3 Ways to Wear Neutral Colors (and not look boring)


When you think of neutrals, do you think of black and white? Some also may say “beige is boring”. Wearing just black and white can be about as boring as it comes…a black pair of pants and a white shirt with black shoes, but the texture of one of the pieces or what you can add to the outfit will make it more interesting!

Getting a bit scientific, according to Adobe in their article, “Understanding Black and White As Colors”, “Some consider white to be a color, because white light comprises all hues on the visible light spectrum. And many do consider black to be a color, because you combine other pigments to create it on paper. But in a technical sense, black and white are not colors, they’re shades.”

With that being said, there are many different ways you can wear neutrals and that is why neutrals are an essential part of a capsule wardrobe. If you incorporate other colors in your outfits, like say for example reds, blues and greens, some color tones may not coordinate well, therefore limiting your outfit combinations. Because neutrals are not colors, but actually shades, they can mix and match with each other and they mostly always blend well together.

Get Your Copy &
Transform Your Closet

What Are Neutral Colors

Neutrals are defined as hues that appear to be without color, and that don’t typically appear on the color wheel. The most common neutrals include black, white and gray. By adding a hint of hue of colors to white, you get other neutrals like ivory, beige, tan, brown and camel.

Whether you call them “neutrals” or “neutral colors” is up to you. Because neutrals are included in a capsule wardrobe color palette, they are more often called “neutral colors”.

Although the color Navy is not a pure neutral (it is a dark shade of blue, which is on the color wheel), navy is considered to be a neutral base in a capsule wardrobe and it is an alternative to black. When creating a capsule wardrobe, I always recommend deciding your base color first, either black or navy, then build your capsule around that base. See the post, “How To Start A Capsule Wardrobe: A 5-Step Visual Guide & Guide Sheet.”

Here is a chart of the most common neutral colors you can use in a capsule wardrobe that coordinate well together, using either black or navy as your base color.

Simplified Style Neutral Colors

3 Ways To Wear Neutral Colors

Now, let’s talk about different ways you can wear neutral colors in an outfit and how to make your outfit interesting…

How To Wear Neutral Colors - Outfit Sample

Shop The Outfit Collage:
cable knit balloon sleeve sweater
high waist skinny ankle jeans
leopard print scarf
dichroic pendant necklace
dichroic hoop earrings
convertible chain shoulder bag
suede stacked heel ankle boots

1. Texture

Wearing a piece in your outfit that includes some form of texture will add visual appeal to your outfit!

Some materials you can wear are:

  • suede
  • leather
  • corduroy
  • velvet
  • tweed
  • fleece
  • sherpa

Consider adding neutral pieces to your wardrobe in different types of fabric or stitching of a piece, like a cable sweater, a marled cardigan or a fleece pullover. You can also wear jewelry with texture or a design.

Here are a few outfits I have worn in the past that included textured pieces:

In the photo below, I’m wearing a neutral outfit with texture. The texture pieces are the pointelle sweater and the leather boots. I’m wearing a neutral oat color sweater (similar style) which has pointelle stitching and these black jeans. I added a houndstooth vest (shop this year’s style) and these black leather boots for texture and completed the neutral look with a tan handbag (similar style).

outfit post: “What I Wore At Callaway Gardens”

Next, the texture pieces I’m wearing are the tunic sweater (similar style), these black jeans and these black leather boots. If my sweater would have been solid white, the outfit may have looked boring, but the tunic sweater made of a marled pattern creates interest. Also, my boots are black leather, which has a bit of sheen to them. I also added a black leather hobo bag.

outfit post: “Black and Gray”

In the outfit below, the texture pieces are black puffer jacket with rose gold hardware (similar style), the gray pom beanie (similar) and black marled sweatshirt (similar). They all add texture to the outfit, plus warmth on a freezing cold day!

outfit post: “Black and Gray On a Snow Day”

2. Patterns

Adding patterns to your outfits not only makes the outfit interesting, they are fun to wear!

