Fashion & Beauty

Complements to Gray

Tops that go with gray. From left to right, a V-neck sweater from Massimo Dutti, an Isabel Marant cardi from Ssense and a wool T-shirt from & Other Stories.

By Janet Kelly

GRAY is listless and dull; gray is sophisticated, a neutral.  And if not 50, there are sooo many different shades of it. Yada, yada, yada. But in 2020, intimating that gray might benefit from a complementary color, the Pantone Color Institute chose two “colors of the year” instead of their usual one—Ultimate Gray and Illuminating (a sunny yellow)—the former for uncertainty mid-pandemic, the latter for hope. Anyway, it was the combination that launched/relaunched a 1,000 kitchen designs.

To hear her thoughts on wearing gray, we emailed color guru Leatrice Eiseman, head of the Eiseman Center for Color Information and Training and executive director of the Pantone Color Institute.

Although Eiseman thinks gray is among the most versatile colors to include in your wardrobe, she said: “The best tip for wearing gray is to use it with something that is a flattering color next to or on the face. That is the color that will reflect onto the skin. For example, a rosy pink, pinky beige or coral. Of course, red is always possible as well. [Use] on the cheeks or the lips, in a necklace, a scarf,  blouse, or jackets or sweaters and if you are into hats and/or caps, that works well.”

We couldn’t agree more, but to add to Eiseman’s complementary colors for gray, we give our nod to navy, lilac and pale yellow, too.

Below, how to wear it well:


Yep, that’s Gwyneth Paltrow modeling Goop’s all-wool Rafaela peacoat, an oldie-but goodie style that favors longer lengths (instead of the usual cropped version) this season. Classically detailed with wide-notch lapels and flap pockets, it’s roomy enough to fit over a chunky sweater. And doesn’t navy look chic with dark gray? The jacket sells for $895.


Red is a favorite this season, and R13’s plush velvet blazer elegantly taps into the trend. It’s a show-stopping piece for a splurge-y $1,295. There are matching pants, too, just in case you’re feeling bold and flush and loved Tom Ford’s red velvet suit in the 1990s.


Take the triste out of winter—and a gray coat—while keeping your neck wrapped and warm in Cos’s oversize, colorful mohair-blend checked scarf. Measuring a generous 23.6 inches in width by 78.7 inches in length, it sells for $135.


Adorned with the label’s signature horsebit, Gucci’s Horsebit Chain Small Shoulder Bag ($3,490) in quilted leather comes with both a detachable leather strap and a chain shoulder strap. It comes in five other colors but red puts the most life into gray. Here’s a bigger, way less expensive choice—a satchel in apple red from Anthropologie.


Look sporty and subtly rich in Anthropologie’s Maeve V-striped, cotton-blend sweatshirt for $88.


Light up dreary gray days with this punchy red baby alpaca sweater from French brand Sézane. A favorite of Kate Middleton, the Princess of Wales, it sells for $170.


Wear Marimekko’s Toisto down vest now by it lonesome; come colder weather, slip it under you top coat for an extra layer of warmth (it has a down filling), plus there’s its neck-coddling high collar and pop-of-pink color. It sells for $510 at Anthropologie.


Massimo Dutti’s cashmere-blend V-neck sweater ($99.90) in lilac will flatter a lot of faces, while pairing perfectly with slouchy gray flannel pants.


On Prada’s fall 2023 fall runway, designers Miuccia Prada and Raf Simons top a white appliqué midi pencil skirt and bouquet shoes with a charcoal gray crewneck.


Remember those gray and yellow kitchens? We won’t pass judgment except to say we prefer the chic combination of charcoal gray and pale, lemony yellow in clothing. The Isabel Marant cardigan in baby alpaca sells for $485 at Sense. Here’s one for a good deal less at Uniqlo.


Have washed gray jeans or corduroys in a cement hue? Wear with & Other Stories’ boxy alpaca knit T-shirt with three-quarter raglan sleeves. It’s also available in yellow, red, light blue and beige for $99.



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5 thoughts on “Complements to Gray

  1. Judy Robinson says:

    So true that the rose/pink/coral colors flatter most complexions, though I usually rely on white to brighten things up. Thanks for all the gorgeous grays.

    1. Janet Kelly says:

      White works well, too!

  2. Nancy G says:

    The Massimo Dutti sweater!!

  3. Carol says:

    Love the navy and gray striped sweatshirt! Putting that on my list ❤️

    1. Janet Kelly says:

      A favorite of mine, too, Carol.

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