Color Theory at Work

Dress: Banana Republic Factory sz 00P (old)
Blazer: H&M; sz 2   Bag: LV Speedy 25
Necklace: Amrita Singh Nello (use mom11 for 50% off – Thanks Alyssa!)

Nude Pumps: Louboutin Simple 100s sz 35 (recently ordered version)

As temps warm up, I’m happy to chuck black tights (so limiting!) in exchange for vibrant colors.

If you work in a professional environment, you can still join in on the color fun. Some simple tips I follow to keep work outfits vibrant, versus loud:

– When wearing large blocks of color, it’s safer to do neighboring/analogous colors (blue with green, red with orange) instead of complimentary/opposite colors (blue with orange, red with green, purple with yellow). Neighboring colors appear harmonious together, whereas complimentary colors make each other look bolder – better reserved for casual wear.


– If you have a lot of the same color in your closet, try a monochromatic look. I love layering pieces of different shades or textures, but in the same general color (ie. three blues).

– Use neutrals (or black, if you must) to keep colorful outfits from going over the top. Nude pumps are the bomb. I’m in love with these Louboutins, but they’re not for everyday wear for a simple gal like myself. I’m hoping the nude pumps ordered in this post will fill that void.

For color inspirations, I like Wendy’s color blocking video, Anh’s bright pencil pairing, and the fab entries in Kileen’s Color Brigade.

I haven’t worn this dress in a year, but it’s deeply imprinted in my memory that this is the best-right-off-the-rack-fitting dress I own. I remember it fitting like a spectacular glove. Upon re-discovering it last week, I was shocked by the ill fit and childish silhouette. Either my body morphed over the past year, or my fit standards have completely changed.

BlueGreen5_dressfit copy

To save this dress, I looked for a fitted blazer with a deep V-neckline to conceal the babydoll silhouette and help redefine my waist. This H&M; jacket works nicely, but wearing a fitted cardigan in Kelly’s X-shape will also do.

Readers – have you been breaking out bright colors for work? Or sticking with safe black and gray?
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  1. grace wrote:

    Your photographer is getting more and more talented with each day – Nick should think about starting his own photography business. The contrast of the dress against the pink flowers works wonders.

    That color is absolutely gorgeous on you Jean even though it is ill fitting. Love the simplicity of your blog makeover and the new font (or size?) For your link headers. Will have to use your blog as a bit of guidance 🙂

    Love all the great color tips. Luckily, I can be a walking faux pas at my work place:-) if I boo boo on colors or looks.

    Posted 5.4.11 Reply
  2. i love the simplicity of the dress. u look elegant.

    Posted 5.4.11 Reply
  3. love that dress on you. Although I do like black/gray colors for work, I do love brining out the bright colors for spring/summer.

    Posted 5.4.11 Reply
  4. Anonymous wrote:

    Do you think you could do a "workout/how to keep fit" blog post? I'm a naturally petite Asian just like you, but your body is sooo toned and I'd love to know how you keep in shape!

    Posted 5.4.11 Reply
  5. Ida wrote:

    That first picture is beautiful! Are you ever going to get that dress tailored? It's such a great color on you.

    Posted 5.3.11 Reply
  6. Ying wrote:

    You got the evergreen! (I voiced my vote on Twitter.) I love it!

    Posted 5.3.11 Reply
  7. I am Khatu wrote:

    I'm go glad you went to the green! love these set of photos, was this when we were a block from each other?

    P.S. what lens do you use? my pictures don't come out like that…

    Posted 5.3.11 Reply
  8. Lils wrote:

    I love this outfit. It is so chic and perfect for work. Your blog is so awesome and helped me so much as I transition to more conservative work wear ( yet still maintain the fashion forwardness!)

    Posted 5.2.11 Reply
  9. Great outfit Jean! The turquoise color is stunning on you and looks great with the green necklace. I've been stuck in a rut lately with neutral colors and tend to go for navy, grey, black, white etc. instead of brights. Bright colors are fun though and are a great update.

    Posted 5.2.11 Reply
  10. hey jean, whatcha diggin for there in the bag?

    I love these natural poses.

    man, I love that red&pink; outfit from Anh.

    Posted 5.2.11 Reply
  11. Anonymous wrote:

    I honestly have noticed since a few months back that you have lost quite a bit of weight (especially the shape of your arms), but I'm a bit surprised that you just take notice of it now. I thought you knew all along 🙂

    Anyway, I like the look of your new website. Keep up w/ the good work.

    Posted 5.2.11 Reply
  12. Anonymous wrote:

    hey, Jean

    could you tell me the tailor you use to alter you clothes, specially for coats and blazers in boston


    Posted 5.2.11 Reply
  13. Anonymous wrote:

    Steve Madden has some great nude pumps! I just ordered UNITYY ($90) in blush patent. I stand at 5'3.5 (yes, I hold onto every little bit of inch I've got!) and 100 pounds. Pumps with 3.5 inches or less make my feet look bigger and not the least bit attractive. However, these pumps are 4 inches – which is perfect! For the braver souls they also have ULTAMIT ($100) – the name says it all.