A few neutral patterns to wear are:

  • stripes
  • leopard
  • snake
  • houndstooth
  • polka dots
  • camo
  • floral

In the photo below, the pattern pieces are these leopard pattern mules and this LV Monogram Pochette Metis bag. The neutral color pieces I’m wearing are this short sleeve sweater and these black skinny ankle jeans.

outfit post: “Fall Neutrals Outfit”

In the outfit photo below, the pattern piece is the leopard pattern scarf (similar style). I’m wearing it with this similar cashmere sweater, these similar jeans, similar link bracelet, similar satchel and these very similar ankle boots.

outfit post: “Shades of Brown”

3. With Statement Accessories

You may already have one or more of these in your closet and that is statement accessories like jewelry and handbags! Pieces like gold or silver jewelry and handbags with a chain strap or embellishments. Bold hardware pieces stand out when you wear them with your outfits, pulling your neutrals together to complete your outfits. Also, handbags that have texture will create interest and will jazz up your neutral color outfits!

This black, white and gray outfit in the post, “Nordstrom Anniversary Sale 2020: Huge Try-On Session Round 1″, includes this 1.State Chiffon Cami, similar gray cocoon cardigan, Spanx Black Faux Leather Leggings for texture and these d’Orsay Black Flats. I added these statement accessories for a bit of sheen to the outfit: Sydney Mixed Metal Pendant Necklace and Tory Burch Carson Convertible Bag (similar Quilted Chain Shoulder Bag).

outfit post: “Nordstrom Anniversary Sale 2020: Huge Try-On Session Round 1″

In the outfit below, I’m wearing this v-neck high/low sweater, my favorite black ankle jeans and a leopard pattern pair of booties (a neutral patterned piece). I’m wearing the same necklace and shoulder handbag (sold out) as photo above. They are gold hardware pieces that shine and standout, elevating the neutral outfit. The statement accessories are the Sydney Mixed Metal Pendant Necklace and the Tory Burch Carson Convertible Bag (similar Quilted Chain Shoulder Bag).

outfit post: “Nordstrom Anniversary Sale: Try-on Session Round 2”

What are some of your favorite ways you wear neutral colors?

“Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.” – Deuteronomy 31:6

Share This Post:

Similar Posts


  1. Just want you to know how much I enjoy your posts. You really are classy but trendy. I often look to your posts for inspiration.
    – Jayme

  2. I just finished reading your newest post, “3 ways to Wear Colors (and not look boring). I have to say, Leanne, I was totally blown away when you said, “If you incorporate other colors in your outfits, like say for example, reds, blues and greens, some color tones may not coordinate well, therefore limiting your outfit combinations.” BAM!!! There it is! No wonder my “capsule” wardrobes just never worked or seemed quite right for me. Other people advising about capsule wardrobes talk about adding “pops” of color with different shirts and pants. No matter how much I tried there was always some piece that didn’t really work well with the other capsule pieces. Then, I ended up having a large-ish (capsule?) wardrobe. It was always so frustrating. Now, I realize that the key is sticking to neutral colors and adding the interest with texture, patterns and statement accessories. This has completely altered my way to putting my capsule wardrobe together for this Winter. I’m using neutral colors, texture, a little bit of pattern and statement accessories. I’ve never been more pleased with my capsule wardrobe! Oh, and thank you for including the new chart for the month, date and the numbered outfit worn in the French Minimalist Winter 2020 Capsule Wardrobe ebook.

  3. Great post! I love the leather and animal prints as neutral accents. Spot on advice! Thanks, Leanne????

  4. As an interior designer, I love this post! So many design principles about color, pattern and texture translate right over. Great topic 🙂

  5. Well, you have done it again! Taken pieces and put them together, looking so fashionable. Loved every outfit. Thank you for helping us stay stylish! Enjoy your holidays

Comments are closed.