Classics & Good Looks

Blocking Rehearsal

By Aqua Catlin

In Los Angeles, trends are often seen on the street or “saturating the street,” while sophisticated individual use of fashion to achieve style is seen less often.  In New York, to my eyes, there’s a stronger sense of fashion-play.  Here in LA, its perfectly sensible with our 1.5 seasons and our tee shirt culture, we can feel dressed in a tan, hot jeans and fancy flops without a need to get more complex.  Skin is in all the time, and they seem to wait hungrily for trends to easily add.   Yet here, the wonderful color blocking trend of Europe and NY just hasn’t caught on yet.  I want to have some color fun myself!   It’s rare that I partake in a trend so don’t look to me too much for that commentary, but with a name like mine, its a good thing I love the life offered in color!

The Color Blocking trend works a few ways.

1.  Straight up color blocked garments, like this timely dress from Bebe’s spring collection. (I know this is off subject but what’s happened to Bebe? Not going to research why this is, but a visit to their site felt like I was in the wrong part of town. Cheap! Eek. Stick with their accessories and the darling new jumpsuits for now.)

Bebe Spring Color Block (cutout, pointless-zip shoulder mess) Dress

2.  Stripes. And more stripes.  These are everywhere.  I won’t include an image, just look out the window.  The usual black and whites feel masculine and plain to me but many love the b&w, obviously.  Typical of LA to choose the most casual form of the trend.  Since I can’t beat them, I like mine bright!

Saving the best for last:

3. The Mix.  Different color everything.  And “everything” means just that.  Build this look with plenty of accessories and layers to prove you’re serious.  Serious about having fun!  Serious about looking great!  Men can do the mix too and will be admired every step of the way for their confidence.  If you’re not into brights, try with earth tones, blues (see monochromatics note below), or neutrals.

Brave, Blocked Men. Prada; Photo credit:

or here’s how I love it, anonymous and to die for:

Gucci. I love this European feeling color story! But no real fur people, except 3rd hand vintage.

Looking for a good time?  Follow basic safe seams color guidelines and sort your closet by color to wear the wheel well.  Don’t be the confusing “not quite” fashion victim seen on the street next to someone who only wore a simple printed maxi-dress and looks charming.

Color Wheel with Tints and Shades. Credit Business Creator Pro, RGB

This type of review can seem embarrassingly basic but we’re doing it anyway because the only person I’ve seen attempt TM here was a cute actress, as she fed her meter, which made it more sad that her look was failing so hard.  So, some guidelines based on what was off:

Keep warms and cools away from each other!  I don’t mean opposite colors, I mean warms and cools.  For me, this is THE rule.  If your eyes feel like a ball bouncing with no direction over Hot/Cold/Warm… its a “no.” All cools or all warms.  Preferably the one that suits your skin tones best : )  At first analyzing this can be a little tricky but if you look at any color, seeking blue or orange, you’ll find one of them and the one you find hiding in the tones will be your decider.  If your red has more blue tones than orange, you know it’s a cool red and so on.

A color is also called a hue.  If your clothes are lightened up with a lot of white in the color, its called a “tint.” These are often pastels.  If they’re darker or earthy, its a “shade” and has black added.

As for what’s going on with the neons, I’ve got no clue and would love to be edukatted, if you know.

The Mix is an opportunity!  Build layers, add accessories, wear a hat, throw on a bright bag with a scarf tied on, have fun!  And keep garments together of either the same intensity (brightness), or the same hue (color) with varying levels of light and dark.  And if you feel overwhelmed, throw a neutral piece into the mix.

All pieces equally intense -Jil Sander Color Block Spring '11,

BUT I want to disqualify what I just said, for monochromatics.  See this simple and stunning look by Leowe, achieved by using the same  hue, with a light tint top.  And for the little parrots who laughed at me and told me, “pink and red clash,” back in high school, try saying it now:

Monochromatic Color Block.  By Loewe, Photo Credit:

Reference our post on proportion and balance for your body type  and use this idea to help yourself out.   The lighter, brighter or heavier color should draw attention to your assets, (and away from any perceived flaws).

Within the color wheel, hues that are next to each other will look nice together (again, keep the same intensity/level of brightness).  I’ve been waiting since I was 8 years old to wear these colors together again:

Pink and Purple are together on The Wheel, equal intensity. By Issa;

And colors that are opposite to each other will complement each other for a really strong look!  I absolutely love seeing opposites together.  A yellow pump under a blue dress makes me want to sing because its so brave to use opposites and so fun to see them.

You can match the level of intensity by placing two garments together and looking away and back again.  In that first moment, what happens to your eyes?   Notice if there’s one part that rudely demands more attention from your eyes or is there a balanced focus on all parts?   This highly technical skill of looking away first, taught to me by a wise and experienced design teacher will work for any analysis of any look.  You should be able to move your eyes over your mirrored self and feel there’s no part  heavier or distracting.  That creates a kind of continuity or consistency I’m calling a look, even when you’re working a Mix.

And if your mix is working against and in spite of these guidelines, please send pics, I’d love to post them.  Life is long, rule-breaking needed

Just because I love his color field work:

Mark Rothko, Untitled Yellow, Red, Blue. Credit:

Aqua Catlin,


Filed Under: Blogs


About the Author: Aqua, (yes, its her real name), Catlin is an Aussie-American Costume Designer and Wardrobe Supervisor as well as Stylist. She’s costumed Michael Madsen, Daryl Hannah, Billy Baldwin and Arye Gross among others, has worked with models, musicians, playmates and in various roles Serena Williams and Oprah Winfrey. Aqua’s work is considered, on budget, on time and adds production value and a friendly on-set face! You’ll be glad you trusted your project to Aqua. Questions? Great! Contact us here: E-mail [email protected]

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