The discussion of the basic colour harmonies, monochromatic, complementary, double complementary, analogous and analogous complementary, split complementary, adjacent complementary, and triadic has been presented as a guide for the person who is learning the theory of colour. No strict adherence to these basic harmonies, however, is demanded in the selection of colour for the individual. The painter uses colour daringly and with good effect, sometimes defying even the elementary colour theories. In the field of merchandise, also, certain colours often seem to “go together” although such combinations are not always in accordance with the basic harmonies. Several factors influence the use of colours together in merchandise: full intensity spectrum colours are seldom used in cloth or leather, but are generally blended or mixed; fabrics such as leather and fur have depth, transparency, or sheerness that reflects the light differently than does a solid flat colour; stimulating combinations used by fashion creators are accepted because they are different or -looking; cosmetic manufacturers develop rouge, lipstick, and powder colours to offset unbecoming effects; and colours used close ether influence each other. Red looks less intensive when worn with green looks brighter with white than with beige or grey.
The customer wants merchandise to “go with” certain colours. That is, she desires a harmonious, acceptable, pleasing combination. Because different materials look different even when dyed the same colour, an exact match is not always satisfactory. A woman wants a blouse to wear with a grey suit. Perhaps she thinks first of a grey silk blouse. If she finds one in the exact colour of her suit she will probably not be pleased, for the grey blouse with the grey suit looks too sombre. Red, pink, coral, pale blue, jade green, or many other bright colours, or white, or black, would all be satisfactory. Likewise, the customer may think that she wants wine-red gloves to match a coat. Actually, gloves that give a contrast are more pleasing.
The dyeing of exact matching colours in leather, wool, silk, or rayon dress goods, felt, and leather is a difficult task. During the last few years this feat has been accomplished successfully by several quality manufacturers. The idea of having the coat, dress, shoes, hat, and gloves of exactly the same colour is basically sound. Various groups of colours are selected for this promotion twice each year.
Beige, as used in hosiery and gloves, harmonizes with all costume colours. Likewise, some shades of red, as in lipstick, can be worn by all complexion types. The natural red of the lips may be accentuated with a red in lipstick that changes slightly on each individual but still remains a red.
An awareness of colour combinations used by the best clothing designers will aid the interested person to obtain a wider knowledge of possible colour combinations. The fashion magazines publish splendid colour plates for this purpose. It is suggested that a careful study of the colours available in each department be made by the salesperson: as, coordinating glove and handbag colours, coat and dress colours for street, casual, and sportswear, and colours for evening wear.
As to colour, all merchandise may be grouped in one of six colour divisions: intense or spectrum colours, achromatic, tints, shades, clear or greyed intermediate colours, and mixed colours such as plaids, stripes, checks, prints, brocades, and embroidery effects. The full-intensity spectrum colours are seldom used in merchandise. Indeed, it is impossible to purchase the six primary and secondary colours in cloth. The reason for this is that the brilliant colours drain the colour from the face and so are unbecoming. The list of intense colours should include the brightest apparel available in merchandise, however, as sweaters, scarfs, evening-wear fabrics, and bright-colour dress woollens. Achromatic colours may be found in furs, many tweeds, brown and tan leathers, hosiery, and merchandise in black and white.
The tints are the light expressions of a colour and are used for sweaters, summer spectator sports dresses, evening wear, intimate apparel, and lounging robes. The shades are found in street coats, shoes, millinery, woollen fabrics, and other materials for fall and winter wear. The intermediate colours, clear or subdued, are the most flattering colours for general wear. This range includes such colours as blue-greens, blue spruce, teal, medium blues, soft greens, subdued fuchsia, gold, and coral pink. This group is growing in importance, and many colours in it may be used together. Mixed colours include prints, woven effects in yarn dye, brocade, jacquards, and embroidered materials.
