Monday, November 26, 2007

What to Wear with Navy?

The contents of my closet are divided into two sections (figuratively, I'm not that organized), things that go with black and things that go with brown. Partly because I'm so Type A, partly because I'm not a particularly inspired or creative dresser, everything I buy has to match either the black or brown accessories and accent pieces in my wardrobe (I also have a soft spot for grey, but grey is close enough to black to match that half of my clothes). Everyone says that neutrals match anything, but I really can't get on that bandwagon.

For this reason, I've never bought a suit, dress pants or work-appropriate skirt in navy. To introduce navy into my perfectly bisected closet would inevitably result in chaos. I'd have to desegregate the black-matching and brown-matching clothes to create a list of pieces that would go with the navy item... it's a lot of effort for one measly pair of pants.

So when my friend Karen e-mailed me last week to ask about how to accessorize navy pants, I was initially at a loss. As she put it, "I'm all about the black pants and when I think my co-workers are wondering whether I own just one pair of pants, I pull out the navy ones. Do I have to buy navy shoes and socks to match? With a drawer full of black socks/stockings and more than one pair of black shoes, I'm loathe to spend money on the rare foray into blue-ville. And how do you match the many shades of blue?"


As much as I like matching things, the idea of navy shoes with navy pants conjures images of those eccentric old ladies who wear the same color head to toe. And for some reason, I find navy shoes to be unattractive in general... something about navy leather just looks strange. I told Karen that under no circumstances should she have to spend money on shoes that she'll wear with just one pair of pants.

But I also think that black and navy are an unappealing color combination. They're like pink and red, too similar to compliment each other but not close enough to match. Plus, no one wants to resemble a bruise.

My recommendation to Karen was to pair rich brown shoes with her navy pants, a pair like these or these would look great. Brown with gold accents also looks really sharp next to navy. If it's summertime or you happen to live in a warm climate, white and navy are a classic color combination. And if you're going for a more creative look, a yellow or red patent leather shoe could look great.

What do you guys think? Any navy-lovers out there?

30 comments:

Anonymous said...

Burgundy works with navy.

Elle said...

You can wear navy shoes with more than one pair of pants! I have a couple of pair of navy shoes, which I wear frequently with jeans. I've got one pair of navy shoes that I've worn so much I've had to have them re-soled. Of course, as i've said here before, I'm a tenured professor at a small university, so I'm able to wear jeans to work more than many FGB readers; YMMV.

Other navy shoes: I wear this pair with denim skirts as well as with jeans. Not that my whole wardrobe is denim; just another way to wear navy shoes.

Cate said...

I think you're right on the money with the rich brown, Meg, but I also think navy and black can me a really sharp color combo--especially if your pants are navy and your shirt and shoes are black.

Christina and Emily said...

I love navy! Especially navy dresses, which I usually wear with either black or grey tights and brown equestrian boots.
Navy dress pants sound like a great choice for an office. They are flattering, like black, but not boring, and they seem delightfully wintry. And really, I think you can wear any colour shoe with navy - especially black! I recommend reading the blog Fashion Verbatim, and he will totally bring you around to the navy/black combo.
However, I'm afraid that sometimes I go out wearing every neutral colour simultaneously, so maybe my advice is not to be trusted.
-emily

Dana said...

I used to fear black/navy but came to embrace it as very "continental" - har. was convinced by friend with impeccable taste who had been a personal shopper at one of the NYC majors.

Teek said...

Navy and white is my favorite Navy combination. Also light blue, most greens, burgundy, and grey. I only have one pair of navy dress pants and I must admit they don't get much wear - I bought them to try to "branch out" and because they look awesome with my favorite white/navy blouse. I like them with my grey shoes best. (as I also don't own navy shoes - blue is generally my least favorite color.)

Sarah said...

navy is a good color on me, but I am totally in agreement with your anti-navy-shoes stance. I used to avoid navy in my wardrobe for this very reason. Yeah, navy leather just looks cheap and wrong, somehow. I've taken to wearing a quirky contrast-y color combo with my accessories when i wear navy. I like this approach because navy can seem so conservative and institutional, even severe. It's nice to mix it up a little and make it softer and less conventional. I like to wear my soft suede loafers in a kiwi-green shade with my navy pants.

sparkler said...

Oh my god. I am SO with you on this. I think I literally nodded along to every point you made, and I always thought it was just me who divided my clothes into brown and black bases and thus could make no sense of navy.

I hate black and navy together and it makes me crazy that the combination suddenly became trendy.

I too hate navy leather, but I think you can either find navy shoes in a different fabric (suede works) or pair the navy pants with a bright-colored shoe. I'm a big fan of bright shoes to wake up otherwise neutral outfits.

Elizabeth said...

