Neutral Color Fashion: How to Wear Neutral Colors without Looking Washed Out

fashion model
  • Neutral clothing colors are wardrobe staples that can make dressing for any occasion quick and easy.
  • Choose the right neutral color for your skin tone. There are colors suitable for warm undertones and cool undertones. 
  • Build a capsule wardrobe using your existing wardrobe as well as new neutral colors for fabulous neutral outfits.
  • Use accessories to keep your neutral outfits from looking boring and add neutral prints and florals to create interest.
  • Choose neutrals for the office, a night out, family portraits, or a wedding, and look timeless and gorgeous.

Understanding Neutral Colors


Neutral colors have a greater range than you may have initially considered. Neutral colors may appear muted, but they can certainly light up an outfit as they complement primary and secondary colors. Let’s learn about the neutral canvas you can create with the neutral rainbow of colors available.

What Are Neutral Colors?

Simply put, basic neutral colors are not found on a color wheel. Although they technically lack color, neutral clothing colors can be perfect for creating a capsule wardrobe. Blue, pink, yellow, red, and orange are all colors on the color wheel, and you guessed it – you cannot mix them all in one outfit without looking like a clown. But once you learn how to choose the right neutrals, you can create beautiful looks without too much effort.

Plenty of fashion, art, and interior design blogs have different definitions on neutral colors. Some would say that these are the colors that don’t fall into specific color schemes or range between black, white, and brown. However, colors like baby blue and khaki actually fall under different color schemes (blue and green), so I don’t think this definition really holds water.

My personal definition of neutral colors are muted natural colors that aren’t too bright or eye-catching. I say neutral colors have to be both natural and muted because there are some natural colors (e.g. flowers, plants fruits, animal plumes) that don’t necessarily fall into neutral colors because they’re too bright and eye-catching.

When you see neutral colors in fashion or in interior design, you get the sense that the wearer or the owner of the house is more on the conservative side. You wouldn’t see a politician or a lawyer entering court in a striking yellow suit unless they were doing it to make a statement.

On the other hand, plenty of people wear bright colors to be seen. If you look at Queen Elizabeth II, her style almost always consists of monochromatic bright colors as her way of being seen even from afar. On the other hand, royals like the Duchess of Sussex opt for neutral colors possibly to avoid drawing unnecessary attention to herself.

The most basic neutral colors include white, black, grey, brown, and the various shades of these four such as off-white, cream, ivory, egg shell, ebony, coal, graphite, ash, coffee, chocolate, wood, and many other shades, including the light and dark versions of each color. However, some stylists also accept some shades of blue and green as a neutral color. Olive green and khaki, for example, has a similar shade with brown, so it still falls under neutral. If you’re trying to research what counts as a neutral color because of a dress code, try asking the event host if they consider blue and green neutrals as part of their color scheme.

Some Commonly Used Shades of Neutral Colors

Common neutral colors can include shades of primary colors which are found on a color wheel. They can range from powder pink to deep maroon. Multiple shades of black, white, and earthy tones are considered neutral. Neutral clothing can include patterns such as florals, checkered prints, and animal prints. You can mix these patterns with your solid neutral colors to add more visual interest.


neutral color women's top
Metallic Neutral Colors

Just because neutrals are plain colored does not mean it can only be used as a singular color without any sort of pattern. As long as the style involves predominantly neutral colors, the outfit can still be considered plaid. Some examples include tweed, pinstripes, plaid, and more.


Checkered Neutral Color Top

Why Wear Neutral Clothing Colors?

Neutral clothing colors are the most versatile of colors and are the perfect staple in your capsule wardrobe. A capsule wardrobe means that you can mix and match the pieces and know they will always look great together, which makes getting dressed quick and easy and makes you always look stylish. After you have found the right neutral clothing colors for your skin type, you can rest assured that you will always have the right pieces in your wardrobe to put together the perfect outfit for any occasion.

The best thing about neutral colors is you can invest in quality and durability wardrobe staples that can be spiced up with splashes of color and coordinating neutrals like animal print and textured cable knits. 

Since neutral fashion colors are timeless, they can extend the life of your wardrobe. Many fashionable colors come and go, but neutrals are always in style. Think about your favorite pair of blue jeans. They hug and flatter your body perfectly in all the right places, and they do not have embellishments, rips, or sequins. They are simply the go-to basic piece you reach for repeatedly. They look perfect with multiple tops and make you feel fantastic and confident. Now imagine if most of your wardrobe made you feel this way – that’s the timeless power of neutral color palette clothes. They are always in fashion, can be mixed with just about anything in your closet, and make you feel great any day of the week!

