Friday, October 14, 2016

Adding a pop of colour to neutral outfits




I had reader Gemma email me with her dilemma:

Something I'd like to see more of your opinions on is how to accessorise and use colour. I have the basics in neutrals but I find it hard to incorporate a flash of colour into my outfits. I don't tend to wear statement jewellery, so other than a handbag or scarf I'm not sure how to get that flash of colour (I like teal and blues) into an outfit (& I'm not very good with scarves, they only tend to be worn outside.)
I find a lot of what you say about accepting a quiet life very comforting. I often feel I should be doing more, going further and that people look at me and think I do nothing and go nowhere.

I love this suggestion, because I have been a bit off scarves lately and so I have had to look to other ways to feel pulled together and accessorised.  You can see my spring wardrobe here (it has just come into spring in New Zealand) – you can see that I have a few coloured items, but overall my wardrobe is very neutral.

I find that just wearing the clothes doesn’t feel as polished as when I add a little extra, but scarves for me feel frumpy at the moment.  I even have a few lightweight cotton infinity scarves but I still don’t feel like they are me right now, as much as I love them on others.  Still, I like to go with the flow and not force things.  I’m sure I will come back to scarves later.

In the meantime though, here are some of my favourite ways to add colour into an otherwise neutral outfit:

Coloured nails:  I don’t often paint my fingernails, but when I do I love the pop of colour it provides.  If I paint them, I tend to go for bright or dark, say a crème (no sparkles or shimmer) tangerine or red-orange, or dark burgundy.  I trim/file my nails very short when I do this because to me it looks more modern than long, coloured nails (that’s just my personal preference) plus I find they last longer without chipping because I’m not tapping the edge of my nail when I am typing etc.  I have my nails so short that you can see the edge of my fingertip beyond the nail.  They look so good painted this way!

Coloured shoes:  Aside from my neutral coloured shoes, I seem to always have a pair of red shoes, and I love how these lift up a neutral outfit – jeans and a navy top with red shoes is one of my favourite combos.  There are shoes in any colour you’d care to name now, and if you keep yourself from being scared of ‘a shoe that won’t go with everything’ you might find it is a good way to get a little bit of colour into your outfit.  If you wear mostly neutral clothes anyway, a shoe colour that you love (such as navy or teal) will still go with everything.  I don’t know if this is just a New Zealand thing because I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve heard in our shoe store ‘I really like that cheery orange, but I’m just going to go with black – it’s far more practical and will go with everything I own’.  Other coloured shoes I have are nude and plum patent ballet flats, which I love to wear as well.

Pretty makeup:  If I do have a totally neutral outfit on and no coloured accessories, I can to add colour with my face.  At the moment I am loving a sheer, blushy spring makeup look where I apply BB cream with my BeautyBlender (I have had it for a few months now and love it! My poor foundation brush has been cast aside) and a light dusting of loose powder.  Then I add a glowy pink blush, sheer pinkish-orange lipstick and gloss and a sweep of bronzer over my eyes and around the edges of my face and just mascara, no eyeliner.  If you like bright lipsticks, that might provide a good amount of colour to your look too, or a coloured eye with nude/low-key lip colour.

Jewellery.  I usually wear my classic, everyday jewellery of a watch, my rings and some studs in my ears (CZ or pearl), but if my outfit is totally neutral I might add a necklace – I have a gold coin and also a few chunkier statement necklaces.  Coloured chunkier pearls are nice too.  Even if the slightly more out-there accessory you wear isn’t a colour, it still provides a finishing touch.  I have some silver oval hoops that are twisted and very shiny.  I love to wear those sometimes because it feels different to my usual studs and with my understated style they provide enough of a kick.

Handbags.   My current handbag is a tan leather Michael Kors, and I know that tan is still a neutral, but I love the way it lifts a black top and dark jeans nicely.  Maybe I’ll go nuts and find a scarf to tie to it handle.

I had a bit of fun with my lovely friend Barbara's poodle Zoey as the image for this post - Zoey is modelling her pop of colour wonderfully.  Barbara, Zoey and I had a long overdue ladies catch-up this week.  I almost managed to 'acquire' Barbara's gorgeous Prada handbag by offering to carry it for her when we were leaving.  She wasn't giving it up though :)

Can you add to this conversation on adding colour in ways other than scarves?  Do you love to wear neutrals and accessorise with colour?  Or is your wardrobe itself a riot of colour?  Please share!

