What Does Color Blocking Mean in Fashion?

The trend debuted in the 1960s.

Christopher John Rogers

Christopher John Rogers

With summer in full swing, color is filling the streets. From bold prints to electric tones, there’s no better time to experiment with style than during these carefree warmer months. Still, it can feel intimidating. Bright colors no doubt draw more attention and can quickly go sour when not properly curated. But with designers like Christopher John Rogers and Brandon Maxwell helping lead the way, color blocking is back and better than ever before. 

Color blocking can be defined as mixing two to three (if not more) bold and often contradictory colors together in one ensemble to make for an exciting statement piece. Yves Saint Laurent was one of the first to debut the trend back in the 1960s, debuting their now-iconic Piet Mondrian-inspired sack dress at the fashion house’s Fall/Winter 1965–66 runway show. That moment helped issue in the Mod Style trend, as well as push designers to not only embrace color but to push the boundaries with it. 

What is Color Blocking?

Color blocking can be defined as mixing two to three (if not more) bold and often contradictory colors together in one ensemble to make for an exciting statement piece.

Color blocking was then largely popularized by Black fashion designer Stephen Burrows. Born into a fashion family in New Jersey, Burrows was heavily inspired by the disco era at the start of his career. He intertwined themes like freedom, movement, and culture into his early popular garments. According to L’Officiel, Burrows’ disco-themed collections included “non-finito jersey knits, nail-studded leather, and undulating lettuce hems.”

It was then that color blocking was born, ushering in a new era of fashion that would influence us for decades to come. 

Nowadays, color-blocking has solidified its role in the current fashion landscape, serving as a platform for designers to push the boundaries on traditional style rules. Legendary fashion houses like Gucci and Prada are well-known for their experimentation with color. And today, younger designers like Jeremy Scott and Christopher John Rogers use their innovative perspectives to carve a unique place for themselves within the industry. 

From JW Anderson to Valentino to Prabal Gurung and Balenciaga, color blocking has become a norm on the runways. But even at home, it plays a central role in the closets of many fashionistas. For those looking to venture into the world of color blocking in their personal lives, the options have never quite been so plentiful. If you aren’t quite ready to color block your own style creations yet, here are a handful of options that have already been curated and created for your liking. 

Colorblocked Bow-Tie Maxi Dress
Anthropologie Colorblocked Bow-Tie Maxi Dress $218.00

Perfect for summer, this Anthropologie dress combines bold pink and red in a sophisticated manner. Whether for a date night or everyday outing, this well-selected yet simple example of color blocking is bright enough to stop traffic but still well within the reigns of one’s comfort zone.

Nicola Colorblock Tiered Poplin Maxi Dress
Milly Nicola Colorblock Tiered Poplin Maxi Dress $375.00

This three-tiered color-blocked maxi dress is a breath of fresh air. The fabric’s fluid and flowing nature match the dress’s overall bright personality. It combines sunset meets the runway in the best way possible. 

Shoko Ribbed Colorblock Sweater Dress
Staud Shoko Ribbed Colorblock Sweater Dress $165.00

A bit more intimate and form-fitting, this sweater dress is toned down in its colors. However, it is still an elegant option for those looking to push the boundaries. An easy throw-on for date night, it offers the perfect blend of glamour and comfort. 

Classic Colorblock Maxi Dress
Frances Valentine Classic Colorblock Maxi Dress $598.00

If you’re ready for a bolder option, this maxi dress by Frances Valentine might be the right fit for you. Mixing a handful of varying colors makes it equal parts fun and professional. This dress is suited for either the workday or evening drinks. 

Chevron Sleeveless Slip Dress
Christopher John Rogers for Target Chevron Sleeveless Slip Dress $45.00

Who would have thought pink, yellow, black, and bright red could be so elegant? This Christopher John Rogers for Target masterpiece combines bold colors with structured shapes and lines, complementing the body while drawing attention in the best way. 

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