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Outfit Ideas: Softer Alternatives to Navy for Spring and Early Summer

Navy is probably my favorite neutral, and it's my dominant neutral in high summer (with olive/moss/sage and white supporting it). I like it in all its incarnations: true navy, bright navy, dark navy, light name it.

Navy garments

But for some reason, every spring I find myself reaching for alternative blues that have a softer, more muted look...ironically, colors that are more in line with the "Summer" palette in seasonal color analysis. Something about the cool, greyed, muted tones of these blue colors feels right with the rather cool weather and muted grey skies of Minnesota in spring, and I continue wearing them into early summer as well.

The easiest soft alternative to navy is blue denim. It comes in so many different varieties: colors as dark as the darkest navy to as light as the palest blue-white, washes with a deep rich saturation of color to very faded/whiskered versions. Denim's lighter weight and less rugged counterpart, chambray, is another great option, particularly in warm spring weather. And I like how easy it is to combine denim/chambray with literally any other color, making it the ultimate neutral.

Denim & chambray garments

A less common but also wonderful alternative is a lovely greyed blue that can be worn as an accent color but also as a semi-neutral/colored neutral with or in place of navy. I stumbled upon a great example of this type of blue by accident in July 2020 when I was online shopping a sale at Christopher & Banks (plus size brand CJ Banks). They call this blue-grey "storied indigo" but I call it "soft indigo" because it's more descriptive to me.

Soft indigo garments

Here are some of my OOTD that incorporate blue denim/chambray and/or soft indigo as softer alternatives to (or supplements to) navy for the April-May season.

My first outfit is based on light pink ankle pants and a navy floral knit top...colorful ankle pants and navy-based prints are both on my "feels more me" list, so I'm off to a good start! I could easily have topped this outfit with a color from the print or a denim/chambray jacket, but I decided to try this soft indigo knit jacket that is great for the spring-summer transition because it's lightweight (t-shirt weight) and the sleeves are easy to roll up. The indigo color doesn't match anything in the outfit, but I think it's a nice coordinating color!

Plus size outfit idea for women over 40
Outfit #1: 4/18/23

For once I went pretty simple with my accessories, wearing a single long gold/pink peacock pendant necklace. I thought that the necklines of the top and the jacket were kind of complicated together and sticking to a long necklace prevented adding more confusion to that area.

Plus size outfit idea for women over 40

My bracelet stack is based on a new DIY paper bracelet set that I created in the soft indigo/pink/silver color palette that I like to wear (I know I'll wear this set again soon, and I'll share the paper-to-page details when I do). I added the pink bracelet with the rabbit charm that I made for Easter and that has already become a favorite of mine. I finished the stack with the pink bracelet's gold-accented sister bracelet (made from the same pink beads) and a mixed metal bracelet to coordinate the stack a bit with the gold-tone necklace.

Plus size outfit idea for women over 40

I also debuted a new pair of the world's easiest DIY hoop earrings in which I added gold and silver round beads to pre-made hoops. I only had one pair of mixed metal earrings prior to this so I'm glad to have added another one to my collection. I love to wear mixed metal pieces and find them a great way to make the mixed metal look more intentional.

Plus size outfit idea for women over 40

I got some print mixing in this outfit by wearing my olive leopard ballet flats that pick up on the soft greens in the floral print top. I don't typically mix black and navy in my outfits (although it is 100% OK to do so!) but animal print shoes are an exception. I think that having black in classic animal prints (especially big cat prints) is so normal and unexpected that at some level the animal prints don't read as "black as a specific color in the outfit" to me when seen in such small amounts as in shoes. I think I just process it as "animal print = neutral" not "a print with black," if that makes sense!

Plus size outfit idea for women over 40

My second outfit combines two of the softer alternatives to navy: soft indigo in the top and dark blue denim in the jeans. This makes for a nice tonal column of color...not a strictly matching column but one that looks coordinated while being a bit more interesting than wearing a single color. I think a tonal column can be a great option when wearing just a top + bottom (without a topper piece) as in this outfit.

