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What to Wear for Color Blocking

Updated on April 5, 2013

Fashion Trend for 2012: Bold Color Blocking

Color blocking fashions hit the runway in Spring 2012 and could not be more popular. If you want to start wearing this bold look, keep reading! This article will share some basic color blocking techniques as well as give tips on how to wear it for your body-shape.

If you enjoy bright colors, want to break out of the champagne-beige doldrums of 2011, or are just interested in new trends, this is the page for you.

Image copyright the author.

What is Color Blocking?

Some Defining Features

Color blocking makes use of bold swaths of color, often in geometric designs. As the name implies, big "blocks" of color are typical, and with little to no blending between colors. Any printed designs can be symmetrical or asymmetrical, and do not necessarily have to be stripes. As a matter of fact, any polygon, regular or irregular, is likely to be seen. What you will rarely see are curved designs: color blocking fashion prefers straight lines. Any curves will generally come from cinching of the material or, of course, the figure underneath it.

Generally speaking, color blocking does not blend colors into each other, and if a color appears it will often be localized in its single block. Accentuating and tying in these colors is usually done with shoes and accessories, and not by incorporating them into several areas of the same garment. Deciding how these colors are laid out follows many well established artistic guidelines; often you will see color arrangements divided by thirds, which has long been a composition standard.

Don't think, however, that your garments must be specifically made for color blocking. Any solid colored clothes in bright hues can be mixed and matched to make fantastic color blocked outfits. The key is playing bright colors against each other for bold new looks.

Instant Color Blocking

This trendy Gabriella Colorblock dress makes color blocking a breeze, as it takes care of choosing the proportions of the colors in the main outfit. Don't let the black overpower the outfit though: color blocking is about color! The hot red accent at the shoulders can be set off with your choice of accessories, play it up and let it sizzle!

The Colors of Color Blocking

What is Typical

The great thing about color blocking is that it makes bright colors so fashionable to wear. You can finally "get away" with your favorite hot pinks, tangerines, or bold purples. Aquas and peacock-greens are also popular. Black and white are seen only occasionally, but can create a stunning look when paired with such eye-popping vivid colors.

Natural colors such and cremes and browns can help to tone down wild colors and create a more natural every-day look. This is good news for those who like to be fashionable without drawing a great deal of attention.

Stunning and Versatile Jumpsuit

Women's Tube Jumpsuit, Red/Fuschia, Large
Women's Tube Jumpsuit, Red/Fuschia, Large

Go from dressy to casual without skipping a beat: this bold red jumpsuit can be dressed up or down with just the change of a few accessories, sometimes the difference can be as simple as heels vs. flats. This jumpsuit comes with a wide fuchsia belt, but I would suggest using an aqua belt with matching accessories to really take advantage of the color blocking possibilities.


Great Accessories for Red Outifts

Red and turquoise make a vivid combination that is sure to turn heads. This bold combination works well because turquoise and red are complementary colors: they are found roughly on opposite sides of the color wheel.

Color Theory in Action

When it comes to deciding on the colors that should go into a color blocking ensemble, it is wise to consider general color theory. Generally, when excluding neutral colors like brown, black, white, etcetera... the colors that look best together when color blocking will have at least one of the following characteristics:

They will be part of the same color-family. I.E. Warm or cool colors. Hot pink, oranges, yellows, and reds fall into the warm category, with the occasional red-based purple or yellow-based green. Cool colors consist of aquas, indigo, as well as most greens and purples.

They will be complementary colors. That is, they will exhibit some form of recognized complement, such as the typical triad complement which would be the colors that an equilateral triangle positioned in the middle of a color wheel would point to. Other complements include colors directly opposite each other on the color wheel, and the quad complement, which is similar to the triad, but with a square inside the color wheel and each corner pointing to a color.

Color blocking designers will often combine many of these options as well as others. For other ideas about how color complements are obtained, this color scheme generator is a fantastic tool for visualization. It is a tool for determining generally pleasing color arrangements, and is very appropriate for designing color blocking schemes.

Pretty in Purple Pumps

kensiegirl Women's Chandra2 T-Strap Pump,Raspberry,7.5 M US
kensiegirl Women's Chandra2 T-Strap Pump,Raspberry,7.5 M US

Sometimes it's easier to build a color blocked outfit from the bottom up. These demure purple shoes with their sensible heels are the perfect start for a gorgeous blocked set. As far as color combinations for these purple t-strap pumps, I would recommend harlequin-green and either yellow or metallic gold as a third accent color. Alternatively, you could choose peacock-green and turquoise to play up the cool color family. If you're interested in a simple two-color arrangement, purple and orange are a striking combination.


Color Blocking for Body Shapes

How to Wear it For Your Unique Figure

We all are shaped a little differently, and very few of us like the models in the latest fashions! But that shouldn't stop anyone from taking advantage of this hot 2012 trend. The key is to know and work with your body, not against it! No matter your shape or size, there are methods to make color blocking work for you. Color blocked garments come in a wide variety of cuts and styles, from tight to ultra-baggy, and chic sheath-dress to t-shirt, and everything in between. Therefor, you will likely be able to find a style that suits you. The key is to choose clothes which have the colors arranged in a flattering way for your body-type.


