25 Fall Outfit Color Ideas with a Brown Column of Color (or Any Other Neutral)
In my last Style Imitating Art post, I shared my rather limited collection of brown items that nevertheless are useful in creating a variety of color formulas:
Summer: Dark brown short-sleeved T + light brown capris
Inner column of color (tonal colors)
Fall and Spring: Dark brown short-sleeved T + brown jeans
Inner column of color (matching colors)
Late Fall/Winter: Dark brown zip neck sweater + brown quilted vest + brown jeans (note: the sweater is a thrifted very close fitting men's sweater that I always wear with a topper layer like the quilted vest)
"Trio" - inner column, outer column, modern twin set
I haven't worn a brown inner column of color very often, and going through my outfit of the day photos, I can only find a single outfit that I photographed...from 2018! For a summer work outfit, I topped my brown T + brown jeans column (yep, same pieces I still own above) with a beige short-sleeved cardigan (still owned) and a beige/olive/magenta print scarf (that I almost never wore and ended up getting rid of).
Today I'm working through some options for creating outfits based on a brown inner column of color by varying the color of the topper piece...and these ideas would also apply to any other neutral column. Some of them would work well with a semi-neutral or accent column too, depending on the colors. I am using a T + jeans + flats as my column of color, but substitute whatever pieces you like: dress + sandals, blouse + pants + Oxfords, sweater + skirt + boots, etc. Of course, you are not required to wear a topper at all...or you can wear a topper that matches your column (aka a "trio"); in either case, you can still get some outfit inspiration looking at the accessory options in these outfits.
Let's get started!
Tonal Monochromatic Topper
I find monochromatic outfits very chic, and a lovely variant on the idea is adding a topper in a lighter or darker version of the inner column. That's what I did above with the beige cardigan, and in this example I'm using a stone utility vest with the brown column. I kept the entire outfit tonal by including accessories in the brown/beige family and gold/rose gold metallics. Varying textures within the outfit is a nice way to add a bit of extra interest to a tonal/monochromatic look.
Neutrals are so friendly, they love to come together in an outfit. I'm not sure that there is any neutral that can't (in some version) pair readily with dark brown, but I find denim/chambray, navy, and white to be excellent options. Note that I picked a soft cardigan with an obvious knit texture to keep out of "doctor/lab coat" territory. And black is an under-utilized but potentially very sophisticated color combination with brown. Grey can work also, but I find it tricky to get the right undertone and value in the combo.
In each of these outfits, I chose a bridge piece necklace/scarf that includes both the color of the column and the color of the topper to create a highly cohesive look. Note that the bridge piece needn't have the exact same version of the colors as the garments to have the cohesive effect...something in the general neighborhood will do. For example, the first necklace has rich blue and warm brown rather than denim and dark brown but still works great. For the second accessory (earrings or bracelet) in each outfit, I chose: --Topper color earrings
--Bridge piece (combo of the column and topper colors) bracelets
--Bracelets in an additional color that exists in the print (Road Map styling)
--Topper color earrings
Semi-Neutral (aka Colored Neutral) Topper
I used Liz Klebba's list of colored neutrals to choose my toppers in this example. I already showed olive in the Still Life SIA post and I don't own a dark purple/eggplant cardigan or jacket. This left forest green, teal (or in my case, a dark aqua), wine, and cinnamon (or in my case, a lightened version of it - sandstone). The green, aqua, and sandstone look smashing with dark brown. The wine is pretty good, though a warmer, richer burgundy color might be a bit more harmonious than my cool, muted wine. But I would still wear the wine version without reservation.
For accessories, I chose:
--Bridge piece scarf + "sorta" bridge piece bracelet (with colors in the column and topper color families very generally...such as olive for the green and rust for the brown)
--Topper color necklace and bracelet (the color of the column isn't repeated, but it can still look great...esp. if some aspect of your personal coloring is related to the column color)
--"Sorta" bridge piece scarf in color of the topper and a much lighter version of the column (beige) + topper color earrings
--"Sorta" bridge piece scarf in color of the column and variants on the topper color (bright orange, gold, salmon) + earrings in one of those variants
Muted Accent Topper
I chose four light muted colors to pair with the dark brown column...these are "tints" (a color mixed with white). It's not that I think dark muted colors wouldn't work, but many of my muted accents are on the light side (which makes sense because I have relatively light personal coloring). Some people are hesitant to wear a lighter topper over a darker top, but I think it can look very good...especially if you support the combination with accessories that have a range of light to dark values in them. When thinking about darker muted colors, one thing that comes to mind is that some of them are "tones" (a color mixed with grey), which might not work as well as "shades" (a color mixed with black) or "toasts" (a color mixed with brown...is that the right term?) with a dark brown column. (My wine cardigan in the semi-neutrals section is a tone with a greyed out look, for example.)