Plus size outfit idea for women over 40
Outfit #2: 4/15/23

I chose this scarf because the soft, light blue in the scarf is harmonious with the soft indigo top while adding more overall color to the look with the purple, pink, and coral accents against the white background. This scarf is a good example of a "blended" print as Imogen Lamport recently discussed in her post on choosing patterns with the right value contrast (first video).

Plus size outfit idea for women over 40

My daily bracelet stack is based on a DIY paper bead bracelet set that I made to wear with a different floral scarf in a similar colorway (page-to-bead example post here). I just added the starry sky navy/white paper bead bracelet to bring in a darker shade of blue as a nod to the dark denim jeans.

Plus size outfit idea for women over 40

Another day, another pair of ballet flats...this time, plum purple Target brand flats that I thrifted for $5.24 and have worn 29 times for a cost per wear (CPW) of $0.18!

Plus size outfit idea for women over 40

My third outfit (from the cooler spring weather in early April) is another variant on the tonal column of color theme with the same jeans and a heavier soft indigo top. But the change in accessories gives this combination a totally different look! I wore a warmer, heavier, darker print scarf with navy floral Keds. My bracelet stack was a lot of fun to put together from a variety of DIY pieces (and the bottom navy/silver bracelet I purchased) in colors that echoed the scarf and with a mix of metals. This is the debut wear of the very dark navy paper bead bracelet with the gold edging and bright gold flower spacers. This is one of the paper bead neutral + metal "individual supplemental bracelets" I have been making lately that are not parts of a specific paper bead bracelet set...instead I use them to complete my stacks (as explained in this post). The top navy + silver paper bead bracelet is another of these individual supplemental bracelets, and it was fun to wear them together in this stack.

Plus size outfit idea for women over 40
Outfit #3: 4/2/23

As a demonstration that the softer alternatives to navy crop up in my outfits every spring, I have four more OOTD from 2022 and 2021 to share as well!

Outfit #4 is also based on the inner column color formula with the soft indigo top from Outfit #2 and its coordinating soft indigo pants for a more traditional column of color. I topped it with a mint floral cardigan that I bought a few months later than the top and bottom but from the same collection from Christopher & Banks. It has a hint of the soft indigo in the print so is very easy to mix and match with those pieces. The necklace and earrings pick up the peacock blue in the cardigan (and yes, they were also bought from the same store). I completed the look with pewter snakeskin loafers and a bracelet stack based on a DIY paper bead set I made specifically to wear with this cardigan. So this is a highly coordinated outfit even by my standards!

Plus size outfit idea for women over 40
Outfit #4: 5/12/22

Outfit #5 also features the soft indigo pants as a wonderful softer alternative to the navy in an outfit with an overall colorful but muted look. It works well with the bottom blue stripe in the sweatshirt and the lighter muted blues of the snakeskin print scarf and flats...a rare instance of me wearing two "matching" animal prints in one outfit. But I like how this scarf and flats work together (a Pleasing Pairing)!

Plus size outfit idea for women over 40
Outfit #5: 5/5/22

Outfit #6 features another matching column: the same soft indigo pants with the heavier soft indigo top from Outfit #3. This color takes on yet another aspect when worn with the "icy" looking scarf and bracelet stack and navy loafers. This is a much more subtle color combination that is very fitting for winter-spring transition in Minnesota. I also declare this my pre-cog outfit for the upcoming Style Imitating Art challenge of "Breton Woman" as recently revealed by Salazar: muted blues + grey color scheme, stripes, hair pulled back...done and done.

Plus size outfit idea for women over 40
Outfit #6: 4/21/22

Outfit #7 also has a low-contrast combination of muted blues with the medium blue denim jeans, soft indigo vest, and top with soft indigo flowers on a soft blue background (vest and top also from Christopher & Banks). I wore the same scarf + flats as in Outfit #5 and a bracelet stack very similar to that in Outfit #6...because it is not only perfectly OK to repeat aspects of outfits (or entire outfits) that you like - it's actually a really smart strategy!

Plus size outfit idea for women over 40
Outfit #7: 4/16/21

Do you like any of the softer alternatives to navy...alone or in addition to a form of navy itself? Are there any colors you gravitate towards at this time of year? Do you like tonal/blended looks or do you prefer color combinations with more contrast?

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