Ways To Wear Neutral Clothing Colors

Now that you know the benefit of neutral clothing colors, you’ll want to know how to incorporate the right colors in your capsule wardrobe and always keep them current, interesting, and perfectly balanced with your skin tone. Let’s take a look at the specifics for taking your wardrobe from drab to fab!

Choosing the Right Neutral Colors

Not all neutral colors are equal. Black may be the perfect basic color for you, and for someone else, it may make them look washed out and sickly. Maybe you love the versatility of a pure white blouse, but it makes your skin so fair that it looks like you have disappeared. First, you must know your skin tone and which neutrals complement you.

Skin Tone and Neutral Colors

Skin tones can be warm, cool, and neutral. You may already know your skin tone from shopping for makeup colors, but if you do not, there is no need to worry. You could get a color analysis to determine your color palette, or you could simply stand in the sun. We want to point out that your skin tone is not your skin color, and whether you have alabaster skin or rich chocolate skin, your skin’s undertone determines it. 

How to Find out your Skin Tone and Undertone

Stand in the sun and turn your wrists over. Examine the color of the veins in your wrist. If they look green, you have a warm undertone. Those with a warm undertone usually choose gold-colored jewelry for their skin. Warm neutrals would include beige, tan, gold, cream, dark brown, ivory, olive, and dark tobacco. 

If you find your veins appear blue, you have a cool undertone. If you cannot determine if they are green or blue, most likely, you have a neutral undertone. Those with an olive complexion and hazel eyes that change colors depending on the shades you are wearing generally have a neutral undertone. Also, if you have a cool undertone, you may gravitate toward silver jewelry and find it complements your skin color best. 

Cool neutral colors are crisp white, grey shades, silver, and navy blue and are best for those with a cool skin tone. If you have a neutral skin tone – good news! You can wear all of these neutral colors seamlessly.

How Hair Color Impacts if You’re Cool, Warm, or Neutral

The color of your hair can further extend the colors which will work well on you. If you have pale white skin but dark hair, you can pull off those darker colors that your light-haired counterparts cannot. If in doubt, hold the color close to your face and notice how it makes you look. If it’s not the right color for your skin, but you adore it, keep it away from your face. You can wear whatever you like for your bottoms and keep the more flattering colors for the top.



Mixing Neutral Colors Clothing


You have designated the right colors for your skin tone and are now ready to start building your neutral wardrobe colors. Monochromatic outfits are an opportunity to easily put together a clean and classic look. Combine different textures in the same wardrobe colors for visual interest. You could mix leather, suede, and fur in the same outfit. However, if you have two different shades in the same textured fabric, you should avoid combining more than two of those pieces. 


You can combine the same color to create a monochromatic look or mix lighter and darker shades. For example, use powder pink, beige, and cream in the same outfit with all different textures. Break up a monochromatic look with a bit of pattern in an accessory or a larger item like a jacket. Part of the idea with neutral colors is that everything can be combined to create a seamless outfit. 

Do you want to mix pale pink and olive green? Why not! Navy blue with metallic gold? Sure! A neutral outfit uses neutral colors that work well together and give you endless opportunities to create unique outfit ideas every day.


Casual Attire

People who wear casual clothing in neutral colors are laid-back but are still conscious about dressing with some amount of style. Going back to the olive pants, there are plenty of neutral styles you can match it with. If you have a pair of pants in your wardrobe, you can pair it with a simple white shirt and then accessorize with a jacket or simple metallic jewelry if you think a plain shirt is too boring. Colored shirts like black, white, beige, and grey would look good on a pair of olive pants for a full-neutral outfit, but plenty of bright colors could also work. But for me, if I want to dress simply, I let the green of the olive pants serve as the color piece of my outfit and then wear a white, black, or gray shade top.

For other types of casual outfits, try to mix and match colors. I don’t believe in giving readers exact clothing to wear because it’s possible that color blends that look good on me may not look as good on anyone else. But if you’re worried about looking too pale or boring when wearing a full-neutral outfit, try adding simple accessories that can tie your whole outfit together.


Formal Attire

Neutral-colored attire is often used in work-related events where people must maintain a sense of professionalism even in their formal attire or in events where the color scheme is dictated as exclusively neutral colors. In many corporate events, the “little black dress” is often the go-to choice for women, but if the event calls for a formal gown, women may have to look for long gowns to stick to the dress code.

