Colour-blocking in fashion and why I love it
I have always loved colour. I’m definitely not your monochromatic wardrobe girl and my home interiors also enjoy a healthy sprinkling of colour too. While I’m also a fan of the timeless little black dress or the cool and classic chic of crisp white linen, I feel most alive and glowing when wearing colour – the brighter, the better.
In the early 1990s, I was finishing high school and, as any girl aged 16, 17, 18 etc, I was getting to know myself and my style. The wait for the bus to my high school was right outside a newsagent store, and my friends and I would drive the proprietor mad flicking through the latest teen and women’s magazines. My older sisters would have copies of Vogue, Cosmopolitan and Cleo magazines lying around the house and I became engrossed in the bright, bold and fabulous colour combinations created by designers such as Gianni Versace and modelled by the supermodels of the era: Linda Evangelista, Helena Christensen, Naomi Campbell, Christy Turlington, Yasmin Le Bon, Claudia Schiffer, Nikki Taylor etc. Even Princess Diana experimented with colour-blocking, famously wearing red and purple at the Taj Mahal in India is 1992 for that famous photograph, alone.
I find I’m still drawn today to the concept of colour-blocking and I always feel really at home pairing bright and contrasting colourful clothes. Here, I take a brief look at what colour-blocking is all about and its origins.
What is colour-blocking?
The concept of colour-blocking is essentially pairing colours from the opposite ends of the colour wheel to make contrasting and complimentary colour combinations. In fashion, it’s the principle of wearing at least two solid colours in the one, single outfit. The colours don’t need to be at complete opposite ends of the colour wheel, with yellow and orange as an example. A contrasting third colour, such as purple, is sometimes added to the mix.
The origins of colour-blocking
It’s debated by experts as to the origins of colour-blocking but many associate the trend of colour-blocking in fashion with the works of turn-of-the-century Dutch painter, Piet Mondrian. His famous paintings using flat blocks of square colour and stark black lines inspired fashion designers, in particular Yves Saint Laurent who first created a series of dresses paying tribute to Piet Mondrian in his Autumn-Winter 1965 collection. The Pop Art movement of the 1950s had similarly used clean lines and solid colours. It was in the 1960s when the colour-blocking sensation really took off, forming a departure from the pastels and reserved clothing often worn in the 1950s. In the late 80s and early 1990s, colour-blocking was very much in fashion. The trend re-emerged with force in 2010 and returned to the runways again in 2018.
The so-called ‘rules’ of colour-blocking
The ‘rules’ for true colour blocking, according to fashion designers and colour-blocking purists, lies in the key point of not wearing too many colours together at once (no more than two or three colours) and, if needed, balancing an outfit with a neutral colour such as grey. But seriously, who needs to follow ‘rules’ when dressing? I remember the old adage, ‘blue and green should never be seen’ and wearing red and pink together was considered something of a major fashion faux pas. Personally, I don’t think colour-blocking is ever out of style. Fashions and fads come and go but style is something you create as an individual and that you wear as an extension of yourself, with confidence. Forget what the rules say… and if you’re a colour-junkie like me, consider mixing and matching colour combinations and get ready to stand out and most importantly, put a smile on your own dial.