Color Theory for Fashionistas – Part 1

Color Theory for the Average Fashionista - Alexa WebbMost artists and designers study color theory, a body of knowledge that dates back to the 1400s, and is very useful in mixing and combining colors and creating color schemes.

 When it comes to color in the visual arts, including fashion, there is enough information to devote to an entire blog.  

But, there is no need to feel overwhelmed.  The average fashionista doesn’t need all that information.  Just learning a few key concepts can dramatically improve your personal styling skills!

Color Theory for Fashionistas

Even if you don’t realize it, you are already using color theory when you get Plus Size Aqua Shorts Outfits - Plus Size Summer Outfits for Women - Plus Size Fashion - Alexa Webbdressed.

How?  Well, when we wear clothing with prints, such as a bright summer floral or a madras plaid, color theory was used by the designer who created the print for the fabric.  

So, when we create an outfit by coordinating some of the matching colors from the print, we are, in fact, using color theory.

Take a look at the outfit on the right.  The scarf is the focal point of the look.  

It is a print that was designed using color theory to create the color scheme of aqua, lime, blue-violet, and grey.  

To create an outfit, I simply coordinated matching colored pieces, such as aqua shorts and grey sandals and tote.

Does that make sense?  We actually use color theory [indirectly] when we coordinate solids with prints.

But what happens when we don’t wear a print?  There is nothing to coordinate with.

Most people tend to panic and avoid creating outfits this way, after all, how can we know what is going to look nice versus clownish?  

Answer: Color theory!

Color Blocking via -Alexa WebbOne of my favorite bloggers, Kristine of Trendy Curvy, is one of the best color-blocking fashionistas out there!  

Take a look at her outfit on the left.  With no print, she makes a simple outfit look stunning by simply combining the right colors!

Ok, so if you are still with me at this point, I am pretty sure I have made my case.  You need to know about color theory.  

So let’s get into it.  As I said in a previous post..

Colors look different (better or more interesting) depending on what colors are Complementary color blocking - Alexa Webbnext to them.  

Don’t believe me?  Take a look at the swatch on the right.  The center color is the same, but what a difference when it’s next to aqua blue!  It pops!

Complementary color blocking using the color wheel - Alexa WebbLooking at the color wheel above, we can see that these colors, blue-green and red-orange, are across from one another on the wheel.  

This is called complementary or what I like to call the “wow factor.”  

Colors with a complementary relationship, across from one another on the color wheel, are going to pop every time.

Above you can see some amazing complementary color-blocked outfits.  Left to right: Red-Orange + Blue-Green, Yellow-Orange + Blue-Violet, Orange + Blue.

And there are other types of color relationships: monochromatic, analogous, split complementary, and triad.  Oh la la!  

I’ll cover those in the next color theory post.  Until then, give color-blocking a try!

UPDATE: Go here for part 2!

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9 thoughts on “Color Theory for Fashionistas – Part 1

  1. Hi Alexa – I just came upon your blog. I love how you pair your looks – can you tell me what app you use for that or software… they are very captivating… I love your blog and the knowledge you bring with color !!!

  2. I am always grateful that people like yourself have an affinity for working with color. I am color blind, and appreciate all your posts that detail the items that you have grouped for a particular outfit.
    Thank you so very much.

  3. I love your looks! I notice how you have a different handbag with each outfit. I change my bags seasonally. I’m now tired with all my bags so I’m looking for replacements. I’m having a hard time choosing a winter bag because I like too many colors and styles. What colors and styles would you suggest that would go with everyday outfits for each season?

  4. Hi Alexa I found you on Pinterest. I love the looks you create. Do you have basic/essentials list for a plus size wardrobe. I’m looking to update mine and would love some guidelines.

  5. I thought red and green were complementary colors on the color wheel when dealing in fabric materials. I think the color wheel you used above is for digital color schemes and not fabric. Is that correct? Nevertheless, the outfits are cute.

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