Subtle Colors pop-up BOLD Style

As I wandered the neighborhood shops in my neighborhood, making my way to Raleigh’s Fletcher Park, I let the warm sun radiate warmth.  The golden red glow of the sun infused the rich blue cloudless sky with an unfathomable deep.  The rustle of leaves and crackling of branches in the light wind reminded the senses of a change in the season – SPRING is coming.  In the last week of winter, color is popping out in just blooming tulips and tiny lavender wildflowers amid clover.  Many deciduous trees are still bare, bones and branches, but you know that the landscape is coming and soon the lonely trees will shout in greens, and blossom in majesty.

Sitting on a park bench, I let the air and the scene saturate my thoughts, seeping in.  Meditating on the peace and energy of the park, what I noticed was how subtle color makes a big difference…a little color goes a long way.  A patch of green grass fills the ground with life energy…tiny struggling bulbs of perennials in yellow and purple add just enough color to POP.

I love the use of subtle and rich colors in the paintings of Monet, Cezanne, Matisse and Pissaro.  It is the fusion of color and light, shadow and presence that kicks the senses into high gear.  In a famous JMW Turner painting one tiny speck of red blotchy paint transforms the gray stormy landscape when you realize the red blotch is a tiny boat against the waves.


I think fashion that pulls color in the palette of nature is practical art.

So my advice for Spring Fashion, build on subtle colors to make an outfit pop.  Too much color can overwhelm the senses, not enough color is dull and drab.  You are building a symphony of color and each color is an instrument playing its role – think is this ‘instrument’ adding or detracting from the ensemble?  Too many bold colors often clashes and is unpleasant to look at, while orange and pink can work if you pair it accordingly (say you have an orange and pick diamond pattern – pair it with dark denim and maybe a dark green bag and tortoise shell glasses – don’t add too much additional color – focus on the bold colors and use subtle accessorizing to make those colors stand out and make you look and feel GREAT)

My color recipe is to start off small, find effortless ways to make color pop and gravitate towards pieces you can mix and match and dress up or down.  You don’t have to spend a lot of money or have a lot of clothes to look great…rather look for core pieces and build a wardrobe around those pieces and country.

– 1. Pick a theme: What does your outfit need to say about you?  Are going going on a cruise (we can all dream a little), are you going on a spring mountain getaway to the Smokies? Cocktail Party, Work formal?  If you know the occasion you can follow your fashion intuition and savvy to judge the best look for the day.  Even better when you pick out pieces that can be dressed up or down and paired with lots of combinations.

– 2 Pick a color you want to emphasize, then build a trifecta around it – three colors that work together – and pull only hues that fit that palette – not sure of how to match colors…sounds silly but go to a local paint store and pick up some paint cards, look at the combinations and follow the suggestions in clothing…look at the natural world – go outside and look at a garden or a scene that fills you with excitement and peace and mimic it in your wardrobe.

Example; Crepe Myrtles in full bloom are a fiesta of color…pick up a light pearl silk shirt, pair with a rose colored shell, perhaps with floral print, light pants (khaki, jeans, or even a light mint green), with sandals…simple and ties into a nice color scheme inspired by nature.

– 3  Notice color – this hones in on point number one, we live in a world of color, notice color and let it speak to you (yes blue/black white/gold :)) Take inspiration, be inspired by color and how you can tune it to fit your style, adjusting it to your skin tone and color.

– 4.  Trifecta Color – I like to build an outfit with one central color then layer it around a trifecta of color, this is a good way to construct a practical outfit with a theme – that speaks to the occasion and makes you feel and look great.  The great thing about the Trifecta is it is like a color wheel, you can have a green rain jacket that can be paired with black, yellow (maybe a white/black striped 3-quarter length ballet shirt with green jacket, dark denim and boots – you add a yellow clutch and gold chain to make it pop)…that same green jacket can be paired with a more subtle look – rose/green/cream…

– 5. Take the slightest color in a shirt (particularly a patterned shirt) and bring out that color with accessories.  Find a purse to match that color, nail polish or shades.  For guys – I take a Vineyard Vines example – VV is known for its bright, sometimes shockingly so, gingham shirts – filled with complex yet simple color.  When I am building a V-V outfit I look for maybe a light blue or streak of red and figure out ways to make it pop and tie the color palette together – example a red bow tie or a canvas belt.  Let creativity take flight, while sticking with the well defined laws of color.

Need help with figuring out what matches?  I recommend looking at paint companies and their color wheel, purchase a color wheel if you like and also do research at an arts and crafts store on the balance of color.  Trust your intuition, ask advice and don’t be afraid to use ‘Google’ if you are questioning ‘does this work.’  Color can be bold, but shouldn’t crash your style.

Start subtle, find inspiration from nature and art, build core pieces and develop a trifecta of color.  We’ll continue to explore these concepts in further posts.  I look forward to hearing your tips as well!


How would you pull the colors from this flower arrangement into a spring cool perfect outfit?

There are tons of ways to translate the colors from this glowing floral arrangement into a style savvy ensemble.

For ladies – try a red-pink to orange tone dress, pair with a green bracelet or a leaf broach, even better if you can find a dress with green hues (perhaps stitch work) in the design.  I envision an A-Line dress – light pink, with barely there criss-cross stitchwork embroidering -of green and perhaps a tinge of orange, the dress can be paired with a darker pink jacket, playing into the range of pink hues, and perhaps add in green pumps or effortless taupe sandals…there are hundreds of ways to find inspiration in this bouquet…

Perhaps you prefer a lily white silk shirt with a rose hued jacket, gray slacks and heels with essence of color and jewelry with green tints…lots of ways to go bold or ingenue daring (subtle but still courageous!)

I like this Ann Taylor dress as core piece to build a lot of ensembles around – it would be great with leaf green, mint, blue, violet, purple, black, grey…go bold and go sharp…subtle and high energy…


Belk – a go to source for Modern.Southern.Style has a good assortment of spring dresses, tops and accessories.  I like Free People’s spring bohemia look and Tommy Bahama and Lily of course also shine in spring and summer…for good super saver buys at Belk though – look to Crown and Ivy – the brand is modeled on fashion ideals inspired by Reese Witherspoon and Duchess Kate Middleton…

In most cities boutiques offer a unique set of colors and designs – you can invest in.  Raleigh is home to dozens of homegrown boutiques in Cameron Village, North Hills and beyond…with Nowells and CT Weekends, among others being a main stay in my wardrobe stops.  Unfortunately budgets don’t always negotiate so I think you are better investing in core pieces that are quality and will last a long time, then adding in ‘fast fashion’ for fill ins and really my best prescription is go to Goodwill and The Salvation Army – often times you can find great buys for under $20 bucks and you are donating to a good cause.

Also look for spring sales.  Belk’s Charity Day sale on May 2nd is always one of the best times to buy brands like Tommy Bahama, Vineyard Vines and more…

Websites that kick start my color palette inspiration:


Benjamin Moore Paints

Pinterest – search your inspiration and design around it (search Easter colors – or maybe be inspired by an artistic eggs – my grandmother collected them – but don’t make yourself look tacky from it – rather use the inspiration to pull the colors into your best you and the best outfit you can wear with confidence.

Art Museums – go on their websites and look into the heart and soul of colors – be inspired for every mood.  My favorite spring painting at the NC Museum of Art

Frieseke, The Garden Parasol, 73_1_4 courtesy of NCMA website:

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