Intense or spectrum colours may be used together in small quantity. In a bathroom, bright green, rose, blue, and gold may be used for the bath towels harmoniously. Belts, shoes, bags, or hats may combine three or more intense colours effectively. Sportswear makes use of bright colours. A bright red jacket with a bright green skirt may accompany a yellow sweater. Such a combination is acceptable for out-of-door wear. The intermediate colours and some shades are the only group out of harmony with this range of intense colours. Rose does not look well with bright red. Teal is greyed in the presence of bright green or brilliant blue. Coral is at its worst with brilliant orange, and fuchsia looks dirty with intense violet or brilliant purple. Tints and achromatic colours, however, look well with intense colours. A pink collar may be worn on any bright-coloured dress. The neutral colours subdue the intense, brilliant ones. Shoes in grey, brown, black, tan, or white accompany a suit or dress of brilliant colour. The mixed colours combine with spectrum colours when one is repeated in the pattern. A bright green harmonizes with a bright plaid in yellow, red, purple, and green. Bright blue accessories may be worn with a dress combining black, red, blue, and purple.
Achromatic colours are too drab when used together without another colour. Grey and black is a good colour; combination for a vivid blonde or red-haired person because the hair introduces a warm colour. A woman with a fair, clear complexion, grey hair, and blue eyes may wear grey and black because her eyes introduce another colour and her delicate colouring prevents the combination from being too sombre. Balenciaga, the Spanish couturier, introduced black with a warm brown in a dinner dress in a distinctive pattern; but the average customer does not like the drabness of the achromatic colour combination. Brown looks well with white, but a brown that has red predominating is more effective than a neutral brown. This family of achromatic colours looks well with spectrum colours, shades, tints, and mixed colours when the achromatic colour picks up an echoing colour in the pattern or if the pattern is sufficiently brilliant to require a neutral contrast. College sophomore girls who want to wear bright plaid skirts or sweaters when they are large for their age, slightly stocky, or actually fat, may use this solution of wearing a grey or neutral colour for either the jacket or skirt. This technique subdues the effect so that the apparent size of the individual is not increased to any great extent. With achromatic colours, pastels look well if there is some harmony of texture. A mink fur coat looks well with any pastel evening dress because they are both luxurious materials. A grey tweed jacket with a cotton percale would not have the same harmonious effect because of the lack of harmony in texture.
All of the tints are harmonious together. This harmony may be observed in printed fabrics, woven brocades, and yarn-dyed woollens. Any spectrum or intense colour harmonizes with any tint. Thus, an evening dress of pale blue, pink, green, lavender, or yellow may be worn with a jacket, slippers, and a bag of bright green, purple, red, yellow, blue, or orange. Most pastels are more flattering with the addition of a brighter or darker colour. Tints also go well with shades and the intermediate colours. A pastel scarf is harmonious with any of the dark coat colours. A pastel feather is effective end any of the shades used for hats. Because the intermediate colours are subdued, pastels are very effective with them. Tints used with mixed colour effects should echo a dominant colour in the pattern.
Shades are least pleasing with spectrum colours. Tints, achromatic colours, and intermediate colours are effective, but the spectrum colours are too vivid. A wine-red coat may be worn with any pastel dress, sweater, or suit, and with any of the intermediate colours, soft blue, dull green, coral, gold, fuchsia, or greyed yellow. Likewise, any of the achromatic colours are correct worn with a wine-red coat. With mixed colours, the shade used may repeat the dominant colour in the pattern or be a complement of a dominant colour. For instance, a plaid of red, purple, and blue may be combined with a dark green. A dark blue coat may accompany a print with gold, red, and purple predominating.
The intermediate colours are least pleasing with the spectrum colours. Pastels, shades, achromatic colours, and mixed effects that repeat the right colour are all harmonious.
With multicolour fabric, several combinations are possible: a neutral or achromatic colour; the repetition of a dominant colour-spectrum, pastel, or shade-in the pattern; or the use of a complement to the dominant colour.
Each season the various fabric colours should be studied with the thought of working out in the mind as many combinations as possible. The customer is not always able to visualize two colours together unless she sees the various articles side by side. The salesperson, however, should develop the ability to visualize harmonious colours and textures. A study of the fashion magazines, of costumes from our best designers, and of merchandise, will be of help in developing such an ability.