Ombre makes statement as new twist on tie-dye

JoAnne Klimovich Harrop
| Thursday, Jan. 31, 2013, 8:55 p.m.

The colors fade from light to dark.

The transition can be subdued or dramatic. It's called ombre — pronounced OM-bray — which is French for shaded or shadow. Sometimes, the hues merge into the next like a rainbow, but bold fashion statements, too, can be made by pairing opposites on the color wheel on clothing, hair or accessories.

“A woman who might be color phobic or have an aversion to prints can try ombre, which is a wonderful way to add interest without making an overly strong statement,” says Gregg Andrews, Nordstrom fashion director. “These prints have an artisan quality to them, and each feels unique. Ombre is appealing to a lot of people.

You will see ombre everywhere from clothing to accessories to hairstyles, even in swimwear this year, says Lindsay Huggins, senior fashion market editor for Self magazine. It is a fun choice and doesn't look hippie-like, she says.

“Ombre is a step up from tie-dye and doesn't seem so junior,” Huggins says. “It is a little bit more sophisticated, and when you see it in silk and other unexpected fabrics, it is really fun.”

You can find ombre in a variety of tones, too, Huggins says, such as greens for a more nature-inspired look, or peach and other pastels.

Ombre looks great in everything from dresses to denim and even shoes, especially for spring.

“An ombre dress is fantastic because it elongates your figure, particularly in long dresses, as your eye moves from one color to the next,” says Cheryl Mainland, chief marketing officer at “This trend also allows you to play with color without making a commitment to just one color and gives you multiple color options for accessories. All in all, ombre is incredibly fun for fashion-commitment phobes.”

“It's different from any other print or pattern because it is a 2.0 version of a solid-color dress, allowing you to explore different shades of colors all in one dress,” says Kim Collins, chief merchandising officer at

If you don't want to go with a dress, try a pair of denim pants or a denim jacket, says Marissa Rubin, senior fashion market editor for People Style Watch.

“I am also seeing it in knitwear,” Rubin says. “What is new is the ombre is subtle. It doesn't have to be really loud to be ombre. You will really see it in maxi dresses come spring and summer.”

Ombre has been gaining popularity for a while now, says Suzanne Mauro, a stylist accredited by the Association of Image Consultants International and producer of “Style Everyday with Suz,” on PCTV. She says to wear only one ombre piece at a time and to remember to keep the color palette fairly simple.

“Try a denim jacket with light ombre washes — it can take you from daywear to evening cocktails, by pairing it with a denim pant or a dress in lieu of a blazer,” she says. “For a slimmer leg look, try a blue-on-blue tie-dyed ombre look. Or try pairing a gun-metal top or sweater with a pastel green or pink ombre jean. It's contrasting toughness with sweetness for a very ‘chic' look.”

The legwear industry has certainly embraced the ombre trend in a variety of colors and styles, says Sally Kay, president and CEO of The Hosiery Association.

“With advanced dyeing technology, this modernistic approach has leveraged the ‘tie-dye' technique into the 21st century,” Kay says. “Recently I spoke at a global legwear conference and chose to ‘legcessorize' my black shirt dress with a pair of grey-to-black tights along with a pair of black suede pumps. The ombre legwear demonstrated a professional, yet fashion forward, inspiration to an otherwise ultraconservative outfit.”

JoAnne Klimovich Harrop is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at or 412-320-7889.

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