How to Wear a Monochromatic Outfit

What Does Monochromatic Mean - Natalie Yerger

Lately I‘ve been loving picking a color and sticking with it—in other words, monochromatic outfits! There’s something completely captivating about wearing a look that’s tone on tone.

As I’ve been experimenting with monochromatic style, the main thing I’ve learned is that it takes trial and error. There are thousands of hues for every color, and not all are complementary. But when a monochromatic look is just right, it feels so polished!

Since monochrome style is fresh on my mind, I thought it’d be fun to do a deep dive. Keep reading to learn what monochromatic is, tips on how to wear monochrome, and a few monochromatic outfit ideas.

What Is Monochromatic?

In fashion, monochromatic means dressing in a single color (“mono” means single and “chromatic” means color). It can involve the same exact color head to toe, but it can also consist of different shades from the same color family.

Take red, for example. If you add white, the red lightens progressively to a soft pastel (salmon pink). If you add black, you get saturated tones (cherry) and dark tones (crimson). When you combine various shades of one color, you’ve got a monochromatic outfit.

monochrome outfit
what is monochrome

Tips for Putting Together Monochrome Outfits

Monochromatic looks take a bit of practice. Keep it fun and give yourself permission to experiment!

Here are 4 tips to keep in mind when styling monochrome outfits.

1. Use Subtle Variations in Tone

The key to executing a wearable monochromatic look is to not get fixated on having matching shades of the same color. Rather, pair tones from the same color family that complement one another.

Think tone on tone, not matchy matchy.

You can absolutely wear a single shade like I did here, but playing with the spectrum will break up the harshness of the same color head to toe. It also eliminates the need for you to find an exact color match when you’re dealing with separates.

For example, you might start with a marigold yellow blouse and then incorporate other yellows with subtle tone variations, such as canary yellow or goldenrod.

2. Include Contrasts in Fabric

Monochromatic outfits encourage the eyes to travel vertically (this is a good thing—it creates an illusion of length). Since you’ve got that long line going, you’ll want to give the eyes places to rest.

Texture is my favorite way to do this. A monochrome look with contrasting fabrics (think silky shorts paired with a boucle top) is way more dynamic than, say, silk on silk. Explore wool, lace, matte crepe, cashmere. There are so many options!

3. Start with Something You Love

You can technically create a monochrome look with neutrals like black, brown, and gray, but starting with one piece in a bright color will build your styling muscles a little faster.

For a fun exercise, pull out every clothing item you have in one color and lay them out on your bed. Start combining pieces into outfits and see what looks good together.

If you find you have gaps, Banana Republic, Mango, Ann Taylor, and H&M have great budget-conscious colorful pieces.

4. Incorporate a Print

Don’t feel limited to solids! As long as the print has an obvious main color in its color scheme it can work. You could even include a printed piece as your accent, like a blue print scarf over a blue monochrome look.

monochrome outfit
monochrome fashion

Monochromatic Outfit Ideas

In the widgets below I put together a few combinations to try!

Are Monochromatic Outfits in Style?

Monochrome is more trendy now than it has been in the past decade thanks to the reemergence of matching sets and coords. But I’d say monochrome never went out of style. The Queen of England has been wearing monochromatic outfits for years and Michelle Obama wore monochrome at an inauguration. I say go for it!

monochromatic clothing
monochromatic look
monochrome style
monochromatic blue outfit