Wishing you a wonderful week,
Fiona

PS.  If you join my mailing list, you will receive instant downloads of excerpts of my two newest books:  Thirty Chic Days, and Financially Chic.

54 comments:

  1. Camisoles also can add a splash of color, peeking out from blouses, under jackets, or low cut dresses. They are inexpensive and very lightweight. They do not add bulkiness like scarves. Another great article!

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  2. I love to add belts with colour to give an outfit a "lift" - emerald green shoes and belt with a black outfit. Lovely!!

    I adore your blog and am thoroughly enjoying your books as my quest for chic continues :)

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    1. Nice, Odette, emerald and black sounds tres glamorous :)

      So glad you are enjoying my books - thank you!

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  3. I do wear statement necklaces (I am also off scarves temporarily.) But my favorite accessory is my leopard ballet flats. They give an unexpected twist to an outfit. Since I usually wear warm neutrals, the leopard print seems to go with everything. I would also think that an animal print flat in something that would mesh with cool neutrals would also work. Wearing an animal print accessory is enough for me. All-over leopard is just too much. Although, I did spice up my purse by adding pouches for makeup, change, etc. in different animal prints. Kind of fun.

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    1. How could I forget leopard print as a colour - I totally need some shoes. I agree, leopard print clothing - not so good (maybe a cardigan though?) but leopard print accessories = excellent.

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  4. Converse/Vans/Bensimons or similar canvas shoes come in a rainbow of colors and are inexpensive. Ballerinas, too. A friend had many pairs of Converse in different colors and often would wear a different color on each foot. Why not!
    Socks can be a fun peek of color in winter (which is around the corner in Europe).
    A bag also is easy for color. For some reason, a large tote or a very small bag look especially good in bright colors.
    A cardigan also is an easy way to throw in some color, and lets you have a column of neutral underneath, which makes one look taller and thinner.
    How about eyeglasses or sunglasses? My own glasses are studious tortoise-shell on the front, with purple (!!!) branches. A very chic woman I see often in town is always dressed in black, even in the middle of summer, but she has oversized red Iris Apfel-style prescription glasses, carries a cherry red bag and wears red patent leather ballerinas. She looks like a million bucks, and she's neither young nor thin.
    I just did my first-ever "French street style" blog post, and I realized the people who stand out as elegant often are in neutrals.
    Also to Gemma, the last line about people thinking she does nothing and goes nowhere -- it breaks my heart. I completely understand how feeling good about our appearance can boost our confidence in facing the world. I wish you the best, Gemma.

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    1. Yes, to Converse/Vans/Bensimons, and they are not all brights either. Bensimon especially have gorgeous washed-out watercolour shades.

      Socks! There are so many fun socks around at the moment, and in the winter with slightly short pants/jeans or rolled hems they look fantastic.

      So many great ideas, thanks Janelle. Love the cardy idea and spectacles too. and I'm in love with your black and red lady. Gorgeous.

      I can totally relate to what Gemma describes. I love to stay at home and I love a quiet life. Some of the extroverts I know, one in particular, is always looking for ways to 'get me out of the house', like staying at home is punishment or something :) Maybe it is for them, but I love and need my alone-time.

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  5. Most of my basics, pants and skirts (I don't wear jackets that much but those too) are neutrals. I have my basic sweaters and t's in neutrals too, but I find that t-shirts or other tops can be an inexpensive way to add a pop of colour. If I'm wearing neutral pants, shoes, bag, jacket...putting a colourful top into the mix adds colour without making the outfit too flashy because it's toned down by the otherwise neutral palette. In the winter I like to wear a colourful sweater with my neutral bottoms. When I am head to toe in neutral colours, definitely a necklace or shoes are the way to add colour. I don't bother changing up my handbag often because most of the day it sits in the office and I'm not carrying it, but for a day or evening out I sometimes will use a colourful handbag.

    Love your blog Fiona. You have such a down to earth way of communicating about the chic life.

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    1. I agree about tops - they are a small component so won't overpower the overall look.

