50 (more or less) shades of gray

JoAnne Klimovich Harrop
| Friday, Nov. 1, 2013, 7:37 p.m.

Don't be afraid to go gray.

In fact, welcome all shades of gray — into your wardrobe. From clothing to accessories to footwear, gray is a hue that looks good on all women and complements items already in the closet.

“Color trends come and go, but certain shades stand the test of time,” says Suzanne Mauro, a stylist accredited by the Association of Image Consultants International and producer of “Style Every Day With Suz” on PCTV. “Gray is a prime example. The color gray has not only become a fall fashion staple, but a color that can be used for greatness. Gray is being styled up, by rocking faux furs, blazers or even trendy trousers and pants. One of the chicest colors to combine with gray is tan. The two shades make the most elegant partners.”

Mauro says to pair a gray blazer with a pair of jeans and a slate-gray jean with a crisp white shirt — both very trendy looks. You also can go full gray-on-gray, which makes a strong statement. Complement a darker shade by contrasting it with a light, more subtle choice.

Gray is a color that will give diversity to your wardrobe, Mauro says. What's fresh and new this season is head-to-toe, says Lindsay Huggins, senior fashion market editor for Self magazine. A gray cashmere sweater and pencil skirt is a perfect start on your way to replacing the standard black outfit.

“Gray is also not too far from a woman's comfort zone,” Huggins says. “It's slimming — and you certainly can't go wrong there — and you can mix different tones. It is best to mix different tones from heather to charcoal.

“We are seeing gray everywhere,” she says. “Gray also looks great with so many other colors.”

Huggins says if you choose a gray suit with a masculine look — pinstripes, herringbone or tweed — for the office, be sure to add a frilly or lace blouse or a pair of pumps to give it a feminine edge.

“By wearing a lot of different shades of gray, this can certainly be your ‘50 Shades of Gray' moment,” Huggins says. “Maybe those books were in the psyches of the designers when they were creating their collections.”

Whether or not the trilogy has had an impact, a woman needs to find the perfect shade of gray for her, says Julie Peterson, an expert in color and personal style assessment and owner of House of Colour Pittsburgh. Depending on the shade, gray can create a washed-out look and appear tacky, or it can create an elegant look. Each season has its gray, Peterson says.

“Gray as a color is definitely easier to wear for a lot of people,” Peterson says. “It's a very good neutral, and is really trending this year. It doesn't get as much of the limelight as it should.”

Nordstrom fashion director Gregg Andrews agrees with Peterson that gray is a perfect neutral.

“You can pair gray with so many colors from pinks and blues to lavender to black,” Andrews says. “Every woman can find a shade of gray that works for her. Gray is also a color that tends to be season-less. You can get a lot of wearability out of it.”

Gray is a sophisticated hue, Andrews says. It is a cousin to black and is a versatile addition to a woman's wardrobe.

“Invest in a piece of gray,” Andrews says. “It will be worth it.”

Gray can be considered the new black or brown, says Gwendolyn Covington, a style editor for zappos.com.

“For this season, the must-have piece that every woman should own is a sensational wool coat,” Covington says. “Try it in different styles like a cropped peacoat, moto jacket, a dressy A-line style or even a wool puffer.”

She says head-to-toe gray is a fashion-forward look.

“The way to safely wear gray head-to-toe would be incorporating some printed gray piece like argyle or gray tweed with solid gray pieces.” Covington says. “This way, all of the grays will blend more together and appear more uniform.”

The grays and shades of gray help soften the palette of colors that women wear today, Josh Saterman, Macy's fashion director, says.

“For example, when Prada and Carven added soft tones of pink, blue and yellow to their palettes, they balanced it with soft khakis and grays,” Saterman says. “This is a fresh look and fabulous way to change what color means in your wardrobe. We love all shades of gray.”

Saterman says it is always hard to nail down one silhouette for a trend because the end use can be different for each woman.

“I'd go with a gray crewneck sweater in a texture yarn or marled yarn to really change the typical gray sweater in the closet,” Saterman says. “I'd also add a pair of gray jeans for fall as well as an embellished gray clutch to finish off a look.”

If you don't want to go with a skirt, dress or blazer, try a fun accessory such as a pair of gray tights, Huggins says.

“Gray shoes, handbags, scarves and hats look sleek and refined,” says Marissa Rubin, senior market editor for People Style Watch. “It helps give a look a nice balance.”

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

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