Javascript is not enabled.

Javascript must be enabled to use this site. Please enable Javascript in your browser and try again.

Skip to content
Content starts here
CLOSE ×

Search

Leaving AARP.org Website

You are now leaving AARP.org and going to a website that is not operated by AARP. A different privacy policy and terms of service will apply.

How to Add a Splash of Color, Sparkle and Dazzle to Your Wardrobe

Pick hues that will flatter and add an unexpected zing to any outfit


spinner image Molly Ringwald wearing a red dress at the 2023 TIME100 Gala at Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York City; Lucy Liu wearing a yellow dress at the Shazam Fury of the Gods UK Special Screening; Viola Davis wearing a green dress at the World Premiere of Air in Los Angeles
Left to right: Molly Ringwald, Lucy Liu and Viola Davis
Sean Zanni/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images; Karwai Tang/WireImage; JC Olivera/GA/The Hollywood Reporter via Getty Images

Any woman who has worn a red dress or blue nail polish knows the power of color. One shade may make her feel powerful and glamorous, the other edgy and cool. Without getting too New Agey about color psychology, auras or forecasting trends, let’s confirm what we all know from our own style history: Wearing a hue (or two) can make all the difference between fine and fabulous! Here’s exactly how to do it:

spinner image Alfre Woodard wearing a blue dress at the launch event for The Porter on BET plus; Andie MacDowell wearing a shiny silver dress the 8th Annual Hollywood Beauty Awards in Los Angeles; Sheryl Lee Ralph wearing a gold dress while holding her trophy in the press room at the 28th Annual Critics Choice Awards; Vivica A. Fox wearing a red dress at the 2023 ESSENCE Black Women In Hollywood Awards
Left to right: Alfre Woodard, Andie MacDowell, Sheryl Lee Ralph and Vivica A. Fox
Phillip Faraone/Getty Images for BET+; Araya Doheny/WireImage; Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic; Arnold Turner/Getty Images for ESSENCE

1. Know which colors flatter your skin

It doesn’t matter whether magenta, ’90s beige or Barbie pink is trending on social. You deserve more from the colors you wear. Think about the brightening effect the right shade of foundation or lipstick has on your looks. It is the same thing with clothes. There are no rules, but use how you select makeup, jewelry and neutrals as a guideline. In general complexions with warm undertones, a preference for gold jewelry and sunny neutrals such as beige, camel, khaki or brown will be flattered by orangey reds, coral, yellow, fruity greens and aqua blues. Those with cool undertones, a preference for silver jewelry and cool neutrals such as navy and gray can’t go wrong with cobalt and sky blue, lavender, mint, rosy pinks, violet and blue-reds. The skin tone/color synchronicity is most useful in clothing worn near the face such as a top or dress, but don’t let that stop you! If your color crush doesn’t flatter your skin, wear it at a distance in pants, a skirt or even a pair of shoes. The whole crayon box is yours.

spinner image Image Alt Attribute

AARP Membership— $12 for your first year when you sign up for Automatic Renewal

Get instant access to members-only products and hundreds of discounts, a free second membership, and a subscription to AARP the Magazine.

Join Now

spinner image Banana Republic The Oversized Linen Shirt in Trailblazing Red-Orange; Vince Camuto Ruffle Sleeve Split Neck Blouse in Hot Pink; Ann Taylor Linen Blend Boatneck Blouse in Blue Isle
Left to right: Banana Republic The Oversized Linen Shirt in Trailblazing Red-Orange ($100, bananarepublic.gap.com); Vince Camuto Ruffle Sleeve Split Neck Blouse in Hot Pink ($40, nordstrom.com); Ann Taylor Linen Blend Boatneck Blouse in Blue Isle ($90, anntaylor.com)
Banana Republic; Nordstrom; Ann Taylor

2. Audition color in a top first 

Some say accessories are the best tryout, but tees and button-downs provide a goof-proof way to audition color. That’s because others see us mostly waist up — on screens, behind a desk, over a tabletop or face-to-face on the street or at a party. An “I love that color on you” compliment is the ultimate thumbs-up. Remember: There’s a whole palette of shades for each color from dark to light, soft to bright, so be selective. For example, test-driving a butter yellow might be easier than diving into a vivid sunflower shade for those who are color shy. Love it in a top? Buy it in a dress!

spinner image Ann Taylor The Relaxed Double Breasted Long Blazer in Linen Blend Wild Tomato; Eloquii Neoprene Pencil Skirt in Lollipop; H&M Balloon Sleeved Cotton Dress in Bright Blue/Patterned; New York & Company Notch-Collar Belted Flare Dress-Fit to Flatter in Araucana Blue
Left to right: Linen Blend Wild Tomato ($198, anntaylor.com); Eloquii Neoprene Pencil Skirt in Lollipop ($29, eloquii.com); H&M Balloon Sleeved Cotton Dress in Bright Blue/Patterned ($40, hm.com/en_us); New York & Company Notch-Collar Belted Flare Dress-Fit to Flatter in Araucana Blue ($40, nyandcompany.com)
Ann Taylor; Eloquii; H&M; New York & Company

