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How to Mix Neutrals for Great Fall Outfits

October 12, 2021

Hello ladies! I just returned home late last night from a whirlwind trip to Georgia. We celebrated my nephew’s wedding on Sunday. But we also just had some special times with family (and perhaps future family!!!) this weekend. It was a fast trip, and James and I took the scenic route home yesterday through the Smokie Mountains. So today I’m dragging a bit from the travel and also just the emotional highs I’ve been riding the past few days. Oh, and then there’s the increased sugar intake! Ha! Anyhow, that’s why I’m a bit late getting today’s post up. Thanks for your patience.

We took these photos a couple of weeks ago when we were having some true fall temperatures. And I can’t wait for those cooler temps to return, hopefully this weekend. I’ve styled an elevated casual fall outfit with a mixture of neutrals.

Early Fall Outfit with Mixed Neutrals

My jeans and t-shirt are both black. I’ve accented this otherwise black pairing with deep cognac brown accessories and then I lightened the look up a bit with some prints and a creamy beige jacket. I love the way these mixed neutrals work together to create an elevated but easy outfit for fall.

I actually get a lot of questions about mixed neutrals. I also receive a lot of queries about how to choose your belt color. So I thought I’d simply address those questions in today’s post.

Early Fall Outfit with Mixed Neutrals
soft black ankle jeans // cognac mules (or at Paul Green with code DRESSED15 for 15% off your order) // cognac brown belt // cotton twill field jacket // black twist neck tee (50% off) // reversible tote bag // earrings // bracelet // watch with brown leather strap (use code KAYHRMS for 15% off your purchase) // sunglasses

Neutrals are, well, neutral. So you really can mix them endlessly. I received a rather sharp comment on my recent video about the Fall Capsule Wardrobe for Travel from a viewer who felt like I’d committed a major faux pas by combining my dark brown shirt with black travel pants and leggings. I beg to differ. Black and brown are beautiful together – rich, deep, intense and perfectly acceptable. These mixed neutrals create texture and depth in an outfit.

Black Jeans for Fall

And knowing how to combine neutrals effectively can actually save you a lot of money in the long run. You don’t have to have a pair of shoes in every neutral shade in order to have a high functioning and beautiful wardrobe. For instance, yes, you can wear brown loafers or mules with black jeans. And you can even wear black pumps with your navy pants. You just need to know the secret that makes mixed neutrals work.

Mixing Neutrals Effectively

That secret? Just make sure you include at least two splashes of the neutral you’re using in your accessories in your outfit. That’s it. This is not brain surgery; just good style. So you’ll notice I’m wearing both a black top and black jeans. I also have a little black in my shoulder bag. Then I’m wearing a deep cognac brown belt and mules (or here at Nordstrom). For additional fortification, I wore my brown leather strap on my watch (use code KAYHRMS for 15% off your purchase).

Mixing Neutrals for Fall

Note, I’ve created a column of black with my top and jeans. (Yes, a black belt would have made that column smoother, but I was more concerned about mixing neutrals here.) So you really could pull off this combination of black and brown with a dress, too. You don’t have to wear two pieces of clothing in the first neutral. It’s those accessories that work best in multiples.

If I’d worn all black and a black belt, but then added the brown shoes, the outfit might have looked a little off. But it still wouldn’t be wrong. It wouldn’t have looked quite as cohesive, but there are no hard fast rules about mixing neutrals. But since I’ve worn similar (but not exactly the same) tones of brown in my belt and footwear, the outfit really comes together and my choices look a little more intentional.

Mixing Neutrals for Fall

Remember, intentionality is one of those little clues that triggers the brain to think, “oh so chic!” When we make intentional style choices it looks like we’ve put thought and effort into our appearance. Thus, we look “pulled together.”

But I’ve also added a soft tannish beige jacket to this otherwise dark outfit. Here’s the thing. Maybe the only jacket you have in your wardrobe that fits the bill for this day is a tan, beige jacket. You don’t want to let that keep you from wearing your black jeans and tee if you want to. Right? So what do you do? You add another splash of that light neutral to your outfit.

Mixing Neutrals and Patterns for Fall

I added a little of that softer neutral in my shoulder bag. But I also wore a silk scarf with a good bit of the same lighter neutral. And because I chose to wear both the print silk scarf and the leopard print side of my reversible tote, I’ve made another style choice that creates interest and texture to this otherwise plain outfit. Mixing prints is still very on trend and it adds depth in an outfit.

