Fashion & Beauty

The Case for Color Blocking

October 8, 2019

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LEFT TO RIGHT: Taraji P. Henson in Vera Wang and Susan Kelechi Watson in Badgley Mischka couture at the Primetime Emmy Awards, September 22, 2019, in Los Angeles. / Photos by Kathy Hutchins, Shutterstock.

I MISSED the Emmys awards a few weeks ago, but eagle-eyed Managing Editor Nancy McKeon noticed that color-blocked gowns were dominating the red carpet. Especially red and pink ones. Mandy Moore and Susan Kelechi Watson of “This Is Us” wore long dresses with feminine, billowy satin sleeves; “Empire star” Taraji Henson charmed in chiffon with a flowing cape; Marisa Tomei’s ruched frock paired shocking pink with red, while Zoe Kazan’s black gown was wrapped up in a huge pink-and-red bow.

What stars wear at the Emmys in September frequently forecasts the trends we’re likely to see six months from now. So, no surprise that the Spring 2020 collections showed designers mixing blues with crimsons, purples with pinks and tangerines with yellows. But style divas aren’t waiting to show off their color savvy.  Impeccably dressed, human rights lawyer Amal Clooney was recently spotted wearing a striped yellow, black and beige trench coat over a purple sweater dress. Famous for her fashion edge, actor Sarah Jessica Parker was at the New York City Ballet gala swathed in a Zac Posen custom fuchsia silk taffeta gown and mismatched (one yellow, one pink) satin slingbacks from her SJP shoe line.

This color story—where primary hues clash/contrast in a single item—dates back to the 1960s, when Yves Saint Laurent, inspired by the Dutch painter, designed his now-memorable Mondrian dress (see below). So, while it may be nothing new, we see color blocking as a refreshing way to update a wardrobe heading into a season so often filled with black-on-black.

—Janet Kelly


LEFT: Yves Saint Laurent’s famous color-blocked dress, inspired by painter Piet Mondrian. Photo courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. RIGHT: Blocks of burgundy, pink and rust contrast in The Great’s wool-and-alpaca blend Striped Lodge Cardigan ($325). A layer-friendly option to snuggle up in all season long.


LEFT: We love that Moncler’s Pleated Satin Midi Skirt ($640) with contrasting red and rose hues has a sporty drawstring waistband, ideal for swishing colorfully and comfortably around. RIGHT: Rothy’s shoes get high approval ratings for fit and easy care (they’re washable). Maybe it’s a stretch to call this Triple Stitch Tangerine pointed-toe flat ($145) a color-blocked shoe; nevertheless, we’re charmed by the navy, orange and black-striped block on the heel.



LEFT: A combination of oatmeal and black makes both shades look more appealing on this Mock Neck Color Block Sweater ($99) from & Other Stories. Plus, note the slimming effect around the arms and torso.  RIGHT: The same is true for Athleta’s Transit Color Block Turtleneck ($98), which, in addition to teal and black (above), comes in burgundy and black and light gray and charcoal gray. Bonus points for the bum coverage.


LEFT: If you prefer not to wear fur or leather, think Stockholm-based Stand Studio’s Haley Colorblock Faux Shearling Coat ($445, Nordstrom). You’ll look striking in this roomy coat with burgundy faux fur outlining shiny patent faux leather, not to mention how much you’ll be reducing your carbon footprint. RIGHT: Constructed from red, yellow, black and taupe blocks of smooth leather, this Small Drawstring Leather Bag ($620, Moda Operandi, Nordstrom) from Copenhagen’s playful Ganni label pairs a soft silhouette with a tortoise shell-patterned loop top handle.


LEFT: A pop of beigey pink at the cuffs of Madewell’s merino wool, easy-to-wear Colorblock Sweater Dress ($128, Nordstrom) lightens the look, which would make me want to wear it on repeat. RIGHT: Contrasting raglan sleeves and front-patch pockets, plus a collar and back belt in plaid, gives personality to the basic raincoat. Mijeong Park’s Color Block Single Breasted Trench is $320 at Need Supply.


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