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Interesting Color Combinations with an Aqua/Black/White Top

A couple weeks ago, I shared a Style Imitating Art Inspiring Style outfit featuring this print top, and I mentioned that it was a piece I really like that has been under-worn and that I haven't been very adventurous with color in styling. I think finding fresh ways to wear an item we already own is the best way to invigorate our wardrobes, expand our options, develop our styling skills, and refine our personal styles. Would you like to play along? Prints of the accent color + black + white color palette like this one are not uncommon. Even if you don't have an aqua version, you may have it in another accent color. Perhaps you have another aqua print you'd like to experiment with. Or a completely different print entirely! In any case, I hope this post can give you ideas about how to search for interesting color combinations for a print item in your wardrobe.

Chambray floral dress + sandstone coral cardigan-Plus size summer outfit idea for women over 40

I think this is a good opportunity to try out new color combinations using Jodie's color recipe and our old friend, the color wheel. While I have given the color wheel a hard time on occasion, I also believe it can be a helpful way to enter into a systematic consideration of color combinations. (And you probably know by now that I'm all about being systematic!)


Jodie's color recipe starts with the two easiest, and probably most comfortable and natural, ways of identifying colors for a print item: an accent color found in the print and a neutral color found in the print. This covers how I have worn this top in the past: with turquoise, black, and/or white. As you can see below, I have a summery outer column (matching topper + bottom) in each of these 3 colors. Now one thing to note at this stage is that I have a miniature mix-and-match capsule here; with these seven pieces, I can make 3 2-piece outfits and 9 3-piece outfits for a total of 11 outfits. So even if a person is feeling somewhat conservative about color, there's a lot that can be done with just the first two steps of the color recipe by exploring the various combinations of topper and bottom pieces.

With the simplest "matching with the print" options out of the way, let's move to the more adventurous steps of the color recipe. Next we'll tackle an accent color not found in the print...which I personally think is where Jodie's own outfits really shine. She is fearless with color, and I swear she can make any color combination work because of her exuberant personality and style! I am not quite so fearless or so exuberant so I will be identifying combinations that I think work well vs. might work vs. don't work...for me. You may disagree with the judgments I make, and that's perfectly fine. Hopefully the process will still make sense for you.


Since accent colors not in the print covers a LOT of territory, I'm going to organize my exploration using the color wheel to identify potential color combinations, then plug in specific items in specific colors from my closet to evaluate. As I discussed in my color wheel post, it's not necessarily helpful in creating outfits from your closet to know that the hues of pure Yellow and pure Red go together in some theoretical way...you probably want to know if this yellow blouse and this red skirt go together! So that's how I'm going to approach it here with my aqua print top.


First, let's identify where my top falls on the color wheel. Black and white are achromatic...they have no color at all...so they can be ignored for now to let us focus on the aqua color. On the color wheel, aqua/turquoise is a color in the Blue-Green section, and the aqua colors in the top (because there is more than one here) tend toward the blue side of Blue-Green.

By Moses Harris, The Natural System of Colours and Ignaz Schiffermüller, Versuch eines Farbensystems (Vienna, 1772), plate I - project Gutenberg, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=57409695

Accent color not in the print - Analogous colors - Blue-Greens


Analogous colors are those next to the target color on the color wheel, and it doesn't get any closer to aqua/turquoise than other Blue-Green colors. These aren't the spot-on match of the turquoise shown above, but they are close. Drawing from my wardrobe, I quite like the peacock blue cardigan and pants (two slightly different versions), the dark aqua cardigan, and the aqua ankle pants. I am iffy on the bright teal skirt that is more on the green side of Blue-Green. And I don't like the dusky teal skirt because it looks too dark and muted for the aqua in the top.

Accent color not in the print - Analogous colors - Blues


I had pegged this aqua as more Blue than Green, so various blue colors seemed like a good next option in the analogous color section. I was pleasantly surprised to really like the light sky blue with the top; I think the white sections of the print come across a bit like a very lightened sky blue so it works well. I wondered how the two bright blue colors would work, and I don't hate them but I'm also not a big fan of them. They seem overpowering for the top. I also have various soft blues in my closet, represented on this image by the cardigan at the bottom left, and I didn't like any of them at all here. They are all too greyed out and muted for the aqua.

Accent color not in the print - Analogous colors - Greens


For our last analogous colors, we have the Greens that are just a bit further away on the color wheel but are still possibilities to be considered. My pure green ankle pants and emerald green cardigan were the best options I found in my closet, though still iffy. I rejected all my other green colors, such as a dark green-olive, a bright yellow green, a soft green-teal, and a pale seafoam mint green.

