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Spring Outfit Idea: Denim + Light Neutral + Bright Accent Color

In my designing a DIY bracelet set starting with a scarf post, I shared this planned spring outfit with a denim top, green pants, and a cream vest (plus the inspiration scarf and the featured bracelet set).

Last week I wore this outfit for my OOTD, and it was just right for a somewhat cool WFH spring day. I call this a "denim top" but it's not actually made from denim; it's a knit top with a smooth texture that has that is a shade of denim-like blue that makes it coordinate in my wardrobe as thought it were a denim top, so I use "denim top" for its name.

OOTD 4/28/22

The cardigan vest was an online purchase that arrived in a size smaller than I'd ordered, but it fit OK so I didn't exchange it. Originally one side crossed over the other in the front and was secured with a toggle; once it no longer fit that way, I removed the toggle and loop so I could continue wearing it as an open vest.

Here's how the Green/Gold DIY bracelet set looks on (and with the scarf in the background).

I enjoyed this outfit quite a bit, and I thought the color combination with medium, light, and bright colors was a really nice one for spring....when we're coming out of the typically overall dark color palette of winter, but not yet in the typically overall light color palette of summer. The denim color grounds the look, the light neutral adds freshness, and the accent color brings in that exuberant brightness of spring flowers in bloom. I think this color formula could be worn over and over again with different pieces in different combinations all spring long.


Let's take a look at the various options we have in combining a light neutral piece, a denim/chambray piece, and a bright accent color piece using the basic top + bottom + 3rd piece outfit formula. Now if you live in a warm climate (I spent most of my life in the south, so I feel your pain, friends), you may think that it's already too warm in May to wear a 3rd piece like a jacket or cardigan. That's fair! For the purposes of this formula, let's define "3rd piece" broadly enough to include not only topper pieces but substantial accessories too...a scarf, a statement necklace, a headband, a hat, a pair of shoes, sunglasses, statement earrings...anything along those lines will work here!


Spring Outfit Idea Version #1: Light neutral top + Bright accent 3rd piece + Denim/chambray bottom


This is one that probably everyone could create from their closet right now. That most simple base outfit, a white T + blue jeans, gets you 2/3 of the way there. Then it's just a matter of throwing on something bright into the outfit. Too warm for jeans? A denim skirt, denim capris, denim shorts, chambray linen pants...feel free to use whatever bottom piece you like that has that neutral denim-y color to it.

Here's an example of this formula from my OOTD collection. For a pre-epidemic office outfit, I took a pair of work trousers in a chambray-like blue and a white T-shirt as my base, then added the cerulean blue t-shirt knit cardigan as the bright 3rd piece. I finished the outfit with a coordinating bright pink plaid scarf for extra punch and leopard print flats for a subtle print mix.


Spring Outfit Idea Version #2: Light neutral top + Denim/chambray 3rd piece + Bright accent bottom


If you've spent any time on this blog, you probably have heard me talk up colored pants as a super-fun style choice! Colored skirts are right up there, too, of course, and I know that's an option that more women feel comfortable with. Either way, balancing a colorful bottom piece with a neutral top + topper is a great way to go. If a bright solid color like red or teal isn't your cup of tea, a more muted shade will also work here.

For this OOTD, I went very standard with a plain white T, button up denim shirt worn as a jacket, and bright coral/orange pants. I accessorized it with orange ballet flats to match the pants and a whimsical owl pendant that has a mix of many bright colors along with the pewter metal.


Spring Outfit Idea Version #3: Bright accent top + Light neutral 3rd piece + Denim/chambray bottom


I think this is probably the easiest way to wear this formula because most everyone feels comfortable wearing blue jeans with an accent colored top. The light neutral 3rd piece infuses that basic pairing with extra interest and a warm season vibe. Some people are leery of wearing a white/beige/light grey/etc. cardigan or jacket over a darker top, but I think this is a terrific combination over a bright top (your accent color top is probably more in the light-to-medium range of value as opposed to the dark value of black, navy, charcoal, etc.). But as I said, a light neutral accessory is also fair game here.

I have a couple of OOTD to show you using this version of the formula. In this one, a chambray skirt is worn with a bright mint tank with lace detailing and topped by a simple white cardigan. I finished this office outfit with a pearl necklace and nude wedges to balance the more boho style top and to keep the outfit in the middle of the business casual category (as it functions in my workplace).

