Sophisticated Palette: Tone-on-Tone Dressing

There is no more elegant and expensive looking way to dress than in apparel and accessories in compositions of tone-on-tone dressing, particularly when the chosen hues are among the most sophisticated in any wardrobe. The hues of which I speak are camel and grey, complex colors often used as neutrals but subtly stunning all on their own. These colors figure prominently in fashion this season. Along with variations of taupe and burnt sienna, black and brown, these hues correspond to natural hair colors. Chosen with consideration for one’s own personal coloring, these hues can be beautifully flattering.

Illustration: The June/July 2010 issue of Harper’s Bazaar calls camel and gray “the season’s standout colors” and states that these two “status colors ushered in a cool modernity.”

One factor to consider in dressing in these colors is whether one’s personal coloring is warm (with yellow  or peach undertones), cool (with pink or blue undertones) or a combination. Camel, the “It” color of the season, is a warm color, and will look best on someone who has warm skin tones and hair with blonde or red tones. Yellow gold, a warm metal is the ideal accompaniment to camel. Yellow gemstones, such as canary diamonds, yellow sapphires, citrines and yellow topaz as well as amber, yellow jade, tiger’s eye and cat’s eye stones, are beautiful accompaniments to camel and extend the tone-on-tone effect.

Illustration: A “how-to” on wearing the color camel, from the September 2010 issue of Harper’s Bazaar. The gold pendant necklace shown if from Verdura.

Illustration: Examples of camel-colored options under $100, including a leather cuff from Bryna Nicole and resin beaded necklaces from R. J. Graziano, from the September 2010 issue of More magazine.

Burnt sienna is the redheaded version of camel, and it also takes beautifully to warmer metals and gemstones, as seen in this fashion spread from the August 2010 issue of Marie Claire:

Illustration: Marie Claire declares that “burnt sienna and camel return as the power couple of color.” The bracelet is from Mango, the earrings from Monet  and the watch from Burberry. Notice that the watch combines white metal with warmer off-white and brown hues; notice that this fashion spread includes grey sweaters and incorporates their cooler hues into the mix.  

Illustration: From the June/July 2010 issue of Harper’s Bazaar,  an ensemble from Chloe in burnt sienna.

Rose gold is a stunning option to wear with ensembles of burnt sienna.

Grey is trickier, as it typically is more complex than merely a combination of black and white. Not only can grey vary from what is essentially a pastel to a dark hue that is almost black; in addition grey often is rendered in a heathered or patterned fabric; and some versions of grey have a distinctly blue (cool) hue, whereas other versions of grey have a more greenish (somewhat warmer) tint. See for instance, the difference in hues between the (warmer hued) Alexander Wang slacks and the (cooler hued) Chloe ensemble below:

Illustration: Shades of grey combined with black and shown with a Baume & Mercier watch in the June/July 2010 issue of Harper’s Bazaar.

White metals are the obvious choice of accompaniment for grey, but yellow gold can also be an interesting choice, particularly when the wearer has a mix of warm and cool colors in her personal coloring, such as blonde or red hair and blue eyes. When grey is combined with warm colors, such as the leopard print popular this season, yellow gold brings out the intensity of the print.

Don’t overlook blackened metals and black and grey gemstones, so popular on the red carpets this year, for a fresh variation on tone-on-tone dressing with shades of grey.

Illustration:  “how-to” on wearing the color gray, from the September 2010 issue of Harper’s Bazaar. The watch shown is from Cartier; the yellow gold necklaces are from Marco Bicego. Notice also the necklaces shown with the Dolce & Gabbana runway look to the right.

The easiest way to achieve a tone-on-tone look is to secure the entire ensemble from one designer. Thus, an ad for the designer Chloe in the September 13, 2010 issue of New York magazine is an exquisite combination of a heathered taupe sweater, subtly patterned pants and a snakeskin handbag, all in related hues:

Illustration: Another example of a head-to-toe designer look in camel, this one, which includes a ring, from Gucci.

However, the options in camel and grey this season are seemingly endless. For a taste of some of the many other options, here is a delightful montage from the August 23, 2010 issue of New York magazine:

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