Inspirationail’s Colour School – What to Wear With Brown

By Inspirationail

Inspirationail's Colour SchoolWelcome to the brown week of Team Inspirationail’s Colour School, if you haven’t already be sure to check out lessons on the basics, warm & cool hues, tints, shades & tones and colour combos. We’ve already covered red, pink, yellow, green, grey, black & white and this week we are looking at the best colours to match with beautiful brown.

An Educated Guess

Although we are going to lump brown into the neutrals category, it isn’t actually a neutral. If you mix the colour wheel together you get brown, in theory it is the combination of all colours. This makes it incredibly versatile, but brown does have its limitations and it’s important know how to wear it well.

Even though brown is essentially neutral, and fairly easy to match, we can show you which colours to avoid wearing.

Becoming Brown

Brown isn’t a colour for everyone, some prefer it to black because it is softer against pale skin. However the colour has a sort of 60’s and 70’s typecast that it has had trouble overcoming. Team Inspirationail thinks brown is a hip as black as long as you know how you use it.

Inspirationail's Colour School

Skin Tone Matters

Brown is a more neutral tone, but that doesn’t mean you can overdo it, or you can end up looking like a hippie…or a bear. Lighter skinned divas should stick to sheer browns and those with warm golden undertones. Darker skinned lovelies have a little more variety to choose from but should avoid matching their own skin tones and super sheers which may make skin look ashy.

Neutral Brown

For those of us who wear it, brown pieces are a staple in our closets. Whether it’s our platform boots, the comfiest pair of chords or our fave vintage leather jacket, we like the retro feel it provides. That said, too much retro should be avoided in one outfit, and we generally avoid brown on nails as it can be difficult to pull off. Here we’ll use our trusty colour wheel to help us discover the best (& worst) colours to pair with basic brown.

Inspirationail's Colour School

Primary Colours

Primary colours are red, yellow and blue and they are the most basic of colours. These are all bold colours, but that doesn’t make them a bad match. We actually like bold colours against brown, just avoid going too creamy. Try bright berry reds, warm canary yellows or soft sparkling blues.

Secondary Colours

Secondary colours are created by mixing different combinations of the primary colours. Red & blue make purple, red & yellow make orange and blue & yellow make green. Not quite as high contrast as the primary colours, the secondary colours are both easier and harder to match with brown. Try deep, royal purple, bold terra cotta oranges and sparkling grass green.

Tertiary Colours

Tertiary colours are created by combining the three primary and three secondary colours, and there is six of them in total. Reddish-orange, yellowish-orange, yellowish-green, greenish-blue, blueish-purple and purplish-red (pink). As the colours dilute one another they become less bold and easier to match. The tertiaries are good choices for pairing with most shades of brown. We’ll spare you the entire list and pick colour combo highlights. Try sheer apricot, rich burgundy or deep, Atlantic blue.

Inspirationail's Colour School

Team Inspirationail’s Picks

We like using our colour wheel to help find combinations we’d never have come up with. However, we’ve also been known to utilize our keen fashion sense to keep our style from becoming stale. For brown we always like understated metallics, creamy pinks and deep, velvety purples.

Your Two Cents

In the end, you have to make the decision…you are the one wearing the brown. We’ve given you a few new ideas (and a few tried & true ones). Please leave us your brown-matching faves in the comments below, we’d love to hear them! And, stay tuned because we have more fun planned next week with a lesson dedicated to matching your beige.


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