      Thank you for your compliment Cindy, I am so happy to come across that way because it is how I live my life :)

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  6. Bonjour Fiona, Zoey is ADORABLE! She's quite a fashionista, isn't she?
    Thank you for another wonderful post.
    Presently, I am going through a "no colour" look. I do go through phases though...
    Usually if I need a punch of colour, it's my block colored outfits.
    Now, if I want to spruce up my "no colour" look, it maybe a blingy hair accessory; a leopard bag; a statement chunky necklace or my aquamarine (my birthstone) earrings.
    And like Gemma and you, I find a quiet life very comforting and actually, very luxurious. I am learning how to tune out any (if there are) negative comments on my desired lifestyle and to not have FOMO.(fear of missing out)

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    1. Zoey is definitely a fashionista - she takes after her mother who is always impeccably dressed :)

      Leopard again! I definitely need something leopard...

      Luxurious as a word to describe the quiet lifestyle - I love it!

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  7. One of my favorite ways to bring a pop of color is with an umbrella. During our rainy winters here in the Southeastern US, nothing makes me happier than pulling out my leopard print umbrella with my monogram on it stitched in red. It always brings a smile even during the dreariest of days!

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    1. I love this LaDana - I never would have thought of choosing a beautiful umbrella (both of mine are black) and as for having it monogrammed - so special!

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  8. I am adding more colour by using brighter lipstick and cute shoes...and coloured pearl necklaces.

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  9. I love the idea of colored shoes. Especially when everything else is neutral. I think it looks so polished! You could also go with a red winter coat or something.

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    1. A coloured coat is a great idea, Carla. I saw a lady with a soft red knee-length quilted coat yesterday and it looked so good on her.

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  10. I have re-discovered scarves and began a collection of colorful silk ones that add a dash of color to neutral outfits. I also like colored shoes (red is a favorite), a brightly colored cold (particularly on a cold dreary day), colored pearls (I have a gorgeous pink pearl necklace), and beautiful belts. I have started to experiment with mixing black and navy (love it!!) and also black and tan- which tends to mix things up a bit. Very much like the idea of a brightly colored clutch and have my eye on a burgundy suede one.

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    1. I am hoping to fall back in love with scarves again one day, Danielle!

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  11. I've just thought about my wardrobe and it is basically neutral, although one of my accent colours is a blush/salmon.
    But it occurred to me that my pop of colour is always with me - I'm a red head. So maybe making sure your hair is as good is it could be; colour, streaks, highlights or just healthy and shiny.

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    1. I love your accent colour, Claire, and I also love that you are using your hair - healthy and glossy - as your pop of colour!

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  12. Another wonderful column and I enjoyed each of the comments. My input repeats many of those above - I am a big fan of coloured or patterned shoes. My favourites are red (ballet flats, sling backs, anything really) and a recently bought of leopard skin ballet flats. I have a large collection of coloured jewellery - beads, necklaces, bangles, earrings etc - but find them fiddly or fussy at present and haven't worn them for ages. A bit like you with your scarves, Fiona. I don't wear much makeup but always have a lipstick. I feel incomplete without colour on my lips !

    Gemma - your last sentence saddens me. You do as you like, it's your life and no one else's ! I think many people like to brag on their facebook / Instagram / whatever about their glamorous, busy, successful lives. Leave them to it, I say. I suspect many of those same people are looking to distract themselves or block out what they don't want to hear. Ignore them. I, too, like quiet time to myself. Do what makes you happy - not others xx

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    1. I think that too Lara, of people who busybody themselves too much with others - that their life must be lacking that they have to foist themselves on others.

      When I start feeling dissatisfied or triggered I like to pull back my external viewing such as Facebook or Instagram (and I don't look at them much at all) and focus on my own creativity and happiness and making my life all that it can be.

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  13. Great post Fiona. I'm a bit of a color girl, mostly blues and pinks, but if i'm wearing neutrals, i tend to go for the scarf, but i get what you're saying re going off scarves, they tend to add bulk, not a good look, however, i've taken to wearing them longer rather than doubled around the neck. My mother always swore by red shoes and a red bag to brighten any outfit.
    If Gemma doesn't like brights in her necklaces, go for something different, metals, earthy colors, different textures to add a statement

    jane

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    1. That's a good point, Jane, some scarves can feel very bosomy and when you add it to a bosom... it's too much bosom!