Apple body-shapes generally carry most of their weight in their midsection. If your tummy is a trouble-zone for you, balance it out by wearing darker or cooler colors around the middle. Cool colors, when placed against warm ones, recede into space. Cobalt, indigo, and royal purple are excellent examples of colors to wear around the midsection, especially when paired with orange or warm greens around the shoulders or hips. If you find your legs are your best feature, play them up by taking advantage of trendy above-the-knee hemlines. At any point, you may substitute a subdued neutral instead of color for midsection choices.


Those with a pear body-shape may find that they carry much of their weight in their hips and legs. To create balance between the upper and lower body, wear bright, vivid colors up top and either darker or cool colors on the lower body. Take advantage of bold bands of contrasting colors in tops and solid colored pants or skirts. Again, neutrals may be used instead of more adventurous color choices. Avoid pale nude tones, however, and stay in the darker neutral range.


Take the advice for pears, and flip it! Wear your boldest colors on the lower body to balance out wide shoulders or a busty figure. Flowing skirts and looser pants are a good bet,as they can help the illusion of a more even proportion. Aim for more v-cut necklines to avoid large expanses of unbroken color up top.


Hourglass shapes have the advantage of a natural balance between upper and lower body, but should be careful not to overemphasize one section or another. Darker midsection choices can help to show off a waistline with the aid of bright metallic belts and tailored fashions. Alternatively, having the boldest color statement at the waist can also create a fashionable outfit: a stripe of aqua between orange and hot pink, for example. In either case, the aim is to create the most contrast and visual interest at the waistline with sharp color changes. The other option is to go with vertical stripes to ensure that colors are evenly distributed over the body.


Rectangle body-shapes, like hourglasses, are naturally evenly proportioned. The only difference is the that the waistline for a rectangle shape is less pronounced. This does not pose a problem in color blocked fashions, as there are so many shapes and styles of garments that can be used, one need not fit a particular silhouette to enjoy this trend. Like an hourglass, avoid putting too much emphasis on either the top or the bottom. Again, vertical stripes work well, particularly in shift-dress styles. If you do wish to create more curves, trying flowing skirts and a belted waist to cinch the fabric.

Your Top Picks

These are a few great pieces that are perfect for mix-and-matching to create a trendy color blocking outfit. Check them out and vote for your favorite!

How do you wear it? If you've never worn the style before, are you more interested in it now? Have any more tips for readers, or any other feedback? Go ahead and leave a comment!

Are You a Fan of Color Blocking?

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    • profile image

      Jenepher 5 years ago

      Great article full of information for fashion !! Great color palette !!

    • artbyrodriguez profile image

      Beverly Rodriguez 6 years ago from Albany New York

      I like this look. Very well done lens!

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Amazing article, but more importantly, a very well-written and informational article! Thank you ... I'm a big Project Runway fan (although I can't stitch anything to save my life!), and really appreciated learning about the basics of color blocking. Awesome article!

    • micheleburke profile image

      Michele Marie Burke 6 years ago

      Thanks for sharing these great ideas to brighten up our spring wardrobes!

    • DIY Mary profile image

      DIY Mary 6 years ago

      What an imaginative way to spice up your wardrobe! Your tips on how to dress according to your figure type are especially useful. Great lens!

    • Brandi Bush profile image

      Brandi 6 years ago from Maryland

      Color blocking seems to really be the "in" thing right now...great job explaining this fashion concept! :)

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Colours are so important to make sure you always look your best

    • MarilynImanse profile image

      MarilynImanse 6 years ago

      Your intro image got my attention right away. I happen to love the bright colors. Now I know how to create the stunning effects. Great article.

    • flicker lm profile image

      flicker lm 6 years ago

      I hadn't heard about color blocking before either. Very informative lens. I especially liked the section on the colors to pick for your body shape. Well done!

    • Blkeeslar profile image

      Billie Keeslar 6 years ago from Mississippi

      Very nice lens - great information. This will save me time when I shop, I will look for the colors that will make my midsection - not so noticeable

    • Coreena Jolene profile image

      Coreena Jolene 6 years ago

      This is something I had not heard about but it makes a lot of sense. I am not big into fashion for myself but I do enjoy looking at a nicely put together outfit. Thanks for sharing this.

    • annieangel1 profile image

      Ann 6 years ago from Yorkshire, England

      very nice lens - great information here for all of us

    • SusanDeppner profile image

      Susan Deppner 6 years ago from Arkansas USA

      I'm seeing color blocking more and more these days, even in home decor. This was very helpful and informative - and beautiful! Glad bright color choices are in style!

    • MartieG profile image

      MartieG aka 'survivoryea' 6 years ago from Jersey Shore

      Very interesting-I learned something! :>)

    • profile image

      LazyKat 6 years ago

      @bdkz: It actually showed up briefly last year, but this year might be bigger for it. Thank you for looking it over!

    • profile image

      LazyKat 6 years ago

      @mbgphoto: Thank you :) I appreciate your stopping by!

    • profile image

      bdkz 6 years ago

      I've never heard of this before. Very informative.

    • mbgphoto profile image

      Mary Beth Granger 6 years ago from O'Fallon, Missouri, USA

      I had never considered color blocking before, but you have written a very interesting piece. I will have to think about this concept! Very well done article.