Accent color not in the print - Complementary colors - Red-Orange to Orange


For an aqua in the Blue-Green to Blue area of the color wheel, Red-Orange and Orange colors are the complementary colors on the opposite side. I had four different colors to experiment with here, of which three worked well to my eye: rust pants, salmon-coral ankle pants, and bright coral pleated skirt. The softer sandstone coral isn't bad, but due to its muted quality, it isn't quite right with the bright colors and vivid geometric print of the top.

Accent color not in the print - Triadic colors - Red-Violet to Red & Yellow-Orange to Yellow


The triadic combination splits the color wheel in thirds and picks up the Red-Violet/Red and Yellow-Orange/Yellow colors to go with the Blue-Green/Blue. The stand-out option from my closet was the bright red ankle pants. I have always liked the aqua/red/white color combo, but I had never even considered these two pieces together...I had always started with solid pieces when working that combo. I am surprised to discover that the burgundy skirt has some potential with the top. I'm not fully sold on it, but it could work. I found the wine pants too dark and the light yellow top cardigan muted to work well with the top.

Accent color not in the print - Wild cards - Pink


Having exhausted the major color wheel combos, it's time to look at what colors we haven't tried yet. Now arguably I could have looked at shades of pink under the triadic combinations because pink is a tint of red (i.e., red + white = pink). In any event, I like a lot of the pink colors with aqua...pretty much any of the pinks that have a brightness to them, like the cool bright pink crochet cardigan, the warmer-toned bright pink 3/4 sleeve cardigan, and the salmon pink skirt. I also liked the light pink ankle pants. The more muted watermelon pink cardigan and skirt are iffy to my eye, and the dusky rose cardigan is definitely too muted.

Accent color not in the print - Wild cards - Purple


I don't own a lot of purple items, so I had only 3 of them to test out with the top. My violet ankle pants...which are between Violet and Red-Violet on the color wheel, actually...make for a very interesting combination with the aqua print top, and I think I like it. I am definitely not fond of the light purple cardigan or the darker purple knit skirt.

Now we can move away from accent colors to neutrals to experiment with neutral colors not found in the print. I liked the dark and pale greys (to me this makes sense because black/white/grey work well) and the chambray/denim (which pretty much go with everything). I didn't care for beige, navy, or brown.

The last aspect of the color recipe to consider is a print mix...and you know I am a fan of them! I started with prints in some combination of black, white, and grey, and these all worked very well. The tipped blazer is a tiny black and white check that looks like a textured grey, the pants are a grey herringbone with black, the cardigan is white with a black chevron print, and the skirt has wavy vertical lines.

Next I tried several colorful prints that contain aqua. The aqua tweed skirt has a subtle textured look that looks great with the print top. Surprisingly, the teal/aqua floral skirt didn't look too bad! It's definitely a bold combination, but it has potential. I think the tightly matched color palette (the aqua, black, and white colors of the top are all present in the skirt, which only contains a lime green not in the top) and the sparse print of the skirt make these two pieces work fairly well. The prints on the lower row didn't coordinate with the top in my opinion. The aqua/green jacket has too busy a print that competes with the bold geometric print of the top. Ditto for the geometric print skirt, which also has a less closely matched color palette. And the large-scale floral skirt with the top is just visually overwhelming in color and print.

To review, here are the colors from my closet I thought worked with the aqua print top. The accent colors are mostly bright ones in shades of warm blue (blue with a bit of green in them; blue-ish blue-greens), warm red, warm and cool pink, and purple. The neutrals are black, white, and grey (i.e., black + white). The prints are simple ones in shades of aqua or combinations of black, white, and grey. I have expanded my color options with this top from the original 3 in the print to 19 colors plus 5 print mix items! Wow, I'm really surprised by how many new colors I found in this process!

Here are the colors I was less sure about: true blues and green-ish blue-greens (close but no cigar with the blue-ish blue-green), dusky pinks (more muted than the top), and a sparse but bold floral print. If I ever exhaust the possibilities above (haha, I doubt it!), I do have these to consider.

And here are the colors I rejected. The accent colors tend to be dark, soft/muted, and/or warm in undertone and hence clash with the bright, vivid, cool-undertone top. The neutrals are those that do not consist of a blend of the black and white neutrals in the print. The prints are too vivid, geometric, and/or colorful and thus compete with the print in the top.

I deem this experiment a big success!


Do you have a print item that you could put through the color recipe to identify new coordinating color options? Do you use the color wheel to select color combinations? Do you have a favorite color wheel combo?


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