Friday, August 20, 2010

The Two-Colour Rule

After reading about the ‘two colour rule’ last month, I have limited myself to two colours in outfits recently. Of course I have more than two colours in my wardrobe, but to only wear two in one outfit.

Because one of my main wardrobe staples is blue jeans, one of those two colours has to be navy, or grey-blue.

Even though I have some favourite three-colour combos (grey/denim/tan accessories, grey/denim/black), I have to admit I did feel quite chic in the two-colour ones I tried lately. ‘Elegant restraint’ as was said in the book excerpt in my How to be Wealthy post.

I wore jeans with a navy v-neck RL fine cotton knit top and beige high heels and a beige trench-coat (which I would like to add that I bought at Galaries Lafayette in Paris, just to show off). Accessories-wise I wore a chunky gold necklace and a beige/tan/gold bag.

Another time in the two-colour clothing diary I wore jeans, black heeled boots and a grey-blue v-neck cotton/silk jersey. You may notice a pattern forming. Actually my second example wasn’t two colours I’ve just realised. I also wore a classic Burberry print silk scarf I bought in Thailand (faux Burberry, real silk).

My other wardrobe staple for everyday wear is beige pants. I have cotton drill ones and dressier ones in a sort of floppy/thick viscose/linen mix. This gives me a break from having to choose blue as one of my two colours.

In the French inspiration post some of us were discussing how the two-colour rule works as it seemed a bit limiting. I even asked my French beauty therapist about it but she hadn’t heard of it. She did say French women are more classic in their dress than New Zealand women though.

I then had a thought that the two-colour rule could apply to clothing items only. Accessories which include scarves, belts and shoes are not included (within reason).

This made me think of The Vivienne Files on the French Chic yahoo group. She had a limited colour palette in her wardrobe of black, white, grey and red but added interest and colour with her collection of brightly coloured scarves (in tones to suit her complexion). Et voila, I think I’ve cracked it.

When I think about my wardrobe (and also my dream wardrobe), I will mostly wear only two colours in my clothing, but maybe twist it a little with shoes or a scarf.

This has given me new focus on wardrobe planning. I’m going through my clothing at the moment with The Vivienne Files at my side, well actually my whole Personal Style folder of articles and posts.

If you aren’t a member of the French Chic yahoo group, go join and have a look in the files section – La Mode – The Vivienne Files. It’s free to join and if you’re reading this blog I’m sure you’ll enjoy the French Chic group.

The group member who initially shared her French friend Vivienne's style philosophy has her own blog; it's fabulous.


  1. Fiona,

    I already sent you an email requesting the file - thank you for offering to do that for us.

    I have been sticking to two colors lately as well but am wondering what to do about those things that are a multi-color pattern. I have a floral print top on a black background I like very much. Maybe a French chic woman wouldn't not wear such a thing.
    What are your thought?


  2. I will add that I have the Vivienne files in an apple document format for MAC if anyone needs it instead of a word document. I can't open word documents on my MAC. This is a must read!

    Thank you for expanding on the two color rule. I like it. It makes things more simple and less cluttered in our clothing choices.

  3. I wear a lot of neutrals and punch it up with bright colored scarves or some red shoes. Classic, simple, and I always feel chic when doing this.

  4. Fiona,

    I think I'll make you my mentor! Love the 2 color rule and really love scarves so I'm off to de-clutter the closet.

    I wear alot of denim and khaki so, I need to weed out the prints. What about a pinstriped blouse? Love them with denim or khaki and a solid jacket - is this a rule breaker?

    Have a wonderful weekend.


  5. Adrienne, I have just emailed you. If you like the multi-colour print top definitely keep it. I would pair it with a bottom taking one of the print colours or black (or denim of course). I would almost classify it as a black top, depending on the size of the print and how many colours/how bright they are.

    Stephanie, thanks for the MAC version offer. Should clothing ourselves really be this hard? I blame fashion and business. They have to sell clothing every day of every year otherwise they wouldn't have a job. At first we listen to them, and at some stage (hopefully sooner rather than later) we realise we can do as we please.

    Kalee, so chic at such a tender age!

    Lisa, I don't think you need to throw out your prints if you love them, and I simply adore the preppy chic of pinstripes. They always look smart.

  6. Your outfits sound so wonderfully chic! Thanks for the reminder about the Vivienne Files. I had forgotten them so I saved the file to read when I have a little more time.

    I think I have a tendancy to wear only two colours, mainly because I'm not good at matching more than that ;o)

    The thing I need help with is accessorising. I'm not very good with that at all, and I know that can make an outfit.

