Reader Request: Complementing Navy

what to wear with navy blue

Keisha popped this into the Suggestion Box:

Sally, you’re amazing at color pairings. A post about what accessories (shoes, jewelry, bag) to wear with a navy dress (solid navy, so no pattern mixing to give a hint!)?

Ahhh, the real question, Keisha, is which accessories WON’T go with a navy dress! Navy spent years being derided as stodgy and difficult to style, but it’s had a resurgence in popularity. And I’m thrilled. Navy has all of the darkness of black but can be far less harsh-looking on many skin tones. And instead of sucking the life out of the colors around it (as black often does), it brings them to life! Can you tell I’m a fan? OK, let’s move on.

Keisha has a solid navy dress and is hoping to accessorize it with some color. I’m guessing at the dress itself, of course, but here are a few ideas for color pairings:


Navy looks marvelous with jewel tones, so a solid navy dress would be a great platform for a berry-colored scarf, purple suede pumps, and an olive green bag. Since the bag has brass fittings, I’d suggest muted gold jewelry – a pair of pave studs and a sculptural bracelet would be fabulous.

dressbagpumpsnecklace – earrings

For a more Tory Burch/J.Crew style look, go for punchy brights with your navy frock. A turquoise necklace will pop against the muted navy, and leopard pumps make everything seem sassier. (Yes, you can do navy and black, including patterns that incorporate black such as leopard.) My high school colors were blue and orange, so the combo gives me the willies … but it’s a classic complementary pairing. Even without the orange bag, this outfit will look stylish and fun.

dress – beltflatsbagnecklaceearrings – bracelet

I do pair navy with bright red on occasion, but the combo can look a bit nautical for my taste. Burgundy is a great substitute, and adding another muted bright like mustard yellow rounds out the color scheme beautifully. Add a neutral belt, silver necklace and bracelets to match the belt hardware, and amber earrings to mirror the warm, yellow flats. (You could certainly do burgundy shoes and a mustard bag instead.)

dress – bootsbeltbagnecklaceearrings

Navy is fantastic with colors, but also plays well with neutrals. Especially cognac brown, which is a major component of this mix in the form of some gorgeous boots. A black and snake-print bag presents a fabulous way to introduce black without feeling too dark, and an olive belt adds just a dash of color. Try a substantial necklace that hits above the bustline and stud earrings for balance.

**Disclosure: Actions you take from the hyperlinks within this blog post may yield commissions for See Already Pretty’s disclosure statement for more details.

Originally posted 2012-09-19 06:18:16.

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33 Responses to “Reader Request: Complementing Navy”

  1. Andrea

    I love navy, and wear a lot of it. I do have trouble figuring out what shoe colors work — I’ve tended to go with black because I’m not sure what else “goes” (and because 95 percent of my shoes are black). I like the options you’ve shown!

  2. CW

    I’m so in love with navy! Some of my standard color pairings are orange, mustard, and cognac brown, as you mentioned, but I also love greens (everything from seafoam to a bright ferny shade), and using neutral or metallic shades as a punch of color, such as with pewter flats, or a cream scarf and handbag. Dark blue also looks lovely paired with baby blue- I like to add red jewelry to a dark blue/light blue outfit for some interest.

  3. Kate

    I was going to buy that first dress you show until I saw the back. Why! It’s so cute, but I’m not a fan of visible bras, and I DO need a bra. Sigh.
    I love navy and tend to wear it with jeans a lot, because I wear jeans almost daily. Not dark rinse, but something a bit more weathered. With a navy dress I have I like wear it with a white cropped cardi and purple shoes.

  4. Angela

    I am slowly changing out all the black in my wardrobe with navy. It is difficult, especially trousers, but it looks so much better on my skin.

    I wear almost every colour with navy except black. But I especially love burgundy and camel. I also have been wearing brown shoes, I cannot find navy shoes that don’t look frumpy….a insomniac item perhaps Sal?

      • Wendy

        An insomniac pick for navy shoes would be wonderful! I have been looking for the right navy pumps for 2 years!

    • Angela

      Pumps and low heels, like an inch or so, I cant wear dead flat shoes, kills my feet, thanks!

  5. Anne

    Thanks for these great ideas Sally. I have a sleeveless navy dress and another with 3/4 sleeves. Here in N. Cal, where we don’t really get a pronounced fall season, they get a ton of wear. In the summer I like to pair my navy with Kelly green and turquoise. In cooler months I like pea green, purple and charcoal gray. I do find navy to be a much kinder color to wear than black. It certainly does more for my eyes.

  6. Maura

    I have this great navy dress that I like to wear with silver and amber jewelry, dark grey tights, and brown boots. I need to get some new boots so I can wear it again.. sigh.

  7. Mary

    I don’t wear much black anymore, unless it’s a full-on black ensemble — it’s hard to pair anything else with it without looking a bit nineties.
    But I love that navy works better with a wider range of colors on many people! I’m so happy to see more color worn, with fewer restraints and strict rules associated with them! Keep it coming, Sal!

  8. Linda L

    Oh yes, navy! I wish more people would get the memo that it looks so much better with colors than black does. I love navy with orange, coral, turquoise, mustard, emerald and true red. But you are inspiring me to put it with berry tones – can’t wait to try that. I think your brights and leopard outfit appeals to me the most, but they are all wonderful.