Whew... thank God... I thought I was the only one who had black/brown obsession... Nice to know that someone with fashion forward sense still has those hangups! I totally agree about the navy with brown!

nadarine said...

Formerly a 80% black-based closet, I'm slowly coming around to other neutrals. Grey, yes, grey all the time. Navy is making its way in via a dress and a cardigan, though I REFUSE to wear navy and black together. It's like wearing orange and brown together, IMO.
Grey is thus far my favorite complement for navy, esp. with some mustard-colored accents.

...though today, I'm wearing entirely black and grey. Even underwear and socks. :)

Anonymous said...

I love to wear navy, but finding appropriate navy shoes is nearly impossible.

Anita said...

Cordovon shoes are my favorite w/navy, or gray, or brown. Colors that go well with navy are burgandy, camel, pearl gray and plum.

lisa said...

I don't get what the big deal about navy is. All of my jeans are very dark denim, and I treat dark blues like any other neutral. In fact, I find they go with more things in my wardrobe than black because black can come off looking quite severe.

JessieB said...

Ditto to camel. I like light browns with navy.

junation said...

Navy is a challenge

Teek said...

nadarine - Brown and orange? Really? I love brown and orange together though I mostly find it works best in autumnal weather and fabric. An orange cashmere sweater, a brown tweed skirt, and some equestrian boots and I'm in heaven! (Your milage may vary, I happen to look great in orange and horrible in navy.)

nadarine said...

teek:
yeah, friends have voted me down on this, but something about brown and orange together really harms my retinas. I can't explain.

becka said...

I am another one who thinks of clothes in terms of black/grey VS brown, and i'm glad that i'm not the only one.
My brown and grey striped sweater always throws me for a loop, though :)

becka said...

also, i'm a big fan of brown and orange. In deciding which "side" of the closet orange things go, they will always go with brown. black looks like halloween, and navy looks like the chicago bears colors :) (i'm a fan, but not that crazy)

also, all of the above statements apply to softer oranges, not crazy bright orange. that is rarely a good idea.

Sue said...

De-lurking to stay that I just started loving Navy and I've been wearing these boots and my bright green suede Marc Jacobs pumps with all things navy this fall. I will NOT do navy and black together but midnight blue and black is a colour combo I can get behind!

GibsonGirl said...

Navy is actually an extremely versatlie colour. I do wear it with brown here and there, but the colours that i really love it with are: ivory, mauve, burgundy, plum, red, kelly green, yellow or mustard, grey, powder pink, and camel.

Anonymous said...

i don't care for navy, but i'd suggest pairing with gray, charcoal, white, purple.

i love brown and orange. brown and navy don't looke right to me.

i was talking to a guy about a navy suit he'd just bought, and i joked that he'd hafta get navy shoes to match. he paused, looked at me and said: you're thinking like a woman!

Bouncing Evil Ginner said...

Since my college colours are navy and white, I've had to get used to it! Luckily (sort of) I don't wear brown.. I pair navy with rich purple, light/mid green, silver, cream, white (obv) and gold. I think it would look good with a bit of yellow (another colour I don't wear) and maybe some red. I have a pair of silver shoes and some red ones which I wear with some navy tights.

Schmifty said...

Gray Gray Gray! Navy looks absolutely SMASHING with Gray! (especially light, silvery gray)

knoxwhirled said...

Meg, you gave great advice for what to wear with navy. However, I do agree with Lisa here:

I treat dark blues like any other neutral. In fact, I find they go with more things in my wardrobe than black because black can come off looking quite severe.

I find myself avoiding black more and more. Mixing other neutrals seems more sophisticated somehow.

Anonymous said...

In general I agree with your generalisations of not wearing navy w black, then I saw this picture of Reese witherspoon doing it nicely (although its debatable as to how 'navy' it really is...)

http://www.sharonknolle.com/usatoday_psarts.html

I think the main thing is if the navy is really dark and there is nothing else to brighten up the outfit. I liked your suggestions.

Megan said...

I don't have navy pants, but own a fanatical amount of navy in various forms. The best shoes for me have been out and out metallics. Silver flats, copper colored heels and if I wore gold then I would certainly wear navy with that as well.

Kasmira said...

I totally used to be afraid of navy too - but got over it when I bought a navy/white wrap dress. These are all my outfits with navy:

http://whatiwore2day.blogspot.com/search/label/navy

Anonymous said...

Very interesting. I don't understand this fear of navy by younger people, since it was a very popular neutral color up until the 1980s. Navy always goes with black, white, beige, and grey (particularly light grey). An entirely navy suit goes easily with flesh-colored shoes. You can try red but red/white/blue can be a bit overwhelming. Younger people just aren't used to seeing navy, that's all.

Anonymous said...

I'm stuck on brown and black as my "basic" work wardrobe...black and navy are very chic...very French...trouble is finding "true blue" navy.