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July 4 colors keep well in the closet

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By Samantha Critchell
Thursday, June 27, 2013, 8:55 p.m.
 

Red, white and blue are at the heart of the Fourth of July holiday. Mix them. Embrace them. Wear them — and do it again on July 5. You can do it over and over again all year long.

The colors are a classic combination that celebrates summertime in all its glory, say style experts, and it's infinitely more wearable than the other pairings that define other specific days on the calendar. Together, the shades are chic, not costume-y, a much-higher risk with, say the orange-and-black of Halloween, red and green at Christmas.

“Red, white and blue are iconic,” says Tommy Hilfiger, who weaves the colors into seemingly every collection no matter the season or trend. “These colors reflect freedom, optimism and a youthful spirit. ... I've always been inspired by iconic people and places, and my American heritage is one of the most recognizable influences in my designs. The brand has always drawn inspiration from our classic, American, cool heritage and signature preppy style.”

And, adds Tim Baxter, executive vice president and general merchandise manager of apparel at Macy's, the colors aren't just a source of American pride. The Brits and French also use it for their flags, he notes: “It's a very bold and powerful color combination.”

The crispness of the colors — and the sharp contrast they offer — works in their favor, explains Alia Ahmed-Yahia, chief style director of the Loft. It's not the same with other holiday-specific palettes.

First of all, she says, it's grounded in white, which is an easy base for any summer outfit Memorial Day to Labor Day, and even longer, if you're willing to break some outdated “rules.” White is flattering to most people, it's polished but not severe, like a black would be.

Baxter says navy is getting its due as a fashion color, too, and shoppers are using it as they would a black. “I think we're shifting into a period of fashion where navy will become a more influential base color throughout the year.”

Whatever it is, choose “a hero color,” says Ahmed-Yahia. “You don't have to be equal parts red, white and blue.”

A red headband or scarf ties an everyday white T-shirt and jeans into a barbecue outfit.

Costume designer Eric Daman often put Leighton Meester's “Gossip Girl” character in red, white and blue, but, he says, he also was keenly aware of balance, which doesn't mean even. Stars are OK, stripes are OK, and sometimes they're even OK together, but it's easier to wade into overkill territory.

His favorite trick is a nautical theme: It could be a blue-and-red striped bateau neck top with white jeans, or a blue-and-white striped rugby with washed-out red chino shorts. “It's a very Nantucket way to do it,” says Daman, a style adviser to retailer Century 21. A navy blazer, red tank and white pants offer a slightly dressier look.

And then he kicks it up with accessories, maybe a red shoe or red bag, but probably not both.

“Our most savvy customers know how to add a piece of red, white and blue to their existing wardrobe to make their own look that suits them,” Baxter says. ”It's not a stretch.”

Samantha Critchell is an AP fashion writer.

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