In weddings, for example, the couple might think it would look best if everyone showed up in a specific neutral color rather than a party filled with multiple colors that could clash with the wedding ceremony and reception’s theme color. If there is no strict dress code, going to a wedding in a neutral-colored dress is a good idea if you’re worried about upstaging the bride. The only neutral color you shouldn’t wear to a wedding (unless the invitation says that is the theme) is any shade of white, as it is traditionally bad manners to wear white or dress extravagantly as others may mistake you for the bride.


Office Attire

In companies where dress codes are still being implemented, neutral colors are the best option. Office attire is about professionalism and looking smart, and the best way to do that in the office is to wear neutral colors that don’t unnecessarily attract too much attention.

Nowadays, women can wear either skirts or slacks, depending on their preference. These must be a neutral color because some bright colors are too informal and loud for a formal office setting. These are paired with collared or high-neckline blouses, closed shoes, and usually a blazer that matches or complements the color of the skirt. It is still possible to wear some bright colors and patterns, but if you want to keep it within the realm of professionalism, make sure your outfit is dominantly neutral.


Can Neutral Colors Go with Anything?

While neutral colors can go with almost anything, you might want to remember that some colors and styles look better on other people or when complemented with other accessories. For example, I have fair skin, and I prefer wearing darker colors because wearing white makes me look too pale unless I complement it with a lot of dark-colored accessories. Maybe some fair-skinned women can pull off an all-white look I can’t, but for my preference, I prefer darker neutral colors.

Photo from: Pixabay

You also have to consider that some colors just blend better with others. Let’s say you’re wearing a bright multi-colored dress and, to make it more professional in the office, you want to pair it with a neutral blazer. A black blazer will definitely look better than a beige blazer because black has totally no color while beige can be an eyesore because it adds another color to the outfit.


How To Build a Capsule Wardrobe with Neutral Clothing Colors

When building your capsule wardrobe, some people may think you need to toss everything out and start from scratch, but this is not the case. You likely have many pieces in your existing wardrobe that can transfer to a neutral wardrobe.

  • First, begin by decluttering your existing wardrobe. If you haven’t worn something in over a year, chances are you’re not going to. 
  • Donate or recycle if the item is damaged or doesn’t fit well.
  • Once you have cleared out the pieces that are not working for you, organize and categorize what remains into bottoms, tops, sweaters, and dresses. 
  • Choose neutral tones clothing pieces that are functional, versatile, and look amazing on you.
  • Now you can fill in the gaps for what you are missing. Make sure you have seasonal items and neutral fashion colors that mix well with the main capsule clothing.

The number of pieces you will need for your capsule wardrobe will vary largely on your climate, lifestyle, and budget. Once you have the basics in place, you can always add more pieces. Try to stick to high-quality items which will sustain your neutral wardrobe. Neutral wardrobe colors will save you time as you are getting dressed and take the guesswork out of looking incredible.

Adding Interest to Neutral Colors

Just because you are keeping your fashion neutral does not mean the look should be boring. There are so many ways to elevate a neutral look. Handbags, jewelry, shoes, texture variations, scarves, and even your make-up and hair can go from simple to simply breathtaking. 

Texture and Neutral Colors

Neutrality and simplicity need only exist in color – when it comes to textures, you can go wild. Satins, silks, knits, leathers, furs, cotton, and wool – any fabric can be mixed and matched in a monochromatic scheme or lots of different neutral colors. See what works for you and your outfit, and don’t be afraid to try new things. 

Accessories and Neutral Colors

Accessories are a fun and safe way to play with your ensemble, and jewelry can completely change your look. If you want to have fun with a real statement piece without a large price tag, try costume jewelry. Neutral dress colors are the perfect opportunity to experiment with accessories. 

Shoes are one of the more exciting ways to change your wardrobe. Yes, it’s essential to have neutral pieces in your shoe closet. But sometimes we are more likely to venture out of our comfort zone when the bold pattern or color is on our feet. If you wear a neutral color dress like a grey dress from head to toe, why not get adventurous with your footwear? Wearing neutral colors is not limiting; it creates endless opportunities.

Workwear with Neutral Colors

Neutral clothing colors are just as important in the workplace as in casual wear. A neutral outfit can demonstrate professionalism. You can step out in a neutral fashion perfect for the office and then change up your accessories or get your nails done with some neutral nail colors if you’re meeting a friend after work. Take your look from day to night by tossing a fun necklace or sassy pair of heels in a bag.