    Posted 5.2.11 Reply
  14. Ping wrote:

    jean – what a beautiful look. i love that color on you. thanks for sharing about the color theory. i'll definitely refer back to this page when i want to wear something bold. hope you had a nice weekend!

    Posted 5.2.11 Reply
  15. Sunshine wrote:

    oh gosh these photos are so gorgeous! the first one definitely resembles an AT ad 🙂 thanks for sharing about neighboring colors…i never thought about that before. i always try to keep one bright piece + one muted piece so it doesn't look like i'm screaming "look at me!!!" lol. the best color blocking i see so far is definitely Anh in that red skirt + hot pink blouse. so fun and elegant!

    Posted 5.2.11 Reply
  16. haha yes as Jessy said we have the same blazer! That colour looks stunning on you and you made it work even though the fit isn't perfect.

    Posted 5.2.11 Reply
  17. Jackie wrote:

    I own a lot of black…I'd LOVE to do more color blocking though…

    THAT color, specifically =D

    Posted 5.2.11 Reply
  18. I loved!

    Posted 5.2.11 Reply
  19. isea wrote:

    i adore those shoes! thanks for this post–i'd been wondering what shoes to pair with brightly hued dresses. 🙂

    Posted 5.2.11 Reply
  20. Quest for wrote:

    I work in the legal field and although I recently wore bright colors (green and pink) to work, I felt like it called too much attention to me. I may give your suggestion of trying out analogous colors a try, though!

    Posted 5.2.11 Reply
  21. NikkiSho wrote:

    Loves it! Everything from H to T

    Posted 5.2.11 Reply
  22. Anonymous wrote:

    love the photography and new layout!!

    Posted 5.2.11 Reply
  23. I love your dress gorgeous color 🙂

    Posted 5.2.11 Reply
  24. Anonymous wrote:

    Great color tips. I've been pairing these color combos but I didn't realize the formula.
    I really recommend colors for work. They really make a simple outfit very unique. Last week, I paired a green top with a navy blue pencil skirt. I wore a white v-neck cardigan with short sleeves and black peep-toe low-heeled pumps. I thought I looked smashing! I'm still working on the jewelry part of my outfits – not quite there yet. My idea of jewelry is a watch.

    Posted 5.2.11 Reply
  25. Thu wrote:

    As soon as spring came, I moved on as much as possible to brighter colors. I usually don't like spring/summer where I am because it always feels like two seasons only (winter or summer). But since following your blog, I feel more safe to try brighter colors, like turquoise in jewelry to add color to my work outfit. Can't dress up much, but from I learn from you, I tweak for work so that it's still casual, but much more interesting than what I normally wear. Love your blog!:) Don't know how I ever did without…

    Posted 5.2.11 Reply
  26. Susanne wrote:

    The color combination is great! Thank you for the tips.

    BTW love your blog:>

    Posted 5.2.11 Reply
  27. very bright and vibrant but still professional =] Love this outfit on you!

    Posted 5.2.11 Reply
  28. Rinny wrote:

    Beautiful photos Jean! I love the color of the dress on you. I'm surprised that the dress is as roomy as it is on you, because it looks like it fits you pretty well in the first photo 🙂

    Posted 5.2.11 Reply
  29. This was a really interesting post for me, especially as an artist. I started playing around with incorporating color theory into outfits, taking inspiration from the Josef Albers 'Homage to the Square' series. You can find some of the paintings here:;=J_1. Albers is arguably the father of modern color theory so he was the perfect person to look to for color ideas.

    I made a few outfits in Polyvore using the paintings are starting points – I would have done an outfit post like this but I'm short one camera so they'll have to wait.

    I love the combination of greens, grays, and blues here. I think Albers would approve too!

    Posted 5.2.11 Reply
  30. Michelle wrote:

    Gorgeous! I love the blazer with this…and the necklace! So pretty!

    I am so excited to wear dresses and skirts again without tights!! Just found a LOFT sheath dress on big sale for $25 that I want to wear this week!

    And I love the angle of the last photo!! So neat!

    Posted 5.2.11 Reply
  31. b_ra wrote:

    The colour of the dress looks amazing on you! I always find that Asians pull off bright colours really well. The tips that you provided are so helpful!

    p.s. your new layout is so simple yet so nice!

    Posted 5.2.11 Reply
  32. J wrote:

    Stunning outfit! Wish I can pull off that look, but unfortunately, most people at my school wear the usual grey and black, so I'm not comfortable in pulling off bright colors except at home or at parties.

    Posted 5.2.11 Reply
  33. Olyvia wrote:

    I love this post! I actually have never heard of the color-wheel, especially to use as a guide for pairing colors in clothing. I have been just wearing colors randomly and hoping it looks okay. (But I do have lots of blacks, blues, cream, and khaki's so luckily I'm on the safe side of colors). I watched the Wendy video you posted too, and I'm excited now! gonna go try some colors based on the wheel to see if they make a difference. Thanks!!!

