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Which would you choose, a neutral or colorful bag?

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While we often think of handbags as a functional necessity, I believe a well-chosen bag can complete and elevate an outfit. Once you have a sense of what handbag style works for you, how do you choose the best color?

How to choose the best handbag color for your outfit.

One of my readers recently asked for some guidance on choosing between two colors of the same bag, one bright and one neutral. Both were appealing, and I could see how it would be a tough decision. I offered some things she might want to consider in making a choice, and thought I’d expand upon them here. If you’ve ever stood staring at a row of bags (or other accessories), unable to pick a color, I hope this might be of some help.

How to choose a handbag color

First, you want a bag that will be harmonious with the rest of your wardrobe. Knowing your seasonal color palette will help you build a cohesive wardrobe where everything works together (including your accessories). But if you don’t know your palette, take a quick scan of your wardrobe, especially the clothes you wear most often. Are most of the colors cool? Warm? Neutral? Soft? Bright?

Then, think about the function of the bag. Is it something you’ll be using every day or most days? For social occasions only?

And finally, what’s your comfort zone when it comes to wearing color? The more the merrier, or in small doses only?

You might choose a neutral bag if…

Colorful wardrobe in Winter palette with neutral bags.

scarf | cardigan | tee | blouse | tote | pants | pants | shoulder bag | sneakers

👉Your wardrobe is mostly colorful. If you wear a lot of color most days (and especially if you wear multiple colors), you may find that a neutral bag is much easier to coordinate. If your wardrobe is mostly cool, stick with cool neutrals like black, gray, white, silver. For warmer colors, a neutral like brown, camel, ivory, bronze or gold will coordinate well.


👉You prefer an all-neutral palette. Some people prefer to stick completely to neutrals. You may want to pay attention to the texture and details on the bag to add visual interest. A subtle metallic bag can add a nice “pop” to an all-neutral look.

👉You work in a professional environment with a sober dress code. (Though I have to say, if you want to buck the rules, go with a red bag, which can read as both bold and serious.)

👉You plan to use the bag for travel. When I travel, I prefer simple, neutral bags. First, they are easier to coordinate. Second, they don’t call as much attention to themselves as a target for thieves. (My top pick HERE.)

A colorful bag can be a good choice if…

How to choose a handbag color: neutral wardrobe with a colorful bags.

cardigan | bandana | tee | shirt | bag | pants | jeans | tote | shoes

👉Your wardrobe is mostly neutral. If you wear mostly neutrals, use a colorful bag as an accent and to create visual interest.


Tip: cool colors will coordinate better with cool neutrals, warm with warm.

👉You are comfortable wearing multiple colors in one outfit. If you have built a wardrobe around your seasonal color palette, you’ll find that most of the colors will coordinate and look in harmony.

👉You want to begin adding more color to your wardrobe, but in baby steps. Accessories like a bag or scarf are a great way to introduce color without a huge commitment.

👉 You have plenty of neutral bags and want more variety.

Do you wear colorful bags or stick to neutrals? If you do wear colorful bags, how do you choose colors?

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