Accessory options include:
--Bridge piece scarf + bridge piece bracelets
--Column color necklace + topper color earrings (and the gold metallic in both sits between yellow and brown in my mind)
--"Sorta" bridge piece scarf (teal instead of mint) + column color earrings
--Necklace in similar color to topper + bridge piece bracelets
Bright Accent Topper
I think of black first as a neutral to wear with bright colors, esp. jewel tones, but this dark brown is a terrific alternative. Looking at the color wheel, I can't think of a single vivid hue that wouldn't work here!
Accessory options include:
--Topper color necklace + "sorta" bridge piece earrings (rust instead of brown)
--Bridge piece scarf + bridge piece bracelets
--Bridge piece scarf + "sorta" bridge piece bracelets (warm greens instead of emerald)
--Bridge piece scarf + earrings in an additional color that exists in the print (Road Map styling)
Surprisingly, only the striped shirt on the first row has brown in it; the others have prints that coordinate with the brown but don't match. Specifically, rust in the mint cardigan, dark green and black that overlap to look brown-ish in the aqua plaid shirt, and tan in the green teal plaid shirt. It's definitely worth experimenting to see what prints your selected column of color works with as these alternatives can greatly increase the mix-and-match-ability of your wardrobe.
I worked the Road Map styling option hard in accessorizing these less-matching outfits to add some extra cohesion to the looks:
--Necklace in another color in the print (Road Map styling) + "sorta" bridge piece bracelets made to match the print shirt (gold instead of brown; includes the purple from the necklace)
--Scarf and earrings in another color in the print (Road Map styling)
--Scarf and earrings in combo of two other colors in the print (Road Map styling)
--Necklace in a lighter version of the column color that exists in the print (Road Map styling) + earrings in another color in the print (Road Map styling)
Neutral Topper + a Pop of Color
Finally, let's revisit the four neutral topper colors we worked with above (with slightly different example pieces) and accessorize them with a pop of color. Although the black dress + red shoes is the stereotype of this idea, the accent pop doesn't have to be that stark or that isolated. In each of these examples, I chose the scarf first, then the bracelet or earrings:
--Aqua scarf + aqua/yellow bracelets. The primary pop of color (aqua) is added once in a large dose and once in a small dose, and the secondary pop of color (yellow) is added once in a small dose.
--Cinnamon/topper color scarf + topper color earrings. The cinnamon semi-neutral is the pop of color, but it is related to the column color, and the scarf repeats the topper color for a bit more integrated look.
--Apple green print scarf + pink earrings. The primary pop of color (apple green) is added once in a large dose. The print scarf includes just a bit of the topper color for extra cohesiveness. The secondary pop of color (pink) is also in the scarf (Road Map styling).
--The orange scarf + orange/teal bracelets is another example like the aqua scarf + aqua/yellow bracelets. I just like that formula using my solid scarves and DIY bracelet sets!
Systematically using the various topper and accessory combinations with a neutral column of color, I was able to quickly create 25 very distinct outfits for my brown T + jeans + flats inner column. Now I have a pretty large wardrobe and a deep collection of accessories, so my 25 outfits may seem like a ridiculous number...and it kind of is because most of us don't actually need 25 outfits based on a single column of color! I just wanted to show a range of possibilities from approaching outfit creation around a column of color in a methodical way.
I think we often jump immediately to shopping as a way to create more outfits when we really just need to spend more time working with the pieces we already have. You can buy and buy and buy and buy, but those outfits aren't going to put themselves together!
Do you have a neutral column of color in your wardrobe for fall? What color is it? Do you have favorite accent colors for it? Have you ever tried putting it through its paces with the various combinations of toppers and accessories that you have?
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