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Layering for Comfort and Style: Combine Neutral and Bright Colors for a Coordinated Look

By Aldene Fredenburg

Whether you're putting together a business wardrobe or a collection of casual attire for your own personal activities, it's important to present a coordinated look.

A lot of women joke that their husbands need Garanimals, a popular line of kids' clothing that has tags attached with pictures of various animals. Match the animals, and you have a coordinated outfit.

It's a funny concept, but unnecessary; you don't need Garanimals to be able to put together a sensible wardrobe. Coordinating an outfit isn't that hard if you stick to a couple principles: choose most of your outfit from neutrals, and add a spot of bright color if you wish with a dress shirt, pullover jersey, or turtleneck; and try to keep warm colors with warm, cool colors with cool.

In business attire, you can keep to neutral colors like tan, brown, black, navy blue, and gray for a suit or blazer and matching pants, and add a dress shirt, jersey, or turtleneck in traditional white or a brighter color - anything from green to pink to peach. If you're going for brighter colors, wear just one, not several, at a time.

For more casual attire, adding a bit of color to a neutral palette still works. A pair of khaki or deep brown cargo pants and a coordinating neutral safari jacket will be set off well by a light orange or deep olive pullover.

Try to ascertain whether your clothing components are a warm or cool color, and match warm to warm, cool to cool. Traditionally, reds, yellows, and oranges are considered warm colors, while greens, blues and violets are cool; but there's variety within each color. Greens can contain more or less yellow in them, which can give the green a warmer or cooler cast; reds can contain a blue cast, which makes them cool, or contain more orange or yellow, which makes them warm.

Believe it or not, supposed neutrals like off white, tan, and brown can be warm or cool. A muted maroon big shirt, which is a cool color, should be paired with a cool neutral pair of pants like a sandstone; a peach colored shirt, either bright or pastel, should be coordinated with a warmer neutral, like a warm tan.

More dramatic colors are popular these days for men's clothing; olive for instance, in either light or dark hues, is a favorite. If you want something this dramatic, in a safari jacket, for instance, choose neutrals in a pullover or turtleneck to coordinate.

Follow these two simple rules for every piece of your wardrobe, from pants and shirt to vests and outerwear, to provide a comfortable, attractively coordinated and versatile outfit. If you dress in layers, you can adjust to fluctuations in temperature and environment by adding or removing layers, and look great in the process! If you require special sizing, there are companies that deal exclusively with those hard to find sizes.

About The Author
Aldene Fredenburg is a freelance writer living in southwestern New Hampshire and frequently contributes to Tips and Topics. She has published numerous articles in local and regional publications on a wide range of topics, including business, education, the arts, and local events. Her feature articles include an interview with independent documentary filmmaker Ken Burns and a feature on prisoners at the New Hampshire State Prison in Concord. She may be reached at

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