colors that go together – 3 color rule

When putting together any outfit, one of the key considerations is what colors to wear. We love looking at all the color trends each season and deciding how to incorporate them into our outfits. But how many colors should you wear, and which colors go best together? This article talks about using the 3-color rule to figure out the colors that go together best for you.

What to consider when choosing colors that go together

The power of 3

One useful ‘rule’ is to think about putting an outfit together with three colors.

So, to make it easy, think about your color choice as an equation using three different colors: a+b+c=the perfect outfit.

The rule’s premise is not to use more than three colors in your outfit. However, there are exceptions. You can generally add more color to neutrals and denim. For example, if you are wearing black and white, then this counts as one rather than two colors, so you can simply treat them as foundational neutrals.

What color suits your skin tone?

Wearing colors that suit your skin tone – at least against your face – can really make you look more vibrant, whereas other colors can have a draining effect. Look at our articles on what colors to wear if you are a spring, summer, autumn or winter color type.

Your style personality

Your style personality will play a big part in the colors you like to wear. For example if you have a minimal style personality, you’re likely to be drawn to lots of neutrals. If you are a rock style personality, your wardrobe will feature lots of black, and if you have a romantic style you may be drawn to pastels.

Colors that go together - Eileen wears a purple dress | 40plusstyle.comColors that go together - Eileen wears a purple dress |

Eileen @eileenternullo above combines purple, pink and white.

Recreate her outfit with this similar dress, mules, handbag, earrings and necklace.

Whether you want to stand out or blend in

Your colors can make a big difference to the impression you make during your day. For example, if you wear red or orange, you will likely stand out more than you would wearing neutrals.

Do you want classic color combinations or try something unexpected

Some colors give a more classic, timeless feel, such as white, navy, red, black, beige, and pale blue. While others are more modern or on-trend and tend to come in and out of fashion.

Don’t be afraid of pattern

A really easy way to mix your colors is to choose a pattern and then add neutrals or match the rest of your outfit to the colors in your print.

You can add another neutral or denim

Neutrals and denim can be worn in addition to your three color choices. You know that your jeans go with absolutely everything without looking like a color option on their own.

Colors that work together - Sandra wears white, blue and pink | 40plusstyle.comColors that work together - Sandra wears white, blue and pink |

Sandra @lapecosapreciosa above opts to make her accessories the star of her outfit by choosing neutral clothes and teaming them with a pink bag. Note, she also adds a pop of bright lipstick.

Check out this similar top (another option here), pants, sandals, handbag, earrings and sunglasses.

You can also take inspiration from our color articles

Also take a look at the color trends for summer 2024, as well as our color series on how to wear each of these colors:

How to find colors that work well together?

Let’s explore more tips and tricks when putting together colors that work well together.

Kimba wears a print blouse and pink pants | 40plusstyle.comKimba wears a print blouse and pink pants |

Kimba @kimbalikes above opts for a print top with her pink pants. She adds additional color with her green bag.

Steal her look with this similar top, pants, sandals, bag, necklace and sunglasses.

What are the 2 best colors that go together?

This question is often asked, but there are so many great color combinations that it’s impossible to choose the two that go best together. One great choice is to go with black and white and then add additional colors on top.

What are the best 3 color combinations?

In this article, we take you through some color examples that go beautifully together. But don’t be afraid to play with color. Take out some of the colors from your closet and lay them out on your bed or clothesrail so you can see how they look.

What are 4 colors that go well together?

If you want to wear four colors rather than three, go ahead. There are no hard and fast rules in fashion. One way to ensure that your look is still coherent is to wear another neutral on top of your chosen three colors.

Colors to wear together

Of course, there are countless colors to choose for your outfits, so have fun with color. Below are just some of the color choices you could make.

1. Beige + white + red

We love this color combination for summer. Red is such a dominant color that a great way to wear it is to let red be the star of your outfit, and then add supporting acts with your white and beige.

Beige + white + red | 40plusstyle.comBeige + white + red |

Capsule 121 The Courage JacketRamy Brook Hallie Sleeveless Midi-DressEric Michael Milan SandalsHOBO Cambel Crossbody BagDeepa Gurnani Bianca Earrings

2. Yellow + white + blue

Another beautiful choice for summer weather, yellow and blue go wonderfully together and remind us of the summer sun in a blue sky. Add white for a clean, crisp look.

Yellow + white + blue | 40plusstyle.comYellow + white + blue |

Joe’s Jeans Utility Cropped Denim JacketMadewell Supima® Cotton Rib T-ShirtFarm Rio Monstera Eyelet Midi-SkirtFranco Sarto Loran Slide SandalsFrye Nora Knotted ToteZENZII Beaded Hoop Earrings

Colors that work well together - Jamie wears blue and yellow | 40plusstyle.comColors that work well together - Jamie wears blue and yellow |

Jamie @moreturquoise above (read her style interview here) opts for blue, yellow and white.

Get her look with this similar shirt, sweater, jeans, loafers, bracelet and sunglasses.

