Saturday, May 10, 2014

Style Supplement: The vitamin J guide to pastels

Even though there's still snow EVERYWHERE, stores refuse to care and are stocked with loads of pastels.

I probably have something of every colour in my wardrobe but pastel tones, by far, are the most infrequently found.  I find pastels difficult to wear and difficult to style.  They often look too old, too young, too frumpy, too saccharine and sometimes just too uncool.  Pastels in spring are ubiquitous, and I've been experimenting with my most feared colour group lately.  I present to you, dear reader, my findings/ramblings, grouped by colour, in something I call 'The Vitamin J Guide to Pastels'.


Balance in all things

from LC Lauren Conrad for Kohl's 2011 collection

Pastels have a tendency to get too cute too fast.  Since the colour reads feminine and/or juvenile, make sure to balance this out by not wearing too much pastel in one outfit and to wear sleeker and edgier shapes.  Minimize ruffles, bows, flowers and other feminine details.  Pair with leather, denim and other more rugged and masculine-type materials.  Try simple shapes like basic collared shirts, skinny jeans and pencil skirts with few details.

Tone it down

 from RW&Co Spring/Summer 2014 collection

The easiest pastels to wear are desaturated ones.  For example, instead of baby blue, try one that reads more as ice blue or blue-grey.  Desaturated pinks and browns can often read as neutrals and are easier to style.  You can also go the complete opposite way and choose more saturated and brighter tones, which I find are also easier to wear.  There's less risk of washing yourself out and brighter colours generally look less juvenile.

Cross those seasonal barriers

from Le Chateau Spring/Summer 2014 collection

Pastels epitomize spring, so it can be hard to wear these colours in other seasons.  An easy way to do it is to pair with black.  This automatically gives off a sense of more grounded, serious femininity and is a favourite combination of mine for job interviews.  Pairing with any darker colour will do the trick-- brown, navy and burgundy are great colours to try.



Mint has been everywhere recently!  Its definitely a great choice as its on-trend and often does not read as a true pastel. You can wear a lot of mint without it getting overpowering, so feel free to experiment with dresses, skirts, pant, etc.  However, I recall mint first being exciting about three years ago, so I feel its on a downwards trajectory as a trend.  My advice is to pick up a few things if you like the colour, but don't go overboard as I don't think it'll be super hot in the coming seasons.

Easy pairings: black, grey, white, bronze, gold


Blush is a great, easy pastel to wear as it can be treated as a neutral and never really goes out of style.  Be careful of how different shades work with your skin colour-- some can make you look washed out.  

Easy pairings: black, grey, brown, cobalt, navy, magenta, gold, bronze, silver


I haven't seen too much lilac in-stores, but I have a feeling that in upcoming seasons, it will be like mint was last year.  With lilac, definitely stick to less frilly and feminine items; menswear-inspired pieces like collared shirts and blazers would look great.  You can also try a more desaturated colour with grey undertones for an easier to style piece.

Easy pairings: grey, beige, camel, cobalt, navy


Like lilac, I feel like ice blue will be a bigger colour given some time.  Blue reads more masculine, so this is the one colour you can go with more feminine details without it being overpowering.  Chambray's also a great choice that is technically light blue, but reads more rugged than pastel.

Baby blue personally terrifies me as I grew up in the 90's.  I would avoid baby blue (and baby pink) as it currently reads dated and instead go for something either more or less saturated.

Easy pairings: charcoal, navy, white


Not technically a pastel, but I included it as it’s a great colour to incorporate along with pastels for spring.  It’s a good neutral that’s less heavy than black but is more graphic than brown shades, and thus plays well into the graphic, black and white look that’s currently trending for this spring.  Grey looks great with texture, so try it in velvet or silk.


Yellow and spring green aren't quite as hot this season.  I feel that except for the coral that usually pops up around this time, cooler tones predominate.  White isn't a pastel, but is always, always in for spring and summer and works with most pastels very well.

The great thing about pastels is that you can find one that will work for you.  What's your favourite pastel tone for Spring/Summer 2014?



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