Pops of color, color blocking, and tonal dressing use color as the method to creating outfit madness!
Like my tendency to go off the rails with embellishment, there are a lot of reminding “notes to self“ when I want to wear a color story. I need to mind when to stop. Colors in juicy citrus, autumnal hues, or unusual combinations bring me joy. Overblowing and overloading flowers, plaids, texture, graphics makes me want to squeal. Maximalism, the practice of piling it on in whatever form, is the spirit of houses like Chanel, Dries Van Noten, Gucci, and Etro.
This transitional month of March has me obsessed with using color to dip my toe in the water of spring. Last week we published two posts on the warming effect of pastels. I thought the logical progression would be a story about mixing a novel color combination. Greenery is the 2017 Pantone Color of the Year, and green in all its iterations is one of my very favorite colors. So I thought this would be an organic, flowing story that would practically write itself. Not so!
I take inspiration from masterful color combinations that are everywhere. Nature is one of the greatest teachers of how to use green. Gardens, forests and landscapes show us it works with everything. Recently, at the Met I found inspiration in paintings that caught my eye. A couple weekends ago at the DIFFA Dining by Design Show, at Pier 92 in Manhattan, I had green on my mind as I was taken in by some of the most glorious tablescapes!
Sidebar, but of real importance, is the mission of DIFFA: raising funds for HIV/AIDS prevention, education and direct care. The Design Industries Foundation Fighting AIDS raises $800,000 annually. This year the marquee event was held in conjunction with the Architectural Digest Design Show.
Sidebar 2: The dining room design that stole the show turned out to be a collaboration by a new friend of mine. Gloria and I met about a year ago at a book signing of one of our favorite bloggers, Garance Doré. The event was held at a space I love to find myself in–the Fifth Avenue Club Monaco, which is combined with a quaint book store and a cozy coffee shop.
I know…can you even? Gloria and I found each other quite readily, because we were a couple of plums among a field of saplings. Know what I mean? We bonded instantly, and had lunch two weeks later at Buvette, in the West Village. Fraught with charm, it was an inviting place to get to know each other.
Sidebar 3: For the past year, like an intentioned apprentice, Gloria has undertaken a focused exploration of her innate spirit of creativity. Her Instagram account @gloriabcollins, displays her progression. Her main gig is as a florist who uses locally grown flowers, relying on what is on hand. It seems to yield more unique arrangements, often having to rely on shape, white space, and tones of dutch masters’ still lifes to make her statement.
So, back to green and Gloria’s table. This awesome vision of metallics, earthy neutrals, reflection, fantasy and texture took me to using these elements in Shades of Green Collage 1.
The Language Department @languagedepartment had the vision; Bette Blau, of @whatbettefound, and Gloria, of GBC Flower Style, designed and created this stunner. Design Within Reach sponsored the Dining By Design space. More Photos on Gloria’s Instagram: @gloriabcollins
Inspiration finds me when I’m in the moment and centered on my surroundings. A vegetable stand at the Union Square Greenmarket, and pillows at ABC Carpet and Home stirred a romantic color combination around these great satin, olive green sandals in Collage 2.
Last summer I visited Chicago, where my sons had internships, and my aunt and cousin’s family live. These fairytale window boxes outside a boutique, were a matching visual to the cool morning that had given us a break from the oppressive heat. This was when I first thought about the uncommon combining of green and lilac in clothing. Outside my building in New York, the cabbages were another reminder. And the electric, neon-backed strings of pearl succulents at DIFFA looked modern. In Collage 3, the incredible palm-leafed mules envisioned as only Charlotte Olympia could, were the jumping off point for this new medley of color.
Charlotte Olympia Verdant Slipper @ Moda Operandi . Current/Elliott The Slit Midi Denim Skirt @ Anthropologie . Topshop Disconnected Hem Sweater @ Nordstrom . Ted Baker London Ebanie Entangled Enchantment Skinny Scarf @ Nordstrom .
So, at last we circle back around to the surprise difficulty in styling a different color story–especially for a print and color-wearer like me. Using a print to pull out an accessory of green is easy, but can look matchy-matchy. Using a scarf to pull everything together works well, but I wanted to go further. Like in Collage 3, the elements work and look fresh even if you take away the scarf. That was what I was going for. But the ultimate challenge was in using all different colors that had no uniting cause. In truth, it turned out that they do. My favorite DIFFA table influenced the accompanying colors I used for the Shades of Green Collage 1. To the eye it looked right, but I couldn’t define why. I thought it was because it was grounded in neutrals, and then I used a light and dark range of two similar colors. But after a bit of research, I now think the science behind it is that they are all tones of color. Tones are pure colors that are greyed down.
As much as I love color, I find it difficult to figure out the rules. When brilliant designers like Prada use weird combinations, I don’t get it. What I do get is green; one of the first signs of spring, it is life, and energy. Try it in a different scheme this spring and renew your wardrobe. Look at your environment with an eye toward combinations of color that are pleasing to you. Copy it, wear it.
Cover Image: Photo taken at ABC Carpet & Home
Photos and Collages: Dawn Bell Solich