This casual Friday outfit uses a dark wash denim pencil skirt, a bright pink striped knit top, and white open weave cardigan vest to create the color formula. (If putting a white topper over a bright top doesn't feel right to you, you could experiment with a bright-and-white print top instead. This is pretty much guaranteed to feel harmonious due to the repeat of the white color.) The accessories here are bright and fun with a casual, summery vibe.


Spring Outfit Idea Version #4: Bright accent top + Denim/chambray 3rd piece + Light neutral bottom


Lovers of white and/or beige pants, this one will be easy for you to do! I think a denim jacket with light neutral pants looks really great. (I find that beige khaki pants + bright top can look a little bit "Target employee uniform" for my taste, but the denim really shuts off that association for me.)

I love this white textured skirt that I just added to the My Scarf 2022 capsule wardrobe in April. This is a very typical warm weather white skirt outfit for me with the bright baby blue-and-white striped tank top and denim shirt worn as a jacket. The owl pendant makes another appearance here, and this time I wore shoes that matched my top. (And yes, the white pearl buttons on the denim shirt do coordinate nicely with the white skirt; that's one of those little details I do enjoy!)


Spring Outfit Idea Version #5: Denim/chambray top + Bright accent 3rd piece + Light neutral bottom


Here's another fun one for Team Light Bottoms that gives those colorful toppers and/or accessories a chance to shine!

Confession: I don't think I have worn this version of the formula! At least I haven't photographed an OOTD with it, and at this point, that practically amounts to the same thing. I love the yellow-green cardigan and white skirt idea, of course; the chambray shirt would be a nice change from the navy rabbit blouse I often wear with those two pieces, and it would make it easy to add a fun print scarf or shoes to the look. And yes, even though I'm not into beige pants in general, the beige skimmers (i.e., below the knee shorts) are from my own closet! I really like the long-sleeved denim shirt...styled with sleeves rolled up...and bright pink scarf option I laid out. I could see wearing this with the bright pink ballet flats shown under version #3, white pearl earrings, and a colorful DIY bracelet stack.


Spring Outfit Idea Version #6: Denim/chambray top + Light neutral 3rd piece + Bright accent bottom


Our last iteration of this spring color formula brings us back into my home territory with the colorful pants/skirts. A denim shirt just looks so great with bright bottoms! For people looking for an alternative to wearing a white top with their colorful bottoms every time (I know, it's a go-to for good reason, but it can get a little boring/predictable over time and sometimes you want to do something different), denim can be much better than the black top that is often the default #2 option...especially for those of us that find black near the face not our best look...and especially in spring, when black can look heavy.

I have two versions of this formula to share from my OOTD. This first one...oh man, I miss that light grey short-sleeved cardigan! (A thrifted Target piece which doesn't fit me anymore and has been donated.) I could definitely do this outfit again with a white, beige, or cream/ivory cardigan, but I did like having the light grey option. Grey is somewhat less expected with coral/orange but looks great. My current stock of light grey items is woefully small, and when I find myself back in a clothing shopping mode, light grey (or a light grey taupe) is something I want to replenish. Anyway, remember, your light neutral doesn't have to be white!

In this outfit, I'm wearing the same "denim top" that isn't really denim as in the recent outfit with the green pants. Instead of a light neutral topper piece (which the temperature that day didn't warrant), I have ivory flats for my light neutral as well as a scarf with a light grey background. (I think I'm not quite so pale that the ivory is simply a nude-to-me shoe, but I admit, it's kind of close to that.)

I seriously could wear variants of this spring outfit combination all season long...and well into summer! There's no reason it wouldn't work in summer just as well. You would just make sure you lightened up the pieces appropriately for the heat...more chambray than denim, sleeveless and short sleeves rather than long, skirts and shorts instead of long pants, accessories instead of topper pieces, etc.


I think a spring/summer wardrobe capsule consisting of a base of denim/chambray, white, and another light neutral like beige/tan or light grey, with bright accent pieces to pop against them, would be a lot of fun to put together and wear!


Does the denim/chambray + light neutral + bright accent color formula appeal to you? Do you have a favorite of the 6 versions? Do you have a favorite light neutral and/or bright accent color?


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