5 outfit combos to nail tonal dressing

How to style the coolest trend of the A/W season.

By Jenny Brownleess

Whilst you may have got your head around complementary shades that work together, you may not yet have thought of wearing multiple shades of the same colour in one outfit. Introducing tonal dressing: the hottest look of the autumn/winter season.

The technique for multiple-shade dressing works particularly well with separates, as you can layer up different hues of colour throughout your outfit – though a simple jumper-over-midi-dress combo looks just as chic. A tonal look works so well because it gives maximum impact with actually very little effort. Forget the usual rules on matchy-matchy shades here and mix each colour’s vast spectrum of tones for a truly on-trend look.

While you may think it takes guts to work bright colourways into your wardrobe, wearing this trend evokes a wonderful air of effortlessness, with super-luxe looking results. Even if the items in your getup were a bargain, pairing them with similar colours in different textures will elevate each piece to stylish sophistication. And if you’re wary of colour, opt for a tonal look in grey or brown, or try the trend first with just top, skirt and coat before going head-to-toe in one hue.

While this style can be recreated in any tone, we’ve chosen on-trend greens, blues, reds, greys and brown, all seen on repeat on the catwalks for A/W20. Plus, the parallel trend for colour blocking means so many of the below pieces will work worn together at a later date, helping you to create another winning outfit with minimal effort. Our top tip? Don’t forget the accessories – they can make or break the look.


Beauteous Browns

Using tonal dressing in an outfit of brilliant brown will evoke a wonderful autumnal look – with all pieces working equally well beyond the season. Mix shades of mahogany, tan and terracotta, all the way through to to lighter camels and near-beiges, for an outfit that looks warm, rich and expensive. This tactic is a short-cut to a refined look. Plus, as the eye will see a streamline of colour, it’s universally flattering to all. Work a variety of shades by French-tucking Arket’s sumptuously-soft leather shirt into Jigsaw’s slightly lighter straight-leg trousers. Allowing a hint of the brown knit bralet to peek out under the shirt, layer with Zara’s luxe-looking camel coat to give the colour palette a real 3D element, while Mango’s teddy handbag brings in that all-important texture. With this combo, there’ll be no ‘what do I wear?’ moments. Better still, you can change it up by adding or removing accessories to suit the weather and occasion.

Green Scene

A serious takeaway from this season’s runways is that green is going nowhere, meaning that wearing your greens in a five-a-day fashion is nearly as important as eating them. Opt for M&S’ refined-looking polo neck in forest green, which looks elegant and far beyond its price-point. Tucked into Whistles’ belted leather skirt, you’re already onto a winning tonal outfit that screams sophistication. Mixing these darker tones with the soft sage of COS’ streamlined coat makes a real statement.

Accessories make an important impact in tonal looks, and we love the khaki tones of & Other Stories boots, paired with the boxy muted green bag from Charles & Keith. For a touch of sparkle, Ganni’s headwear is the new answer to statement jewellery. The luxe variety of textures, from the leather to the wool, stop this get-up looking too samey; this outfit manages to seem both effortless and sharply pulled together at the same time.

True Blues

Blue is everywhere this season, and wearing different tones of the trending shade offers a softer take on monochrome dressing. Everyone from high street brands to high-end design houses are championing this hue, so it’s a sure fire way to refresh your wardrobe for winter. The print of Reformation’s dress (which we assure you, you’ll wear again in spring/summer) looks wonderful when paired with the chunky knit of Monki’s cardigan. The glint of blue earring ties together the whole ensemble, but our hero buy has to be the designer-looking mock croc bag from JW PEI. So chic.

Grey Matters

Perhaps not 50 shades, but not far off – head-to-toe grey is actually much easier to pull off than you may think. Much less severe than all black, but offering less worry than ‘I-daren’t-spill’ white, it strikes a perfect balance of style and practicality. Knitwear is having a real moment, and it doesn’t get better than the cosy duo of H&M’s light grey trousers and & Other Stories’ scallop-collar cardigan. Combining the two with Veja’s sporty plimsolls takes casualwear to the next level, while still looking pulled-together. And to ensure that you’re warm for winter, Monki’s on-trend puffer in slate grey is perfectly practical and equally as stylish.

Red On Red

The weather may be dull, but the fashion crowd are brightening things up with their all-red outfits and we’d implore you to join them. Red items are truly timeless and come back around season after season. Plus, this reign of colour is sure to banish the winter blues. Work Tommy Hilfiger’s stylish cords with Hobbs red roll neck, for a masterful colour combination that stands out from the crowd. The pillar box red of the pointed pumps and minimal clutch tie in the accessories, set beautifully against the lushness of Mango’s faux fur coat. If you want to elevate the look further, Isabel Marant’s marble earrings tick the trend boxes for colour, shape and texture. Finally, we love pairing a tonal red look with a berry lip to link our beauty style to our outfit – we’re all in when it comes to colour blocking.

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