    Once again, a wonderful post!

  7. Thanks for your comments -- I've unwittingly dressed this way for years ... with a heavy emphasis on quality and accessories to add a dash of individuality. It started as a way to save money, frankly! Thanks for your input (love your combinations!). The older I get, the more I focus on simplicity, quality and a bit of dash.

  8. P.S. I have been a scarf fiend for years. glad they're in style more now than ever!
    P.P.S. Love your posts!

  9. hi fiona,

    i, like a couple of your readers seem to be a 2 color person w/o even realizing it. although in the spring and summer months i really let go and wear 3!


  10. Jackie, you've hit the nail on the head - it's too hard to match/coordinate more than two colours. Keep things simple and life is much easier (or at least getting dressed is).

    Can you tell us about your accessorising woes in a post and maybe people will have suggestions. Like what you might typically put on for a day.

    Janelle, you are already so far ahead of me and I love your mantra: simplicity, quality and a bit of dash. French woman are famously frugal so you are in good company.

    With scarves, I always feel a bit special when I choose one to go with my outfit, like I'm the only French-inspired person around, but a few times I've actually looked properly at people out, and loads wear scarves. This is a good thing!

    Janet, you always make me laugh. You do realise you're living right. on. the. edge. with three colours don't you? I think if it's just clothing I've been doing it as well over the years, two with the occasional three.

  11. Although I've never thought about it before, I do find that I feel more comfortable and get more compliments when I stick to two colors. Recently, I decided (with a few exceptions) to avoid prints as I always succumb to a trend or a store display, purchase a multicolored print, and then only wear it once as I don't feel myself in it.

    My lifestyle dictates that I wear a lot of denim, but I try to find knit tops that are a bit more sophisticated than a typical tee.

  12. Cherie, I always feel I wear denim too much, but I am trying not to feel the guilt, as I love the look, my husband often says too that it's his favourite style on me, and making it chic, stylish and feminine is quite fun.

  13. ah! I haven't logged on to FC for years, but in high school / college I was on the board every day scouring through the files ; )

    good to know the chiclettes are still around!

  14. Thank you for clarifying the two color rule! (As you know, I've been confused about it.)
    BTW - I'd love to see some pictures of these outfits.

  15. Rachel, I was a member years ago and it's just in the last few months I've started going there again. It's such a boost.

    Lyn, well I wouldn't say clarified it, perhaps trying to work it out for myself. I'm no authority!

    I like your new profile photo - it's lovely.

    As for outfit photos, it would mean putting colour on my black/white/pink blog. I'll have to have a think about that one.

  16. How exciting to see that the Vivienne Files are still interesting and inspiring! I've started a blog to give some structure to all of the things I learn from Vivienne - the first things I'm going to post will be the original files. Hope to see you there!

  17. Although he may not have created the concept, Christian Dior certainly espoused "the 2 color rule." I found a reference to it in Monsieur Dior's 1954 book,"The Little Dictionary of Fashion." Under the entry for "Colors," Monsieur Dior advised that: "Two colors in any outfit are quite enough. And two touches of any one color are enough. A hat, gloves, scarf, and belt all of the same bright color is ruin; it merely gives a spotted effect. Whereas a colorful hat and scarf lead the eye to a focal point in any outfit. Good planning is very necessary to good dressing." Indeed! It looks like you have another chic connection to Christian Dior, Fiona!

  18. Anonymous, thank you so much for this quote - it's fabulous!

  19. I also have M Dior's Little Dictionary of Fashion. Although not the one my father bought for me when I was a child and this book was published - I was already interested in fashion aged about 9 or 10! I have, simply because it's what I've found looks best, only ever used two colours, but perhaps with more than three colours in an accessory (such as a silk scarf, but the basic colours of the outfit must be in it.) I love neutrals, navy with most colours, navy with tan, navy with grey, navy with cream or white; black and tan, black and caramel, and so forth. And a good white shirt is always a good standby, too. What M Dior mentions in his book, too, is Grooming, which sounds like we're horses ready for a brush down, but what we must do to look elegant is make sure our clothes are neat, no loose hems or buttons, and our shoes and bags polished. Indeed, I like the inside of my bag to be neat, too. I keep a zipped make-up bag inside my handbag and in this I keep most of my possessions so that when I change bags I simply whip out this zipped case and pop it into another bag! Simples!
    A good silk scarf can lift an outfit from the ordinary to the extra-ordinary.
    Margaret P


Merci for your comment. Wishing you a chic day!

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