Brown Coordinates for Cooler Coloring

At a recent ASG event,  a woman with beautiful dark brown hair like this asked how she could wear her Key Neutral – chocolate brown – in combinations that didn’t get too warm and Autumn-y (which she was certainly NOT).  I often get this question from people who asume that only the warmest accent colors work with brown.  So I put together some samples of fabrics and accessory combination to accomplish that goal.  Whether you sew your wardrobe or buy ready-made, these combos should provide inspiration for all brunettes to walk away from a steady diet of black, black and more black and step into some more-flattering chocolate instead.

I’d start by adding a Chocolate brown Core Four grouping to her wardrobe – skirt, pant, shell and topper.  Then her first step might be mixing those browns with her existing black garments to make uber-sophisticated neutral outfits.  Here are examples with a mesh scarf, a fringed wool-like wrap and a back/brown jersey print as possible “links” to make visual sense of the unexpected color combo.  What a sophisticated way to update existing basics, right?

Next I added a muted red to the mix –  a smidge warmer and richer than classic red – and a linking chiffon print in black/brown/red –  for a scarf or a kimono topper (those are so popular right now).

A soft Blush color – between pink and peach – is universally flattering and in the fashion forefront these days, so a shell or jacket (or both) would be great mixers for the brown.  I added a long, chunky necklace to tie the two colors together.  I snapped these quick photos on my glass dining table, so you’re seeing the wood floors and chair legs in the corner – oops!

Universally flattering teal blue looks great with the chocolate brown too, especially with the addition of this zig-zag print sweater knit for an accent piece.  In the same way the teal brightens the brown brighten in the print, it will also spotlight her hair color.

Love this soft green rayon jersey as a soft top or a shell/cardigan duo with the chocolate brown bottoms and a brown/green scarf as the accessory. And of course shell or cardigan could work alone with a chocolate top+bottom color column.  Adding those two pieces creates 6 possible outfits.

But wait … there’s more.  Dark green is making an important statement this Fall, so why not add it to our mix?  It’s great with those soft green pieces and the same linking scarf, right?  I wish my color photography was more accurate, but the dense surface of the dark green ponte knit and the satin stripe of the scarf both reflect a camera flash.  Sorry.

Oh yes, and the blush that we mixed with the chocolate is also gorgeous with the dark green.  And this knock-out scarf pulls that look together.

This is how a true wardrobe is supposed to serve its owner.  Practically everything works with practically everything else.  Lots of solid colors, plus a few patterned garments and great accessories.  What additions could create that level of flexibility within your closet?

About Nancy Nix Rice

I help other women feel confident about how they look every day - regardless of their age, budget, lifestyle or the size tag in their pants - so they put wardrobe concerns on the back burner and go share their gifts with the world.


  1. Nan Jorgensen on September 19, 2019 at 11:24 pm

    To avoid the flash bounce set up near your largest window on a clear day. This will also give true color. The other thing to try is cheesecloth or a soft white semisheer piece of fabric over your flash. (More expensive is to get a photo umbrella and bounce your flash).

  2. Suzanne Godwin on September 20, 2019 at 1:32 pm

    Love your suggestion about mixing colors and pulling them together with a scarf that includes those colors. The scarf in the last picture is stunning. Thanks for the tips. I love reading your suggestions. Makes me ready to plan my fall wardrobe

    • Nancy Nix Rice on September 20, 2019 at 6:02 pm

      I carry those scarves- just don’t put them on the website when I don’t have larger quantities. But you can email me if you’d like to order one.

  3. Anne Pitt on October 15, 2019 at 11:28 am

    I appreciated this entry since I like cool browns too. But I am really writing this because I wanted to let you know how much having a color consultation with you several years ago improved my life. I haven’t been able to afford to buy all new clothes, so I am still in the implementation stage, but I noticed over the last few months that people are striking up more conversations with me. Yesterday two men started conversations with me, which is a) not something that happened decades ago when I was considerably more attractive and b) not something that usually happens in NY. So thank you!

    • Nancy Nix Rice on October 15, 2019 at 11:57 am

      Lovely to hear that you are finding people more drawn to you – we are just naturally drawn to things that are aesthetically pleasing. I remember you well from our initial meeting and you are plenty attractive – just nice to know better ways to showcase it!

  4. Rita K on October 27, 2019 at 3:42 pm

    Decades ago I realized that i felt truly wonderful in dark cool brown paired with a dusty rose silky blouse. But trying to find a truly COOL brown was a challenge. You have shown some really interesting combinations with the red, & dark green, as well as the teal/aqua blue. Thanks for the inspiration!

    • Nancy Nix Rice on October 27, 2019 at 3:47 pm

      If you are one of out sewing readers, you’ll b happy to know that our Chocolate ponte knit fabric is exactly that cool brown you love. Gals with warmer coloring can warm it up by mixing it with camel, caramel, peach and other warm accents. But it also works beautifully in cool mixes like the ones in this post. Glad you found the combination helpful.

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