3. Red and blue will never fail you 

Looking for brights to add spark to black pants and white shirts or tees? Want a colorful dress to wear with light-toned bags and sandals? Right now, the entire range of blues and reds — warm and cool, solids and prints — happen to be a major trend and for a good reason. They’re always fashionable, easy to find and work well with any neutral from black to beige. They are stylish pretty much year-round, slip seamlessly into trendy, classic and casual wardrobes and won’t leave you with buyer’s remorse. You can’t go wrong.

spinner image Loft Patchwork Bloom Tiered Slit Maxi Skirt in Calypso Orange; Mango Women Straight Culotte Pants in Pink; A New Day Women’s Square Woven Satchel Handbag in Red; J.Jill Linen A-Line Shirtdress in Ocean Green; The Get Women Plus Size Eyelet Midi Skirt in Mazarine Blue
Left to right: Loft Patchwork Bloom Tiered Slit Maxi Skirt in Calypso Orange ($63, loft.com); Mango Women Straight Culotte Pants in Pink ($50, mango.com/us); A New Day Women’s Square Woven Satchel Handbag in Red ($35, target.com); J.Jill Linen A-Line Shirtdress in Ocean Green ($129, jjill.com); The Get Women Plus Size Eyelet Midi Skirt in Mazarine Blue ($28, walmart.com)
LOFT; Mango; Target; J.Jill; Walmart

4. How much color do you want?

Dial your color usage up and down. Color enthusiasts know that wearing “high dose” color in a dress, pantsuit or jumpsuit will stand out in the crowd and make a confident impression. A jolt of color is a way to give boring wardrobe basics such as blazers, pants and skirts an emphatic update without going through the drama of trying trendy styles. Want smaller doses of color? Try layering tank tops and tees or one daily pop of color to wear with everything such as a bright red shoulder bag. Can’t choose one color? A multicolor print skirt works with many tops and solves all.

Shopping & Groceries

Walmart+

$20 off a Walmart+ annual membership

See more Shopping & Groceries offers >
spinner image One Quince 100% European Linen Long Sleeve Shirt in Light Blue; Boden V-Neck Plisse Midi Dress in Popcorn, Gardenia Petal; 1.State Floral Released Pleat Midi Skirt in Garden Bliss
Left to right: One Quince 100% European Linen Long Sleeve Shirt in Light Blue ($40, quince.com); Boden V-Neck Plisse Midi Dress in Popcorn, Gardenia Petal ($198, bodenusa.com/en-us); 1.State Floral Released Pleat Midi Skirt in Garden Bliss ($89, nordstrom.com)
Quince; Boden; Nordstrom

5. Try softer tints and prints

Not everyone is a fan of strong colors. One way to get a color infusion without drama is to opt for muted florals and “watercolor” tints that whisper rather than saturated hues that scream. Softer tones such as mint green and pale pink pair best with equally quiet neutrals such as ivory, white, beige and khaki rather than black, which makes them ideal for spring/summer. Found in flowing dresses and skirts and linen shirts, they may be all the newness you need.

spinner image Just Mode Silver Women’s Leather Shoulder Tote; Porridge Shine Muscle Tee in Silver; Asos South Beach Strappy Sandals with Padded Sole in Gold; Aerosoles Homebet Ballet Flat in Gold Metallic
Clockwise from left: Just Mode Silver Women’s Leather Shoulder Tote ($35, amazon.com); Porridge Shine Muscle Tee in Silver ($68, anthropologie.com); Asos South Beach Strappy Sandals with Padded Sole in Gold ($35, asos.com/us); Aerosoles Homebet Ballet Flat in Gold Metallic ($89, dsw.com/en/us)
Amazon; Anthropologie; ASOS; DSW

6. Include metallics in your color update

When pepping up your wardrobe this season, don’t ignore the sparkle of silver and gold. The popularity of glowing primers, highlighters and “glass” skin has helped push shiny clothes and accessories from evening only to a.m./p.m. duty. The key is to choose casual tees, flats and tote bags for sparkle and not serious pumps, blouses and clutches. Sequins and metallics do require a little attitude and mixing with casual items to look contemporary. For example, wear a shimmery T-shirt with wide-leg white jeans and sneakers … not your black dress pants.

Discover AARP Members Only Access

Join AARP to Continue

Already a Member?