The key? Make sure one of those prints is a classic that really reads like a solid, such as animal print, plaid, polka dots or stripes.

Mixing Neutrals and Prints for Fall

So don’t be afraid to mix things up a bit this fall. Combining neutrals such as black and brown, black and navy, brown and camel, even camel and grey can look rich and deep and oh so chic. And mixing prints can add interest and texture to your outfits. Let me know how you wear mixed neutrals.

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Blessed for My Day

We can be women who perpetuate disharmony and strife in our churches and families, or we can be instruments of unity and grace. Almost every day we have the opportunity to help others get along graciously or sow seeds of discord. Which will you choose today? Will you encourage others to forgive, give grace, seek common ground and search for the truth? Or will you be party to gossip, let false accusations go unchecked, listen to complaints and listen to slander without checking the facts?

Oh, and let’s not assume that there is some middle, neutral ground. When we choose to just “stay out of” the conflicts around us, we actually give credence to those who are stirring up the strife. God’s Word instructs us to “help” others get along, to point them to Jesus and to draw the opposing parties to common ground where they can restore the unity that only Christ can keep.

I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord. Yes, I ask you also, true companion, help these women, who have labored side by side with me in the gospel together with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life. ~ Philippians 4:2-3

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xoxo, Kay
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32 thoughts on “How to Mix Neutrals for Great Fall Outfits

  1. So glad you had a fun weekend with family.
    I love the fall look and especially mixing solids. I always feeling I have to have a print in the mix, but this look is fabulous!

      1. Kay, It sounds like the weekend was wonderful! I’m so glad that you and James took the scenic route home to enjoy more of Gods beautiful creation. While I have not perfected mixing neutrals like you did in this great outfit, I love the look. This post has definitely given me inspiration!

  2. I am totally “falling” for this look, Kay! It’s all so pretty and looks just great on you! Thanks for highlighting this today, and I so agree the intentional mix of neutrals is crazy chic!
    Glad you had a lovely trip too:)

  3. I enjoy mixing neutrals and your outfit is good-looking. It all works, but what pulls it all together is the scarf. I have many from years of collecting; however, I love the one you modeled. But oh my goodness…so expensive!

  4. Hi Kay!
    I enjoyed your post today. I like mixing neutrals. To me, it keeps an outfit from looking boring. I loved seeing how you styled black and brown. My closet has a lot of blacks and browns, so I just need to put them together in a fashionable way. Thank you for all you do. You are an inspiration to me each day! Always love BFMYD also!

  5. I love this tutorial. One of the reasons I have left Color Theory dressing is it’s over harmonious. Outfits are so much more interesting when they combine warm and cool. I got tired of being told that everything had to be in my color palette and my bags and shoes had to match my hair. With my gray hair I was beginning to feel like a column of gray which was making me sad rather than excited about my clothes and accessories. This will probably mean a complete overhaul of my wardrobe but I look forward to relearning how to mix and match things like I did before Color Me Beautiful came along and dictated my choices. I have truly been following lots of blogs lately and realize that women who are not dressing in their “color palette” look amazing no matter what. Like a red head in pink. There will always be some colors that will compete with your personal coloring but I think there are less than others would have you believe. Too bad I waited til I was 68 to figure this out. Ahh the insecurities of trying to dress well. Thanks for always taking a balanced view of dressing. Just one question. With my rather large tummy can I still tuck in and wear a contrasting belt? Maybe with a third piece like a vest or sweater? When I only had the sway back, larger derrière, and a flat tummy, I always tucked in. Now with both those things plaguing me I am at a loss as to what to do. Thanks for your amazing style and especially your Christian fellowship.

    1. This is such a good comment. I got away from the color theory too, because so many I was led to believe didn’t suit me actually do. I got compliments on some colors not in “my pallette” and that was when I realized it should not be a hard and fast rule! You live long enough (I’m your age) and you get a feel for what looks good!

    2. Hi Bobbie. I completely agree with you about being able to look great in a variety of colors and tones, regardless of our own coloring. I’m aware that I look better in some colors than others, but life is too short to worry about that religiously. I love feeling free to wear the colors I love. As far as belting with a large or protruding tummy, it sounds like you already know the limitations there. Yes, wearing a jacket or cardigan over the belted ensemble is definitely the way to create the best silhouette. And since we’re in fall, now is that time to do just that. Thanks for your comments. I appreciate you gracious ladies so much.

  6. Thank you for your formula on how to mix neutrals effectively!
    I think we can all get so much more use out of the neutral items in our wardrobe without having to worry about everything matching. Your illustrations are great!

