This post is a slight diversion from my usual routine, but I found a recent comment by reader Kelly (read it here) to be especially thought-provoking, so I wanted to examine the topic a little more in depth, namely: Mixing muddy and clean colors in the same outfit. Can it be done? Successfully?
Does this outfit work? Readers weigh in.
Looking at the world through an artist's lens, I think muddy and clean colors can blend together in the same ensemble—not to create a sense of harmony, but rather to create an intentional sense of contradiction, unease, even discord. Why would you want to do this? Art imitates life... Is every moment of every day happy? Nope. So why not let your clothing express a wide range of emotions and ideas?
Here's where I'll try to make the case that it's possible for muddy and clean colors to come together; obviously there's no right or wrong answer, I do believe fashion is subjective and deeply personal, and I'm curious to hear what everyone thinks:
Harmony in Red by Henri Matisse (1908)
In art: If I had to generalize, I'd say it wasn't until the late 19th century - early 20th century that painters really began to experiment with discordant colors, a radical departure from the realism of the past. There are too many artists to cite as examples, but I'm thinking of artists such as Gaugin, Van Gogh and Matisse, whose painting of an unsettling red room is ironically named "Harmony in Red." I love it.
In fashion: Mixing muddy and clean colors is all about contradictions for me, so Miuccia Prada was the first designer that came to my mind as I was pondering this issue. What sets her apart is her disregard for the dictates of fashion, and that applies to her use of color, too. I went back in time to a collection she did not too long ago for Miu Miu for ideas. Unlike the outfit I created, these Miu Miu looks mix the muddy and clean colors throughout the look; in the outfit on the far left, for example, there's a muddy brown top with a bright yellow pear shape on it, which then ties in with the brights in the skirt. So the colors are very strategically placed. Her message is clear and intentional, which is why she's the fashion genius (not me!).
An interior by Jamie Drake (Photo credit: http://www.drakedesignassociates.com/)
In design: Home decor is not my forte. At all. But I know what I love when I see it. And I'm most often drawn to unique color palettes that blend brights and neutrals, muted tones with pops of colors. One might even say "muddy" and "clean" colors, although again, I'm not sure this photograph is a great example of that, but I love the clean colors in the pillows against the muddy shades of beige on the couch and elsewhere. It's unexpected, and that to me, is beautiful. It peeks my curiosity and that works for me, in the same way that, say, a perfectly matched feng shui modernist masterpiece might work for someone else.
Do muddy/clean color mixes make you cringe? Do you ever find yourself intentionally adding elements to your outfits that are slightly askew, slightly "off" or do you strive for harmony, a perfectly pulled-together look?