Color In Nature; Nature Knows How To Dress

Why is it that when we look at certain man-made color combinations, either in fashion, product design, or advertising, we can definitely say those colors work or don’t work well. Yet in looking at nature have you ever noted that some color combination seemed off? Not likely.

When we look at a landscape all the colors flow beautifully one into the other. Even the flamboyant coloring of birds seems to work. Nature’s coloring is always in sync, matched, and flows effortlessly.   But mankind needs lots of help when we pull out the crayons.

So why don’t we look more to nature for help when picking out color combinations.

With a few notable exceptions, most of nature’s colors are muted. This natural and subtle muting is the presence of other colors within the generic color that you are looking at. Because muting a color introduces greater variety within a color, it also increases the combination of colors with which it can be matched.

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If you look out upon a landscape in the middle of summer you see a lot of green.  Blue and yellow make green.  So, generally speaking, a green can be matched with either a blue or yellow because they share the same color bloodline.


Additionally, by carefully looking into the green you can find blue/greens, yellow/greens, and even red/greens (rusty greens).  And these greens can be warner or cooler. It is best to match warm with warm and cool with cool. So, the warmer yellow/green sweater below is a better match for the warm yellow skirt.

The muted colors of nature are more complex.  They are a symphony compared to a melody. By carefully observing the color of an object, you can deduce its component parts. This allows for broader color choices in matching outfits.

To review, nature always dresses well. And most color variations found in nature are muted color combinations. Learning how nature creates these color variations allows us to better understand matching man-made items, such as clothing. Learning the mix of the color in clothing, deconstructing the color, will allow you to match clothing items in a natural way.

Adding Color To Your Wardrobe

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Adding Color to Your Wardrobe.

Ask someone with the instinct to put together a stunning outfit why those colors work and they might answer, ‘they just look good together’.  Even when we’re successful, we may not know enough to explain why it works.Mannequins_04-25-12 For most people matching different colored items is hit or miss. Store mannequins, catalogues, and some sharp dressers can show you what a matched outfit looks like.  But it is hard to translate that experience into knowledge of how you can put an outfit together on your own. That is a shame because color theory for fashion can be easily taught and learned. There are some basic concepts that can be easily changed into logical guidelines and rules (see Color Theory 101).



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Like everything worth learning it requires some practice, but it is really not that hard.  You can learn enough on your own to make a huge difference in how you buy and how you wear clothes. dark-green-tea-and-tulips-dress-yellow-tea-and-tulips-blouse_400 2   In an earlier blog I introduced the metaphor of a color bloodline to explain why certain colors match.   For instance, a shared color bloodline explains why green goes well with yellow.  Parent yellow and parent blue make offspring green.  The shared color bloodline makes the parent and offspring a natural match.       Red and yellow make orange.  Since orange is the offspring it will match well with either the red or yellow. NanetteRunway-7There are many other factors to consider when matching colors like warm and cool colors, complementary colors, color intensity, ratio of one color to another, texture,  etc.   Whether you can match colors by instinct or by mimicking what you see it’s all good. But when you understanding why the colors in the outfit work you will have the added confidence to create and explore new combinations in your wardrobe.  And knowing how the color was created will give you the big picture of what you need to know.

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