6 Bold Color Combos to Consider this Summer

Yes, you can wear red and yellow together and not look like a hot dog.

Bold Summer Color Combos

Elizabeth Tamkin

I recently accessorized a red terry cloth dress with a pair of yellow sandals, after trying out a series of other colored shoes. I looked in the mirror and the color combo felt so fun. We are taught to avoid combining two bold colors, especially when on the opposite sides of the spectrum. They can also be thought of too literally or as gimmicky: purple and green can evoke memories of the friendly neighborhood dinosaur, red and green seem limited to holiday festivities, and yellow and red might make you want a hot dog real bad. But there’s something about the playfulness of summer that makes wearing really loud color combinations enjoyable. The key is choosing one color as the base and the other as the complement! Below I illustrate my keys to mixing bold color combos.

Red + Yellow: The Hot Dog Condiments

Per my above outfit, I find red and yellow to pack the perfect punch. They certainly do match my favorite condiments, but they also work a cheery pop of vibrancy to a summer outfit. There are a slew of shades of each color to play with, too. Think: burnt sienna and mustard, candy apple red and sunflower, lemon and clambake (the Essie nail polish, of course). 

Not to make this so scientific because it’s not at all, but when one color is richer than the other (red versus yellow) it’s good to think of the lighter one as a neutral and pick a yellow top instead of the standard white or black.

Purple + Green: A Dinosaur From Our Imagination

This one’s nostalgic for me because Barney was my favorite T.V. show as a little child (“a dinosaur from our imagination” are lyrics from the opening song, if that wasn’t clear), but when MNZ created those gingham midi dresses that in 2018 filled my Instagram feed, in both green and lilac, I was sold. The key is not going true purple and green but rather paler shades like lilac and pistachio. 

Playing with proportions of colors is fun too. You can do half one color and half the other with some neutral accessories or you can simply accessorize with the second color. It’s just a hint of the complementary color, but it goes a long way. For example. I like wearing a green purse and/or shoes with a purple top. 

Red + Green: Fifth Avenue in December

When mixing red and green, you can play with hues (for example, a bright red and lime or a burnt sienna and pale green) or you can really embrace the colors and lean into their contrast. I think that a cool pair of red or green jeans worn with a favorite tee (of whatever neutral color) and the contrast color shoes is a really fun outfit and illustrates my theory of balancing the weight of the colors. 

I also love the idea of contrasting the “styles'' of your pieces while also contrasting the colors. For example: athletic short, a tunic and heels.

Purple + Orange: The Daphne Blake 

I always think of Daphne Blake when I think of Purple and Orange (which honestly, is not a bad thing), but you certainly won’t look like a cartoon character mixing these shades. I like doing the bold of one and the pale of the other here. Think: pale lilac with a punch of orange or creamsicle orange and a bold violet. 

There are certain brands that do this color combo really well (think: Gimaguas,  Simon Miller, Missoni or Lisa Says Gah). They do the mixing for you! Or, you can simply be inspired (and encouraged!) by how they do it.

Green + Yellow: The Field of Dandelions

This one is probably the least bold of the bunch, so if you’re skeptical of mixing colors, you can dip your toes in here. The fun thing about green and yellow is that pretty any shade of one matches any shade of the other. Mustard and lime, kelly green and pastel yellow, forest green and sunflower. Again, it’s about balancing the two. For example: green shorts, a pale yellow blouse with neutral accessories.

I personally think it’s easier to mix a dark green with a bright yellow and pale green with a richer yellow. 

Blue + Orange: The School Mascot 

I have a sticky history with these colors: they were my high school colors and the colors of the college I transferred out of, neither of which I enjoyed. However, I love them together. If you get your brain away from the association with “mascot,” they can really be a fantastic duo. And the hues of orange let you veer “rust” which is a neutral in my book.

It’s as easy as pairing your jean shorts or denim of any variety with a pop of orange. Hold the face paint and pom poms.

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