember in middle school I thought it was the biggest fashion mistake to wear black and brown together. Now, it’s my favorite way to style black.
Black leather leggings:
Adding in a texture like leather will instantly elevate your outfit and add interest to your look. Click here for more ways to style faux leather leggings.
When you’re rushing out the door for work and don’t have a ton of time to pull together your work outfit, always grab for neutrals because you know they’ll work well together.
These are similar black work pants styled above and below. They have a comfortable waistband and are very versatile. I’m wearing a small, and I love the drapey but flattering fit.
White jeans will pair with any top:
The beauty of a true neutral, like white jeans, is that it will pair with everything! Wear a contrasting black top, and a fun pop of color, or pair it with another white shirt for a chic monochromatic look.
See more of the neutral work outfit here
On that same note, white work pants also work well for an office setting. Just make sure they’re not sheer and have a great nude seamless thong to wear underneath just to be safe! Here, I added an animal print with a blush turtleneck for an easy office look. This outfit also shows how great of a contrast black and white adds to the look.
Here I paired white jeans with a fun colorful striped top, and kept everything else neutral. You can see the shoes and bag have a brown that doesn’t match perfectly, but they’re both warm-toned so they pair well together.
See the full look here
Here is one of my favorite combinations, blush and white. These white shorts pair easily in my wardrobe since they’re a neutral base.
Pair neutrals with shades of blue
Some would argue that shades of blue are considered neutrals because blue jeans are considered basic wardrobe staples. Here, I paired a white blazer with distressed blue jeans. If you want more of a neutral blue jean, opt for a dark-colored wash.
See the full outfit post here
See the full outfit post here
For this early spring outfit, I kept the entire look neutral to let the blue top make the statement. White jeans are my favorite year-round, so don’t be afraid to wear them after Labor Day. That fashion rule is so outdated!
Add in earth tones
Earthy tones like a hunter or sage green, rust, or camel aren’t technically neutrals but are a close second because they can also pair really well with each other. Here is an outfit from last fall I styled that shows how well earth tones pair with neutral colors. I added a leopard scarf for additional interest.
See more of the look here
Shop Neutral Wardrobe Staples
I hope you enjoyed this guide to wearing neutrals! If you’re looking for my recommendations on neutral wardrobe essentials, I have a post here that breaks down here!