New Castle News

January 9, 2013

Sarah Stright-Hartley: Color schemes can get your fashion wheel turning

Sarah Stright-Hartley
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — Am I the only one who tends to stick to the same colors? I look through my closet and realize I really need to branch away from the grays, blacks and other neutrals. But I have a hard time knowing where to start.

Enter the color wheel. Yes, that same color wheel that we learned about in elementary school. Did you know you can actually LEARN something from it? Me either. But here is your Color Lesson 101 — helping to improve your style.

There are three distinct color themes that we can take away from it to get started. I've listed them all with corresponding color schemes to the right. I also created three outfits to demonstrate how to use these schemes in an outfit without going overboard.

The first is the complementary color scheme. I'm sure this is the scheme that most of us tend to recognize. This scheme is made from the colors that are directly opposite each other on the color wheel.

Now, does this mean that you should wear a red top and green bottoms? Of course not. In the outfit to the right, I put together a red top with basic blue jeans. But instead of a basic black bag with it, I used a green one. And then I grounded the rest of the outfit with black accessories.

The second color scheme is the analogous scheme. This is when the colors are next to each other on the wheel. This is also how you can achieve the monotone look using different colors in the same family — all blues or all whites, for example. In the outfit that I put together, I used two shades of purple and a shade of blue. You can see how nicely these shades complement each other.

The third color scheme to know is the triadic color scheme. This is achieved by using colors that are evenly spaced apart on the wheel. You can see in my example that each color is three shades away from its next color. For example, the bright purple is three shades away from the bright orange, which is then three shades away from the green. In the outfit I put together I used the blue, orangeish-yellow and reddish-purple theme. The blue dress is offset by the orange belt (which also draws the eyeline to the smallest part of the body), and these are both complemented by the purple bag. The outfit is then grounded by the simple black blazer, black tights and black shoes.

Now, of course, there are many other options to using the color wheel. I didn't even list all the themes from each of the three color schemes. So take some time to look at the color wheel and think about your options next time you're getting dressed. It can make an entire wardrobe seem brand new without buying any new pieces!

And if you need more inspiration, print out a copy of the color wheel and stick it in your closet or by your mirror. This will help you to think outside the box when getting dressed.

Do you plan on using any of these color schemes in your wardrobe?

(If you have any questions for me, please feel free to email me at