    Posted 5.2.11 Reply
  34. Yuni wrote:

    Awesome post! That blazer's fit is perfection and the last picture of you, your legs look miles long! Is that jacket altered?

    Posted 5.1.11 Reply
  35. Lovely background Jean! The green AS necklace looks gorgeous on u! Good choice:)

    I'm trying to incorporate more color into my wardrobe too and ur tips are very helpful!!

    Thx for ur comment on my AT suit and skirt..I really appreciate it! I have to say Jean- u r really the reason I dress better so thank u!!!:)

    Posted 5.1.11 Reply
  36. Anonymous wrote:

    Hey Gurl!
    I have to say I loved your older webpage look – it looked so personalized and unique.

    I hope I can bother you with a few questions. I can not believe how great your hair always looks, I am starting to transition from student to working professional and need some advice on hair styling – unfortunately I am one of those asians with frizzy wavy hair that rarely behaves! Is your hair naturally straight?

    Also, I adore the pumps you wear, and though my commute to work may not be more than a 15 minute walk, I can not imagine doing so in heels. See, I have been a lab rat for the most part and lived in flats or sneakers and have the pleasure of having wide feet! I tried Ann Taylor pumps, but 5 minutes into walking in them, my feet give up on me! Any advice?

    Lastly, (but not least) I am a big fan of urs! Thanks for all the great information your blog packs!

    Posted 5.1.11 Reply
  37. Claud wrote:

    Jean, you are looking gorgeous! If you can share the style number of the H&M; jacket, I love it. And of course those nude pumps CL are stunning ^^

    Posted 5.1.11 Reply
  38. Jen wrote:

    The color of the dress suits you very well, very striking!

    Posted 5.1.11 Reply
  39. I love color theory! Analogous colors are my favorite…especially with accessories like belts and jewelry. It's makes an outfit look so sleek & put together. Great layout makeover btw! It's very clean looking!

    Posted 5.1.11 Reply
  40. Jean, that first photo is stunningly beautiful! It reminds me of those gorgeous Ann Taylor ads featuring Katie Holmes. I've definitely been incorporating more color ever since seeing Kileen's combos and now that she has the Color Brigade, I like to participate on a semi-regular basis.

    Thanks for breaking out the color wheel – I'm a very visual learner and this was very helpful!

    Posted 5.1.11 Reply
  41. Cee wrote:

    Gorgeous photos, Jean! I like your use of neighboring colors for your outfit set against complimentary colors for the background (I'm putting my new vocab to good use already :P)

    May I make a suggestion for the photo with text? I don't know what editing software you use, but have you played around with effects in Photoshop? I think the black text would stand out more with a soft glow/white border against a darker background. For soft glow, right click on the text layer, click "effect" and choose "soft glow". I think for a white border, render the text layer (right click layer, render), then go to Edit -> Stroke -> 1px outside border.

    PS – Love this clean but yet professional layout. Simplicity at its best!

    Posted 5.1.11 Reply
  42. R.L. wrote:

    The emerald Nello looks gorgeous against your blue sheath dress. Jean, you really have developed a knack for incorporating vibrant pieces while still looking stylish and professional! And I must say those CL pumps are worth their price tag. They're truly nude and the pops of red from the heel are so pretty.

    P.S. I like the new layout, but I must admit I will miss your banner 🙂

    Posted 5.1.11 Reply
  43. I like your hair clipped back like this! And great use of colours. Very inspiring for someone like me. : ) You look so tall in the left photo!! For some reason, I don't like how high the waist is on that dress. :S

    P.S. nice blazer ; ) Elaine & I have the same one! haha

    Posted 5.1.11 Reply
  44. The shoes are perfect!

    Posted 5.1.11 Reply
  45. great colors!

    you always look so unbelievably polished! thanx for sharing 🙂


    Posted 5.1.11 Reply
  46. kileen wrote:

    those CL 100s are perfect and i'm really glad to see that you ended up going with those. and i like how you paired the blue with the green. great idea on pairing neighboring colors together — i'll definitely have to try that out!

    oh, and thanks for the color brigade shout-out! 🙂

    Posted 5.1.11 Reply
  47. Mindy♥ wrote:

    Ahh I absolutely love this post! You girls are inspiring me so much to branch out into the world of colors! <3

    Posted 5.1.11 Reply
  48. I am trying to wear more colors. This post is very helpful, Jean. Pairing complementary colors is something I found lacking in my daily wear. I will keep this color chart in mind. I love these outdoor photos. So pretty! Thanks for sharing the tips.

    Posted 5.1.11 Reply
  49. I just love your tips!Tks!


    Posted 5.1.11 Reply
  50. DSK Steph wrote:

    I do love those 100's!

    Posted 5.1.11 Reply

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