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Color of the Year 2021

Each December, the Pantone Color Institute, a limited liability company specializing in standardizing color reproduction used in industries like graphic design, fashion design, brand forecasting, and printing, attempts to predict the tone for the year ahead in the form of color. Back in December 2019, they choose the hue “Classic Blue,” which was meant to

Each December, the Pantone Color Institute, a limited liability company specializing in standardizing color reproduction used in industries like graphic design, fashion design, brand forecasting, and printing, attempts to predict the tone for the year ahead in the form of color. Back in December 2019, they choose the hue “Classic Blue,” which was meant to represent 2020 as a period of “calm, confidence, and connection,” according to their website. Little did they know how uncalm and unconnected this past year would become. However, the new year is ahead of us, and Pantone has unveiled not one, but two, 2021 colors for the year! Illuminating and Ultimate Gray, in other words, yellow and light gray. This is the second time in its 20+ year history the company has picked two shades, the first being in 2016 with Rose Quartz, a warm pink, and Serenity, a cool blue that blended to form a gradient representing balance.

Unlike 2016, this year’s two shades go boldly in two separate directions, starting with Ultimate Gray standing for natural durability like a rocky cliff or pebbly beach. Then comes Illuminating, a lemony-yellow meant to symbolize a sense of brightness and vivaciousness. The combination of these colors stands for strength, optimism, and fortitude following a challenging year. While you may start seeing these colors in home interiors and graphic design, it may be a bit tricky, sartorially speaking, to pull off these opposing hues. Here are a few ideas and outfit formulas to incorporate this year’s colors into everyday outfits.

First off, go to the source. Pantone itself suggests wearing the colors together instead of independently. Use Ultimate Gray for garments like coats, blazers, and pants, then tie in pops of Illuminating with accessories. A lemony bag, scarf, hat, and gloves will cheer up a gray wool overcoat this winter. Come spring, try yellow sandals or sneakers with a gray shift for a warm-weather look. Or, if you’re feeling brave by the summer, go with a yellow sundress and gray slip-on sneakers to reverse this approach.

Still stuck at home? No worries. Breathe some new life into your gray sweatpants, or invest in a new pair, and wear with a chunky yellow pullover. This will surely brighten up your face on your next Zoom call while keeping you comfy and cozy. If you’re back in the office here in 2021 and your dress code allows, liven up a gray suit with a yellow t-shirt. If tees are not appropriate, then bring color in with a bright bag for work.

If you’re fully ready to dive into the sunshine shade, then go big with a tailored yellow coat paired with a slate gray handbag. I’d recommend keeping the silhouettes simple and sleek when wearing head-to-toe yellow. Anything baggy or overly-detailed can come off a bit juvenile when working with this bold, Big Bird-adjacent hue. Look for tailored pieces, like cropped trousers, single-breasted blazers, and A-line dresses, and pair them with gray tights, t-shirts, or knits. I love the idea of a bright yellow pant with a gray turtleneck and a brown (or silver) loafer for work.

Activewear is a simple way to access this color combo. Performance leggings, track jackets, and running sneakers will be designed with these colors in mind here in 2021. So be on the lookout for graphic prints featuring both shades when heading back to the gym.

Of course, you may find that these official 2021 colors are just not complementary to your skin tone, hair color, eye color, or personal preferences. There’s no point in wearing a color that makes you look sallow or doesn’t go with any other thing in your closet. Instead, take these shades as an inspiration/starting point to explore similar tones in the gray and yellow color family. Instead of a lemony-yellow, you may prefer a buttery-yellow or a shade of orange to brighten your look this winter. If gray makes you feel down in the dumps (and we certainly don’t need any more of that), then opt for a shiny silver to add sparkle to your mood and your ensemble.

I think it’s safe to say that no one can predict what the year ahead has in store, but hopefully, no matter what color you are or wear, you’ll find a balance of strength and hope in 2021.

If you’re ready to fully commit to Illuminating, consider investing in a statement coat that’s doused in the hue. Tie in a slate gray handbag like Balenciaga’s for a well-rounded look.

Last but not least, you’ll want to consider the color combo when sneaker shopping — which Cariuma just made simple as Pantone’s official footwear partner. Shop the 2021-readied shoe in a neutral gray, and pair it with a yellow slip skirt like ATM Anthony Thomas Melillo’s.

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