3. Purple + white + green

Don’t be afraid to put more ‘unusual’ color choices together. Purple and green go beautifully together for example. You can add some white so you don’t feel overwhelmed with your colors.

Purple + white + green | 40plusstyle.comPurple + white + green |

Good American Committed To Fit Denim JacketVerdusa Square Neck Rib Knit Tank DressCole Haan Grandpro Topspin SneakersLongchamp Medium Le Pliage Nylon Shoulder ToteBocar Long Beaded Statement Necklace

5. Navy + white + orange

Orange is a great alternative to red for making sure your outfit stands out. Teaming orange with whites and blues is a great choice.

Navy + white + orange | 40plusstyle.comNavy + white + orange |

Milly Viara Lace Cover-Up MinidressMelissa Odabash Panarea Core One-Piece SwimsuitRip Curl Revival Sand Free 7L Tote  – Havaianas Slim Flip Flop SandalsOscar de la Renta Half Gardenia Clip-On Drop Earrings

6. Burnt orange + black + gold

You can also think about more muted color palettes. Burnt orange or terracotta, for example, goes wonderfully with black, white, and metallics.

Burnt orange + black + gold | 40plusstyle.comBurnt orange + black + gold |

Generation Love Malin Lace Zip JacketCOS Gathered Asymmetric Midi DressFranco Sarto Ina Flat SandalLoeffler Randall Billie Woven Leather Shoulder Bagbrook & york Farrah Hoop Earrings

Colors that work together - Cathy wears a neutral outfit | 40plusstyle.comColors that work together - Cathy wears a neutral outfit |

Cathy @themiddlepageblog above (read her style interview here) shows how you can put together an outfit of neutrals, then add metallics with your jewelry.

Get her look with this similar moto jacket, dress (another option here), sandals, clutch and necklace.

7. coral + turquoise + gold

We love this color combination for vacations. Team coral with your white pants or jeans, and add turquoise and gold.

Coral + turquoise + gold | 40plusstyle.comCoral + turquoise + gold |

Nordstrom Utility ShirtElie Tahari Laylee Straight-Leg PantsC.Paravano Mary Jane FlatsLoeffler Randall Billie Woven Leather Shoulder BagKenneth Jay Lane Turquoise Dots Drop Earrings

4. Green + pink + black 

Another more unexpected combination. Have you tried wearing emerald green with bright pink? You can then add black or white as your neutral.

Green + pink + black | 40plusstyle.comGreen + pink + black |

MELLODAY Pleated Flutter Sleeve MinidressAG Jeans Emrata X AG Morrison Slim-Fit Ribbed Flared PantsAerosoles Camera Heeled SandalsMarc Jacobs The Clover Shoulder BagSAVVY CIE JEWELS Double Halo Lab Created Emerald Stud Earrings

7. Navy blue + pale blue + red

You can mix different shades of blue and then add a bright pop of color with either red or orange.

Navy blue + pale blue + red | 40plusstyle.comNavy blue + pale blue + red |

Rue Sophie Mika Satin Cowlneck Sleeveless TopHudson Jeans Tie-Waist Denim TrousersNaturalizer Bristol SandalsSTAUD Valerie Suede Shoulder BagZVVBOO Crystal Hoop Earrings

Choosing colors that go together with the 3-color 'rule' | 40plusstyle.comChoosing colors that go together with the 3-color 'rule' |

Tanasha @letsrecreatethelook above looks wonderful in her red shorts suit. She keeps her color palette very classic by teaming red with white and navy.

Recreate her outfit with this similar vest, shorts (set option here), tank top, sneakers and crossbody bag.

9. Yellow + gray + silver

Yellow is a beautiful sunny color. Let your yellow stand out by pairing with gray and silver accessories.

Yellow + gray + silver | 40plusstyle.comYellow + gray + silver |

COS Shrunken T-shirtMICHAEL Michael Kors High-Rise Pleated ShortsComfortiva Gervaise Slide SandalsHOBO Cambel Crossbody BagAtoden Knotted Rhinestone Headband

Which of these color combinations is your favorite? Which three colors do you most like to wear together?

Colors that work together capsule

Below, you can see the outfits from above together in one capsule. These are just some suggestions of colors that work together. Obviously, there are so many different color combinations you could create.

Colors that go together | 40plusstyle.comColors that go together |

Continue reading:

  1. How To Incorporate The New 2024 Color Trends Into Your Own Style
  2. How To Wear Green – Which Of These Color Palettes And Outfits Is Your Favorite?
  3. How To Wear Orange? 7 Color Combinations To Get You Started!

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Choosing colors that go together with the 3-color 'rule' | 40plusstyle.comChoosing colors that go together with the 3-color 'rule' |

Feature image by Tanasha @letsrecreatethelook


Sylvia is 40+style’s editor-in-chief and has been helping women find their unique style since 2011. An alumni of the School of Color and Design, she is devoted to empowering women of any age to look and feel their best. Read more about Sylvia and 40+style on this page.

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