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5 Colors You Should Never Wear Together, Stylists Say

According to experts, these combos just don't work—here's what to try instead.

A little black dress with a camel-colored trench coat, a pair of blue jeans with a white T-shirt, or a navy sweater with gray chinos—these combos are classic for a reason: They fuse two colors that complement each other perfectly. But just as some hues are meant to be mixed, others can clash. That's why stylists say there are some colors you should never wear together.

Sally Samuels, fashion expert and head of design at Savile Row Company, recommends using the color wheel for reference when trying to find combos that work. Generally, colors that are right next to each other or opposite each other tend to work well together—although there are exceptions to this. Some colors that are opposite on the wheel, which are known as complementary colors, can actually create too harsh of a contrast.

"Also, wearing too many different colors creates a visually busy or chaotic appearance, and doesn't allow statement pieces to stand out," she adds. "Aim for three colors in your outfit to keep it cohesive."

Next time you're choosing what to wear—whether for a dinner date, casual family outing, or formal event—here are some color combos stylists say you'll definitely want to avoid.

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Black and navy

Stylish woman wearing black and navy outfit with purse
MS_Studio / Shutterstock

Melony Huber, a fashion expert, stylist/buyer, and co-founder of La Peony, never pairs black with navy blue—in part because these two equally dark colors are just too close and don't create enough contrast.

If you're going for a neutral look, Huber recommends pairing black with gray. Or, you can wear it with nude or blush pink for a more striking combination.

Purple and red

Closet full of purple and red clothing
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Purple and red are considered analogous colors, because they're right next to each other on the color wheel. That said, vibrant red and bold purple can compete for visual attention, creating a look that's overwhelming, according to Tracy Cheng, personal stylist and founder of the fashion blog Girl Shares Tips.

While Huber says lavender pairs more easily with other colors, she notes that deeper and brighter purples can only work with certain hues—like gray, white, black, and beige.

Cheng, meanwhile, suggests combining red with blue instead. "They sit across from each other on the color wheel, creating a pleasing contrast when paired up," she explains. "Both blue and red come in various shades that complement each other well. For example, a light sky blue shirt matched with dark burgundy pants creates an understated yet elegant look."

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Yellow and green

Yellow and green fashion concept with young stylish woman wearing suit and purse
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While both yellow and green are gorgeous colors that can instantly liven up any outfit, Cheng says it's best to choose one or the other when building an ensemble.

"When worn together, they can create a jarring effect that is not pleasing to the eye," she tells Best Life. "Combining these two colors can be too overpowering as both hues are quite bright and intense."

As an alternative, Cheng recommends wearing green with brown since they're both considered earth tones. "When these colors are combined, they create a harmonious palette that evokes a sense of warmth, comfort, and relaxation."

Brown and gray

Brown and tan sweaters and coats hanging in closet
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Brown and gray is another combo that doesn't offer enough contrast to create some aesthetic interest, according to Cheng.

"This makes the two shades blend into each other, resulting in a dull appearance," she explains. "Additionally, because brown and gray are both muted colors, the overall effect is often drab and uninspiring."

The one exception? If you combine a very dark brown with light gray. Otherwise, Cheng recommends pairing brown with navy instead.

"Brown adds warmth to the coolness of navy," she says. "The combination of warm brown tones with cool navy hues creates a balanced contrast that is pleasing to the eye." If you go this route, Cheng suggests wearing a lighter shade of brown with a darker shade of navy.

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Brown and yellow

Smiling happy young woman in yellow outfit and beanie hat
Cast of Thousands

While metallic gold can look stunning with brown, yellow doesn't always work with this color, says Huber. The combo can end up looking muddy, or the vibrant yellow can overwhelm the muted brown.

"I would pair brown with cream for a neutral palette or with a shade of pink for a feminine look in fall," Huber tells Best Life. In the spring and summertime, try wearing brown with baby blue or light green.

Rebecca Strong
Rebecca Strong is a Boston-based freelance health/wellness, lifestyle, and travel writer. Read more
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