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  14. Your post has made me really consider if I wear much colour...As I was wearing all navy today, the answer is probably no! Although I have just bought a pair of fire-engine red ballet flats and I love them, they make me smile every time I wear them and lots of people admire them (even my husband!)

    Gemma - it's your life to live and if you are happy then it doesn't matter what others think. I am surrounded by an extrovert family and very extroverted in-laws and for a long time I tried to change to be like them. Then I finally realised that I'm fine being a bit of an introverted homebody who enjoys being home and 'alone time'; I need it to recharge and face the world again. If you are happy with your life, I say chin up and be proud of who you are and the choices you make :-)

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    1. Thankfully wearing colour is not a legal requirement ;) but sometimes it's nice to zazz things up.

      Yay for honouring your introverted-homebodyness, Lisa :)

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  15. I wear a lot of black, but my prescription eyeglasses have red frames, and my favorite color lipstick is coral-red. Like many others, I like to add a pop of color with a t-shirt peeking from under a jacket or cardi. I especially enjoy jewel tones such as ruby, sapphire, and emerald. I'm a classical singer, which entails a lot of black concert attire, so I always dress that up with rhinestone earrings, necklace, and bracelet. I always try to style my hair nicely and keep my nails looking good.

    Thanks for another great post, Fiona! Happy spring from northern California, where it's just barely starting to look like autumn might be around the corner.

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    1. I think that is important too, Karen. When I am dressed quite simply, but am happy with my hair, light makeup and tidy nails, I feel polished.

      Happy autumn to you!

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  16. Hi Fiona, Today I'm wearing cropped white denim jeans, black tee, red ballerina flats, and black handbag. I usually try to add color in either shoes, lipstick, or scarf.

    By the way, is that your dog in the photo? The pink bow on it kills me! :)

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    1. I forgot to sign off above comment:

      D.

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    2. Your outfit sounds wonderful! I wish Zoey was mine :) She belongs to my dear friend Barbara. We met up this week.

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  17. I have come late to this post as we have guests staying with us and I'm only posting now because it's almost midnight and I'm unable to sleep, over-tired, I think. But I was saddened to read of Gemma's plight; she must try and cease worrying about what others think of her, and simply enjoy the life she quietly leads.
    I really have nothing to add to all the suggestions about adding colour to outfits, there are some wonderful suggestions here. At the moment brooches seem to be out of fashion, but a gorgeous brooch pinned to a lapel can really bring a jacket or coat to life, or as I used to wear, a series of very small brooches pinned vertically down a lapel, preferably in colours that go well together.
    Another lovely and very thoughtful piece, Fiona!
    Now, after my 2nd cup of Ovaltine, I'm off to bed and will try and get to sleep!
    Margaret P

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    1. A brooch is an excellent idea, Margaret!

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    2. Brooches can never truly be out of style, can they? I have several from my grandmothers as well as some more modern pieces, and they brighten up a neutral/classic coat so beautifully.

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  18. I enjoyed reading the comments, and the ideas. A pop of color is nice, but I also think it's okay to be all neutral. Speaking of introverts/homebodies -- as one myself, I find neutral, quiet clothing is soothing to me. Clothes can be noisy, so I avoid anything that "talks" too loudly :)

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    1. I think that about home colours, Deborah, but never related it to clothing colours but it makes total sense. That must be why I love simplicity and neutral colours in the way I dress. Thank you!

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  19. I agree that a red flats are more versatile than people think. I wear a lot of black, but I actually love jewel tone or vibrant colors like purple, teal, raspberry pink, and Cobalt blue. I prefer color in my accessories, but when I wear color I wear COLOR--tropical over the top print clothing. I love bright lip color: Poppy Nude (tomato red) lip pencil by Sonia Kashuk or Barcelona Nights (hot raspberry pink) by Revlon--inexpensive ways to add that pop of color.

