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Tonal Blocking

I’ve long been an adherent to tonal blocking (the art of dressing in different shades of the same colour), but the problem was that the “tone” I used to block was black (I know, I know, black isn’t really a tone). However, in recent years I’ve embraced colour, and with it, the joy of tonal blocking in a vision of pinks and mauves, burgundies and dusty rose, emeralds and khakis.

Tonal Blocking

Having lived in Melbourne, Dublin and London, where the go-to cold weather uniform is black, I would open my wardrobe only to stare into an abyss of black. Gradually, colour crept its way in, subtly at first with a good dose of khaki, followed by probably too much leopard print than is healthy for one woman in her thirties. Then finally, I relented with an explosion of gossamer pinks, loud blues, metallic greens and liquid silk ambers, just to name a few.

Tonal blocking isn’t something to shy away from. It’s a matter of mixing different shades of the same colour in a way that keeps the eye moving over the entirety of your sartorial masterpiece. Take the beige and brown tones – nothing looks as put together as a camel coat over beige and nude tone co-ordinates. Or, consider a palette of maroon, dark pink and burnt orange. Heavenly. Have a look through your wardrobe, and organise the pieces according to their hue. Then you get to mix and match while you hold your very own own bedroom fashion show.

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While emerging into the world dressed head-to-toe in similar tones can look incredibly chic, there is a risk of veering too far into matchy-matchy or “lady-clown” territory. Your risk-mitigation strategy consists of two main considerations:

  1. Add a little contrast somewhere. Wear shoes, or a belt or bag in a contrasting colour or a metallic. Matchy matchy was a thing in the eighties, and although I love how the eighties are being revived in all its disco-tastic reincarnations right now, this is something that just looks like you’ve tried too hard to make your shoes match your handbag match your belt match your… you get the drift; or
  2. Make sure there’s a variety of tones and textures in your outfit to keep it interesting and prevent it from looking like a blueberry blob. Or a strawberry. Or, God forbid, a potato.

Go forth, embrace the colour and keep it interesting! Shop my pick of the pinks I’m currently obsess with:


My look: Shirt: Scanlan Theodore (previous season, similar here or here); Trousers: Petar Petrov (previous season, similar here); faux fur: And Other Stories; Sunglasses: Le Specs; Necklace: Missoma London

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