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How to: Dressing in Three Colours

How To Oct 9, 2012

Do you sometimes struggle to pull an outfit together and wish there was a set of style rules you could follow to look simple and chic at all times, without having to think too hard or spend too much time? Well I may have the answer for you: three colour dressing. Never heard of it before? Don’t worry, nor had I. It’s a well kept wardrobe secret  – one that my friend Sara from Harper & Harley uses to help pull her outfits together, the basic premise of which is not wearing more than three colours at any one time.

Overly pedantic you say? Perhaps, but the reasoning behind the concept is to do with simplicity and how you achieve that in an outfit. When I look at an outfit my eyes travel from head to toe and I have to admit there’s something about dressing in three colours that’s particularly easy on (and even pleasing to) the eye. I’m not sure if it’s just me by my brain kind of goes ‘colour 1 + colour 2 + colour 3 = ok I totally get what she’s doing here and I dig it‘.  

Some people do multi-colour outfits really well (ie all of Tommy Ton’s muses) but if you’re like me and are looking for a quick and fuss free way to look good all the time (well, most of the time), Sara’s rules could totally help you to create ensembles that are simple and chic, without having to spend hours planning.

Three Colour Dressing
– Try to wear no more than three colours per outfit.
– Because black and white are technically shades, you can be more flexible about how you integrate these into your outfits. For example, you can wear four colors if one of them is white.
–  For metal jewelry try to stick to one shade for each outfit, either gold or silver, particularly for chunky jewelry like statement necklaces and watches. I sometimes break this rule because I like mixed metal but I think sticking with one shade helps with simplicity.
– Thought busy prints were banned because of the abundance of different colours? No way! But when wearing a printed piece, keep the rest of your outfit simple. If you like you can choose a colour out of the print itself to match with your accessories or another part of your outfit which will help to simplify the palette.
– Matching the colour of your accessories is an easy way to limit the number of colours in your outfit (I admit I do tend to lean towards matching accessories, does that make me a stepford wife?), but you don’t always have to. I like it when people match one of their accessories to a piece of their outfit, like bag to skirt, or go for an outfit with two colours and then a bag or shoes that pop.
– Apparently red lips count! 

Naturally there will always be a million exceptions to the rule. You don’t have to dress like this all the time but I’ve truly found that dressing in three colours can really help when I’m in doubt about how to put an outfit together. Need some proof that three colour dressing actually works? Below I’ve pulled some of my favourite street style looks including Lucy, Sara, Jess, Nicole and Hedvig and shown you how they’ve used the three colour dressing concept (I assume without even knowing it) to look amazing.

Sara and Lucy both opt for matching accessories which helps to bring their outfits together perfectly. Outfit eye candy right there!
Nicole takes the burgundy shade from her printed blouse and brings it through to her shorts, bag and lips, while Jess goes for a super simple palette of black and mint with a creme bag and gold jewelry (which match the clasps of her sandals!).
Lucy is one of my favourite players in the three colour game and always looks amazing – she tops off this classic outfit of black, white and denim with a burgundy hat.  Candice accentuates a bright yellow skirt with classic black and whites, with a pop of neon pink for balance.
Sara‘s mint jeans compliment her floral clutch perfectly (note the mint-like shades in the pattern), and she keeps it simple with a white tee and simple black pumps, while Lucy perfects the burgundy/black/creme mix. Although both girls are wearing 4 colours in these pics, their use of black and white is a simple and successful combination, and I think in that situation you can be more flexible with the style rules.
Nicole writes the book on how to wear prints, adding pops of red (cardi, lips and earrings!) which set off the shades in the print skirt, while Hedvig keeps it simple in light khaki, creme and denim.
Once again Hedvig shows us how to keep it simple, in camo, denim and black, while Hanneli chooses and palette of navy, burgundy and a pop of baby blue.
Lucy matches her bag with a peek of burgundy socks, and bookends her outfit with a black hat and boots. In the last pic I love the matching shoes to the lipstick – with a classic and simple outfit or black, white and denim.
Thank you for your wise words Sara – you always look the biz so I am happy to take your lead!
Oh and I would love to hear your thoughts guys. Do you think this helps? Do you have any other style rules you use to put together your outfits?


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