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    1. I love cobalt blue, it seems to suit a lot of different complexions. Love the sound of your lipstick colours :)

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  20. Might I add a little PS? Just a thought ... while I think the poodle at the top of your post is adorable, I very much dislike dogs (or any animals come to that) dressed up like this, as if they are toys and not simply animals that share our homes. They are animals, not playthings. So this dog looks smart, I admit, but on the other hand, faintly ridiculous. I do hope I've not caused offence, as none is meant. This is just a personal viewpoint but I felt I had to mention it. I would also add that I have no objection to a winter coat for a thin-coated dog, something to keep it warm and dry but what I object to are bows and little dresses and so forth, as if a dog were a doll.
    Margaret P

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    1. Hi Margaret, I agree, but sometimes to see a dog dressed up, even if its just a bow, puts a big smile on my face and gives me a chuckle. I'm glad the pet is obviously well-loved and cared for and is considered one of the family.

      The thing that gets me is when I see a dog or cat being pushed in a stroller, unless of course it has mobility issues. I don't think this is the case though. Maybe it's an American thing because I've never seen pets in strollers in, say, Europe, for example. They are always on a leash and walking.

      D.

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    2. Hi Margaret, I think there are far worse things to be concerned with than dogs and other pets who are loved too much, because owners who dress their dogs generally love them to bits. A far bigger thing to worry about in my opinion are all the neglected and abused pets, and this is the area where I invest energy, time and money towards instead.

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    3. Hi D, pet strollers must be the mobility scooter of the animal world! I have seen them used when the dog is elderly or disabled; surely they wouldn't be used when the dog is fit and healthy?

      I reckon Jessica cat would LOVE to be pushed around in a stroller. She is beyond lazy and never walks if she can be carried :)

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    4. Oh, I'm total agreement here, Fiona; these pets are very much loved, I appreciate that. It's just me - I think people tend to forget that their much loved pet is actually an animal and I don't like to see them dressed up like small children or toys. And I wonder about whether the animal is actually comfortable in such a get up, too. But rather this than neglect, of course.
      Margaret P But we've got a long way from stylish dressing, har, har!
      Margaret P

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    5. After looking at that photo carefully, I believe the dog is not dressed up, but rather is in a halter (as a substitute for the usual collar), usually used to protect the necks of dogs, especially smaller ones with delicate necks. The leash/lead attached to it is visible in the photo. In any case, I agree that over-loved is better than the reverse. I hope that we all agree that being chic really relates to all aspects of our lives, including how we treat animals. As for a particular dog not liking to wear clothes, the ones I've known have had no problem making that very clear AND ridding themselves of the offending garments. My friend's tiny poodle, on the other hand, actually prances around in her little outfits. My little maltese/bichon, however, doesn't even want to wear a coat in winter. She knows she's beautiful in the nude!;-)

      Love all your posts, Fiona, as well as the readers' comments.
      Best, Gail

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    6. Margaret, I agree re comfort of the animal, but many look very happy. You probably will NOT like one of my favourite Instagram accounts - Toby LittleDude. https://www.instagram.com/toby_littledude/

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    7. Hi Gail, yes you are totally correct. Zoey is wearing a harness. I like them much better than collars on dogs, they certainly must be more comfortable.

      I think you are right about some dogs prancing, Zoey certainly thinks she is Christmas and knows all eyes are usually on her - and rightly so because she is such a cutie and a lovely girl as well - very placid and happy.

      I love to hear about your friend's and your dogs :)

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    8. I'm going to have to steal your phrase, Fiona: "thinks she is Christmas"! I'm still smiling over that. And given that my little Katie was born on Christmas Eve (she'll be two this coming holiday), it's especially appropriate. I can say that although she was born on Christmas Eve, she thinks she Christmas!

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    9. Gail, you are right, it's not an outfit but a halter - I stand corrected. I'm glad that it is a halter, they seem much kinder to dogs (our son's dog wears one, but not as grand as this one!)
      Margaret P

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  21. What lovely comments. I love women supporting other women!
    My suggestion would be to use a long rectangular scarf as a belt. It allows for a pop of color and can help tie together neutral tops and bottoms. I do this often, with the knot slightly off to one side. New uses for old scarves!

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    1. Thank you for this reminder, Glee. I used to use scarves as belts years ago and had totally forgotten about it. Yay!

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  22. I have long hair which I wear in a braid most of the time. My signature pop of color is a hair ribbon on the end and sometimes woven into the braid. It's pretty and simple to do, plus not being expensive. I buy lengths of ribbon at the fabric store and they can easily be replaced if anything happens to them.

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    1. This sounds like a really pretty idea Aurora!

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Merci for your comment. Wishing you a chic day!

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