  9. poodletail

    Navy + khaki, navy + orange, navy + lime or wasabi green, navy + white or cream, and my favorites: navy + brown and navy + black. Yes, it’s true. It’s my first choice ever and always.

  10. Kathaleen

    Earlier this year, I re-figured my wardrobe and decided navy was going to be my go-to colour for major pieces (I get many compliments when I wear navy and I agree that navy doesn’t suck the colours out of everything else around it like black does!). I am so thrilled with this post!

    I thought I preferred to wear navy with neutrals but now I think the first outfit showcasing jewel tones would rock on me! But then, I really like the idea of leopard print shoes to sass up that outfit. I would accessorize a solid navy dress with purples and pinks. I have a gorgeous pair of magenta boots from Fidji and a lovely silk scarf with navy, teal and purple tulips. I think I’d even add some tights for the cooler fall days and I’d feel wonderful in that!

    I’ve been looking for a flattering navy dress so thank you, Sal, for the suggestions.

  11. Laurel

    I actually don’t have any navy clothing (what? I know, weird) but I really liked the format of this post. I liked the different accessory pairings; they help me visualize how different accessories can influence an outfit.

  12. JB

    I actually don’t really wear navy, but I was admiring it on a friend recently. She had one outfit with navy, turquoise, and white, and another with navy, purple, and magenta.

    This is the first reader request question I have seen like this (about a specific color), and I love it! You know what color I have a super hard time with that I see in vintage clothes a lot? a sort of dusty yellowy green, like maybe it would be considered avocado? I love green, so I am always drawn to it, but I don’t know what to do with it at all. Like any other earth tones takes it in a weird 70s place or else to woodland elf for my taste. Cream looks nice with it, but otherwise I am totally stymied.

    • Ignorant Awareness

      I think I know what you mean- sorta like a ‘chartreuse’ colour? I agree that white would be a good match, but have you also considered jewel tones?
      ~hot pink
      ~aqua blue
      ~deep purple

      Hope that helps? =]

  13. Megan Mae

    I really like navy BLUE, but regular navy tends to make me feel drab no matter what color I pair it with. Maybe my household lighting just makes me see it badly. Ah well, my favorites will always be navy and burgundy and navy with turquoise.

  14. Kristen

    I love navy! I’m trying to bring more of it into my wardrobe. One of my favorite pairings is navy and kelly green – I have a navy/white striped shirt that I’ve worn with a green cardigan about a million times (I try not to re-wear the same combo over and over, but I just like that one!) It has that sort of preppy feel but in a way that works for me much better than straight on preppy-ness.

    I also wanted to mention that I’ll do navy with black but I always feel like I need at least 2 black things to tie together and feel intentional – otherwise I feel like I look like I got dressed in the dark! Just personal preference. Same with brown and black, unless it’s a lighter brown (cognac, khaki, tan or the like).

  15. katie

    ooh, i have been increasingly drawn to navy for the past year or so — so much so that i have had to ban myself from bringing home any more navy blue blouses or sweaters. i find myself pairing it with white/cream and mustard, green (kelly, emerald, or jade), or raspberry/magenta/purple-y. i usually wear shoes in the brown spectrum — whether gold, peachy-skintone, cognac, or deep chocolatey in color.

    and i agree — i really liked this exercise in “here! let’s explore how to work with this color.” more, please?

  16. shebolt

    I think of navy as a neutral, and therefore incredibly versatile. Your suggestions are all fantastic. I especially love the brights you’ve paired up with it.

    • poodletail

      shebolt, yes! navy is a perfect neutral, I think. It even blends well with other blues. You can’t do that with greens, reds, purples … but navy? Mwah!

  17. Kathleen

    I love mustard yellow or kelly green paired with navy. And a current fave is orange and navy. For years I wouldn’t invest in navy because I thought you had to own matching navy shoes. I’m so glad I got over that fear.

  18. Chris


    Today you talked about navy clothing with a few comments about black thrown in. Allie over at Wardrobe Oxygen today talked about black clothes with a few comments about navy thrown in.

    Did you two plan that or is it coincidence?

    By reading both of your blogs today, I got quite a few good ideas.

    Thank you,


    • Sal

      Ha! Nope, that was a total coincidence. Though I adore Allie so maybe there was a magical meeting of bloggy minds. 😉

  19. Sarah

    Awesome pairings! I have a navy dress I’ve been pairing with black heels and that’s really all I could think of, but I’ll get so much more use out of it with these ideas. 🙂

  20. Mrs.M in MI

    I love navy and it is my most-often-worn neutral! I basically look at it like a pair of dark jeans – and you’d wear anything with your jeans, right? In fact, my house is mostly navy blue (with lots of white trim and honey pine floors) because we can put anything in it and it will look good.

    I did track down some navy pumps and peep-toes a few years ago – the brands are RSVP and Anne Klein, if I recall correctly.

    I actually like navy with cream and a bit of red. I also love it with orange, green, and pink. As an Ohioan transplanted to Michigan, I find it hard to wear the navy with yellow, though. Not that I wear red and gray, either.

  21. RM

    I was forced to wear a navy skirt with a white blouse for 4 years daily as my high school uniform…don’t think I’ve worn a single navy item since then! Great outfits pictured, though. With a cute dress like that, I might get over my anti-navy feelings.