Style Panel: How can you combine brights without looking like a clown?

For our second installment of Style Panel, we flipped our experts another common challenge: How to tackle brights without looking like you’ve been doused in Skittles. For as wide-sweeping as brights (as well as colour blocking with brights) has become over the last few seasons, it’s a wonder that many of us still struggle to break out of the plain Jane black, white and grey. So, without further ado, let’s see what the ladies of style come up with:

Question 2: The question: How can you combine brights without looking like a clown? Read the answers now! »


Got a question for the gals? Send ‘em through to [email protected] and watch as your most irritating styling problems are solved.

Photography by Lewis Mirrett

As someone who leans towards blacks and neutrals as wardrobe basics, wearing head-to-toe brights is a little daunting. An easy way to tone this trend down is to stick with pieces in the same colour family, as opposed to sporting contrasting primaries. I paired a red-orange skirt and clutch with a bright pink sweater, so as to avoid looking too much like a pack of Skittles (not that there’s anything wrong with that). Anchor your brights with neutral accessories and outerwear that you’re comfortable with. I chose black leather, black leather and more black leather, as per usual.

Niki Blasina, 26
Vancouver | A Haute Mess

In head-to-toe florals, I’ll admit: I may look like a rainbow. But let me explain, because “though this be madness, there is method in it.” (And quoting Hamlet is only making me seem worse.) I wore this outfit at Fashion Week in New York in February, so you know, you can amp up the crazy a little bit in said circumstances. But when we’re trying to still look like Muggles and wear colour, there’s a lot to be said for doing it with prints. I find that when a colourful outfit looks too Roy G Biv, it’s a case of colour-blocking gone too far.

Back to prints: these pants, for example, are a great on-trend alternative to your basic black or grey jeans: throw on a neutral-coloured blouse or tee and boom! The same goes for the blazer—the matching pants could easily be traded in for your classic jeans, or better yet, a nice bright blue or coral pair.

The great thing about prints is that they usually include a neutral base, like the black in the floral print I’m wearing. Aside from wearing these pieces separately as described, even prints worn together can never look too rainbow-y when there’s a neutral breaking up all the brights. That being said, you’ve kind of gotten used to the obnoxious pantsuit, haven’t you?

Vickie Laliotis, 28
Edmonton | Adventures in Fashion

Nothing says “Check out my bad self” quite like some serious colour blocking, especially when it’s done well. And by well, I mean fearlessly. Never before has it been so acceptable to pair unconventional colour combos (pink and red, anyone?), so why not go for gold with some colour-packing separates. Just be sure to keep your accessories neutral and all the colours coordinated, and you’ll be ready to paint the town red—or, well, any series of colours —in no time. Byebye boring, hellooo gorgeous!

Vickie’s wearing: Dress, blazer and necklace, Forever 21. Clutch, vintage Yves Saint Laurent. Pumps, Zara. Belt, thrifted.

Photography by Steven Lee/Silhouetted Skyline/

Gracie Carroll, 24
Toronto | Gracie Carroll

When it comes to colour and my wardrobe, I tend to have a bit of a split personality. On some days, I wear nothing but black, white and grey. On other days, I’m a head-to-toe mash up of bright colours and loud prints. It really depends on how I’m feeling, but when most balanced, I come up with an outfit like this—a perfect dose of both sides. Introducing colour and print to your wardrobe can be tricky, but I think the key to doing so is pairing them with a neutral. If you find leather pants equally scary, you could easily substitute for a pair of jeans, shorts or a skirt in the fabric of your choice. Remember to keep your “standout item” to one piece, complement it with the next and accent with the rest (a.k.a. accessories).

Gracie’s wearing: Floral-print blouse, Leilanni. Leather pants, GAP. Neon shoes, Marc by Marc Jacobs. Ring, Yves Saint Laurent.

Amy Nelson, 19
Calgary | Amy Flying a Kite

I’ve always had a fascination with bright colors; they remind me of tropical plants and summer vacations.  Yellow, fiery red and sky blue always boost my mood. Especially when those colors are found in dresses and shoes. I think it’s a shame more people don’t experiment with the beauty of bright shades. They can really liven up your outfit, taking you from plain to striking with just a switch of colour.

When I wear brights, I try to keep the rest of my outfit neutral or matching. The vintage robe I’m wearing has little yellow flowers that match the shade of my platforms. I think this balances out the boldness of colour, helping to keep each garment in harmony with one another. The black vintage dress and black tights calm the outfit, so I don’t look too much like a clown. The platforms are from Lulu’s.

If you want to experiment with bright hues, wear one bright-coloured item, whether it’s pants, a jacket or shoes, and keep the rest of your outfit black or neutral. Even if you’re too shy to wear bright garments, a little brooch or accessory that’s bright in colour attached to your bosom or shoulder can really add life to your outfit.

Lolitta Dandoy, 32
Montreal | Fashion Is Everywhere

The only thing you have to worry about is not looking like a rainbow. For that, you have to choose colours that blend well together and wear a piece that’s going to create a link between them. Like this jacket which includes a little bit of my peach top and turquoise pants.

Another thing to keep in mind when you are wearing a statement piece like this jacket is to keep the rest simple. My cropped pant may be bold, but the cut is classic. Same thing for the top, keep it simple. Summer is here. Have fun, wear brights!

Lolitta’s wearing: Jacket, H&M. Top and pants, Le Château. Necklace, Betsey Johnson. Pumps, Miu Miu.

More Style