Juice up your summer wardrobe with shades of citrus! Tangy, vivid tones of lemon, lime, orange and tangerine are bursting across fashion this season. “These are very bright, happy and optimistic colors,” says Gregg Andrews, fashion creative director for Nordstrom stores. “It’s hard to wear these colors and not feel the same way.”
Still, these powerful primaries can be intimidating, even if you’re accustomed to embracing color. Pink and turquoise, the season’s other brights, are easy to wear. But citrus hues are more challenging because their acid undertones can clash with skin tones and neutral wardrobes.
Here are 10 expert tips for getting your juice on this summer:
1. Pair with white
As the key neutral of the season, white is the perfect partner for vivid citrus tones. “It provides the clear, crisp contrast that you need,” says Andrews.
2. Add pops of color with accessories
“If you’re not ready for a head-to-toe look, try an accessory — an orange belt, a yellow pair of shoes or a lime cross-body bag,” says David Zyla, an Emmy Award–winning costume designer and author of Color Your Style: How to Wear Your True Colors.
3. Think casual
Softly faded denim is a perfect citrus partner because it reads like a neutral and brings a fitting, casual attitude to the pairing, says Zyla. Similarly, the power of bright colors comes down a notch when they’re cast as sporty separates, such as hooded jackets, miniskirts and T-shirts.
4. Understand the gold standard
Though anyone can incorporate pops of citrus hues into their wardrobe, not everyone will look their best with these shades close to their skin. Zyla offers this quick compatibility test: If you find gold jewelry to be more flattering than silver, you’re more likely to be someone who will look fantastic in citrus colors.
5. Try classics
Contain the season’s eye-catching tones within simple silhouettes and classic, uncomplicated shapes. “If we’re already comfortable with a silhouette, we’re more accepting of a new color,” says Zyla, who calls this year’s vivid tones “popsicle brights.” You won’t have to search hard to pull this off. Designers — high and low — are using ultra-bright colors to update traditional styles such as shift dresses, blazers, espadrilles and ballet flats.
6. Tread carefully
Adding matching bright shoes to an already vivid outfit can be overkill. For example, a tangerine shift dress looks best paired with nude or soft brown sandals, says Andrews.
7. Partner with patterns
Daring colors work well in sharp, geometric prints where their edges are distinct. This season’s popular abstract, color-blocked tops and dresses are a perfect way to go bright. Or, mix a delicate black-and-white print with canary yellow and lime. A strappy black sandal or thin black belt will complement this palette beautifully.
8. Pick a purse that has pizzazz
A clutch handbag’s clean, compact shape is the perfect medium for a splash of orange, lemon or lime. Pair it with a white, black or neutral outfit and you won’t feel like you’re being crushed by citrus. “It’s a great way to incorporate color into an outfit if you are color-phobic,” says Andrews.
9. Make informed makeup choices
With citrus tones, wildly colored nail polish is a yes; bold lipstick, a no. “Go with a warm neutral on the lips and avoid reds,” says Andrews. A sheer orange or tangerine gloss is another way to achieve just the right taste of tang. Kimara Ahnert – a New York City makeup artist whose salon attracts clients like Brooke Shields, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Gwyneth Paltrow – suggests introducing other fresh-from-the-orchard shades into your makeup palette.
“Colors on the spectrum of golden peach to melon and apricot can look really lovely in a sheer wash of blush or eye shadow,” she says. “Steer clear of anything berry or mauve. If you have deep or golden skin tones, you can go for stronger colors. If you’re on the fair side, stick with a sunny peach or an apricot-based bronze.”
10. Be bright at night
A little black dress looks fresh with solid or mixed-color shoes in the season’s fruit-inspired tones. Add another shot of zest with an equally bright stack of bangle bracelets.
Valli Herman has covered international fashion, beauty and travel for the Los Angeles Times, The Dallas Morning News and other print and online publications.