Styling Neutral Colors for Different Occasions

Your neutral color wardrobe will make preparing a professional and polished outfit easier. Stick to the same rules about texture and accessories.

If you work in a creative work environment, try an all-black attire with statement jewelry pieces or a slouchy hat.

Casual Wear with Neutral Colors

Comfortable and chic outfits might include oversized sweaters and your favorite denim jeans, and comfy white walking shoes with silver or gold jewelry accents. Even leisurewear can be chic in neutrals like a monochromatic sweat suit in olive green or ostrich shell. You can choose comfort and style with some well-thought-out selections.

A neutral color dress for wedding guest could be a little black dress, beige separates, or pretty florals. If you’re attending a winter wedding, you could choose velvet, wool, or cashmere. Prints or solids, make sure your accessory game is on point.

Neutral outfits for family pictures are all the rage these days. But neutral family photo outfits don’t need to be matching. In the same way that you might mix and match colors and textures in your own outfit, you can do this across the outfits of everyone in the photo. 

Neutral Clothing Colors for Different Seasons

Beyond the scope of warm, cool, and neutral undertones, there are further categories that can help you determine the precise neutral shades for your wardrobe. Remember that your skin tone is not the color of your skin but the undertone. For example, Beyonce, Adriana Lima, Sophia Bush, and Mandy Moore are all Clear Spring color palettes. Visit radiantly dressed to learn which season you are and the perfect neutrals for you! 

1. Clear Spring Neutral Color Palette

Step out in bright navy, pewter, taupe, ivory, cream, camel, cognac, and chocolate. 

2.Warm Spring Neutral Color Palette

Don navy, olive, nude, ivory, cream, camel, cognac, and tawny. 

3. Light Spring Neutral Color Palette

Sport denim, soft olive, nude, ivory, cream, camel, cognac, and tawny.

4. Light Summer Neutral Color Palette

Put on soft navy, light sage, soft blush, soft white, silver, stone, dove, and grey. 

5. Cool Summer Neutral Color Palette

Dress in navy, sage, blush, soft white, silver, dove, grey, and charcoal. 

6. Soft Summer Neutral Color Palette

Strut out in denim, sage, blush, soft white, silver, dove, grey, charcoal

7. Soft Autumn Neutral Color Palette

Parade about in denim, olive, blush, ivory, cream, camel, cognac, coffee

8. Warm Autumn Neutral Color Palette

Display navy, dark olive, ivory, cream, camel, cognac, tawny, pecan

9. Deep Autumn Neutral Color Palette

Model navy, olive, ash, cream, camel, cognac, tawny, mocha

10. Deep Winter Neutral Color Palette

Show your stuff in midnight, olive, espresso, white, silver, grey, charcoal, mocha

11. Cool Winter Neutral Color Palette

Impress with navy, soft white, optic white, silver, dove, grey, charcoal, and black

12. Clear Winter Neutral Color Palette

Show off in midnight, nude, ivory, white, silver, dark grey, charcoal, and black


What Does Wearing Neutral Colored Clothing Say About Me?

As mentioned earlier, people who wear neutral are trying not to draw attention to themselves because it is easier to blend in with the crowd than stand out when wearing neutral colors. These are the type of people who either want to play it safe, or are in an environment where they have to dress conservatively and not draw too much attention to yourself.

Photo from: Pixabay

Someone who likes wearing neutral is a type of person who isn’t keen on making a bold statement about themselves. Maybe it means they’re shy or don’t like attention, or maybe it’s possible they let the other aspects of their life speak for themselves. Take a look at Steve Job’s outfit, for example: he wears the same black turtleneck, jeans, and sneakers despite making millions from Apple. His reputation precedes his outfit, so don’t underestimate anyone who prefers to wear neutral outfits.


Add neutrals to your capsule wardrobe with lots of texture and your favorite accessories to create an elevated look. Make sure you choose the neutrals which are best for your coloring. Style a monochromatic look or a mix-and-match look for a stylish vibe. Your color neutral wardrobe will make getting dressed so easy; you could get dressed in the dark!

Final Thoughts

Creating the perfect outfit using neutrals is for everyone. Men’s neutral wardrobe should include capsule items as well. If you are struggling to find neutral clothing colors, check out a neutral colors clothing brand such as Neutral Ground Clothing. Embrace neutral colors to create and chic and timeless look every time. In a world of quick fashion, you can find essential looks and pieces which you reach for time and again to always look and feel fabulous!


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