  7. Another great post – thanks so much. Question: I’m 5’ 9.5” so Talbot tops, sweaters, jackets, etc are too short in overall length and especially sleeve length. Are you aware of a Talbot-like or Chico-like stores that offer tall sizes for tops, jackets, etc.? (Pants are no problem). Thanks,

    1. Hmm. You must have a longer torso and arms if the pants are not a problem, but the tops are. I really don’t have a retailer to recommend, but I do suggest you look for what may be more of a tunic length top and see if those would work for you. These days so many of the sweaters and tops and even jackets are coming out in long lengths, so I think you should be able to make some of those work for you. I have rather long arms myself and often have to roll up the sleeves a bit on most of the jackets and blouses I’m finding. I’m sorry I don’t have much else to suggest. I’ll keep an eye out for something and think on it a bit.

  8. Love this post and would love to see you style the other neutral combos, as well. I epecially think gray and camel would be beautiful. The BFMD message spoke to me today ❤️ Thank you

  9. I live mixing brown and black. Warm colors suit me best but the practicality of wearing black led me to mix the two. Your tips are right on. Love your looks always. . I laughing call my brown/ black outfits “brack” when describing them.

  10. I’m so sorry for a sharp comment concerning your guide with combining neutrals. Thank you for your sweet spirit – that is what draws me to you and your posts. You’re beautiful inside and out!

  11. Thankyou so much for the info on mixing neutrals! Would you consider another post with more examples in other colors you mentioned? Always love your posts! ?

  12. Such a classic look Kay… adding that scarf it sets the outfit to a bit more on the dressier side!

    Glad y’all made it home safe and take it easy today.


  13. So glad you had a wonderful trip and enjoyed the scenery on the way back. Smoky mountains are wonderful! I know the wedding was probably a beautiful time. I know it’s hard to catch up after you’ve been traveling for a while and so much going on. Get some rest.
    I wear a brown and black together. I think it looks rich . You really pulled it
    off with leopard tote. Pulled the brown and black .
    Yes we have to be careful about causing strife in the church, or in the family. We must remember to forgive The people that have hurt us just as Jesus forgives us. Have a blessed day.

  14. I like brown, maybe because my favorite color palette is autumn colors. However, I always feel like the darker colors of brown get a bad rap, and I also like to mix a rich brown with black. So I’m glad you chose to highlight them in this blog post.

  15. By Jove, I think I’ve got it! I do wear black and brown. The browns out there this year are just so pretty. It needs the lighter color I think? The leopard bag, scarf and beige jacket kick the brown/black look up a notch. The gold buckles help too too brighten.
    So glad you took time off to have a life. All work and no play…..can put you in the hospital.

  16. Kay, Brown and black goes together now as well as navy and black!! I felt you really explained well how to use neutrals in a outfit by repeating twice!!

  17. What a great outfit you showed today! I went immediately to my closet and pulled out everything you had in this post except for the scarf (I have a darker scarf with white, tan, black, and burgundy that might work). The one change I made was I used a cognac bag and animal print flats. Can’t wait to wear this new outfit!

  18. Hi Kay,
    I whole heartedly agree with you on mixing neutrals. I have worn black shoes with my navy blue suit for years to work. As well I have worn, a Chestnut brown suit with a black turtleneck and got many compliments with black shoes and black handbag.
    Thank you! ?

  19. This was SO helpful. I really need this kind of instruction. I would try on so many things and I could find a cohesive outfit, but I wouldn’t know why. Since I have been following you, I am getting a better understanding. This information will help me not to waste time and energy. Also, it helps to know when you can wear shoes that don’t match the pants or outfit!

  20. Love the outfit today! I like the way you mixed the neutrals. Thank you for the Blessed for My Day, too. A great reminder for me as I encounter folks and difficult situations.

  21. Kay, thanks for the enlightening info. I have the Talbots solid navy dress with print collar and cuffs, and I want to wear navy booties with it. Would black tights be the best? I’m not good at this. Love your blog!

    1. Hi Marcia. I’d probably wear navy tights with that combination. It will help you create a more cohesive look and they should be easy enough to find.

  22. Thank you for another ‘top-notch’ post! I am learning so much from your blog and I especially loved this post today. I like how you encourage us to look in our closets and see what we have that might work to replicate your examples. I’ve also chosen a color palette (neutrals/fun color pop) for my wardrobe- from a post/series you did awhile back, and it has definitely become easier to style outfits that feel like me. Thank you again!