Colored Neutrals

& Neutral Colors (Oh, my!)

Happy day, reader dear!

How’s your new season sorting out? I’m enjoying our cooler mornings and warm sunny afternoons. Now if we could just get those afternoon temps to stay in the 70’s (Let’s say 22-25C.), then I’d break out the boots and really call it Fall!

I LOVE color! I’m pretty sure you’ve already figured that out about me. All neutral wardrobes bore me. Yes, they are easy. And YES, there are days I want an all neutral outfit. But everyday? Really? For the love of all that is colorful, why? Nature is alive with color! If you need a reason to wear color, read this! I give you five. (Yes, the first reason might be why I call color the fountain of youth…)

I have people tell me: I wear color. Then they show me denim. Or brown. Or olive green.

And I cry. (Not really, but my heart does. Inside.)

So… Although I’m not sure I’m ready to muddy the waters, because people like categories and lists and binary decisions, it’s time to bring up another category of colors. Because I know you, my dear reader, have both the brain and subtlety to appreciate and understand colored neutrals!

Colored Neutrals?

As the name suggests, these are (technically) colors. From the color wheel. But because they’ve been taken from their pure hue toward a darker and more greyed or toasted shade, they behave as neutrals. Each week this month, I’ll be talking about one of these colored neutrals and the ways they are SO fabulous!

What? You’re making my head hurt!

I thought I finally understood that there were Colors and Neutrals!

There are! But because life isn’t binarily neat and tidy, there are also colored neutrals and something I think of as a neutral color. As a reminder: Colors are the hues we find on the color wheel AND their tints and shades. (You create a tint by adding white to a color, and a shade by adding black.) If it’s easier, think about rainbow colors: Violet, Blue, Green, Yellow, Orange and Red, and the tints and shades of these. If this sounds confusing, you might want to start here.

Neutrals, on the other hand are those colors not found in the rainbow. Black and white and all the shades of grey between are Achromatic, meaning lacking color. Other popular neutrals are navy, taupe, tan/khaki/beige, camel and brown. And denim blue. More on that below… One easy way to imagine neutrals is to envision the colors you find when you walk into a traditional menswear store and look at the suiting. Read more about neutrals and why they are so popular in this post, here.

Before tackling those colored neutrals, let’s talk about a Neutral Color… (Is your head spinning, yet?)


Here are two reasons denim is considered neutral rather than a color.

First? Traditionally, denim was a very dark blue, so dark, as a matter of fact, that you would call it navy and navy is a neutral and not a color. Yes, blue is on the color wheel, but navy lacks the attributes we think of when we consider blue. When you imagine blue, do you imagine navy? I bet not. Most of the denim we see, though, isn’t a dark navy, so just how is it a neutral?

Second, blue denim is ubiquitous. We see it so often that we cease to see it. You could attribute it to sensory overload, but it’s not quite that. Denim is like air. We rarely think about the air we breathe. It’s all around us, and unless the air is smelly or extremely hot or cold, we don’t register it. Denim is the same. Unless it has been made to stand out in some way: distressing, overdying, or it is extremely dark or super light, we just don’t notice it. You can wear the same pair of standard jeans day after day, and no one will notice. I did that, here!

Can I Go Cry Now?

If you’d like! But I think you’ll enjoy this month! My hope is that these posts will give you new ways to look at your wardrobe and fresh ideas for ways to wear what you already own. The Colored Neutrals we will tackle this month are the greens: Olive and Forest. Eggplant, Teal, Merlot/Wine/Burgundy and Cinnamon/Russet. Yes, that is five different Colored Neutrals, but we’ll fit them all in somehow! (Like crayons in the box!)

We’ll talk about where these colors come from. Why you might want to choose them. And what kinds of pieces you might want to look for in these color gems. TEASER: Eggplant evening wear. FABULOUS! If you are lucky (or unlucky) you might even get a little fashion or art history thrown into the mix. Oh, and I’ll throw in other color names you might find them lurking behind… Handy for online shopping, you know!

How About YOU?

What colors or neutrals form the backbone of your wardrobe? Do you feel like you have just the right amount of color in your closet? Too much? Too little? Have you heard about Colored Neutrals before? Does the idea make you want to crawl in the corner and weep? Do colored neutrals pique your interest? Or give you one of those I thought so! moments? What’s your point of view? Does a dose of fashion history or art history make you lucky or unlucky? Do tell! I love to hear from you…

Stylishly yours,



    Liz, I realize maroon is the best color for me. But, I like burgandy the best!! This is hy I haven’t added it to my ardrobe in the past!!

    • Liz K

      It’s tricky, too, Natalie, because burgundy and maroon are simply names for colors. We generally think of maroon as darker and possibly more brown-y, but that’s not always true. Sounds like the Pantone 2015 Color of the year, Marsala would have been a good option for you!


    Liz, So excited that your covering neutral colors!! I tend toard neutral colors in my closet and I’ve been considering adding ine to my closet this year. I love Fashion and Art History!! This is right up my alley!! I realize I don’t do ell buying my Spring colors during the Fall/inter season. I do ear teal and red as of last year due to your encouragement to ear our colors all year. I did much better ith this before gaining eight. So looking forard to your ne posts!!

    • Liz K

      I think colored neutrals don’t get the respect or wear they deserve! If your coloring is warm, Natalie, you should look for wines with a brown-y undertone. A pure burgundy wine could be too blue based. Have a wonderful week!

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