Charcoal is a dark gray, nearly black shade that is considered a warm neutral on the color wheel. As a neutral shade, charcoal-colored clothing can be successfully paired with a number of other colors and patterns to create a sophisticated style. In wearing charcoal with other hues, use charcoal as the main wardrobe component, such as a suit, dress, skirt or slacks.
Select gray and white clothing. For an elegant look, pair charcoal-colored clothing with other shades of gray and white. With this approach, mixing up the textures of the different shades can add to the visual appeal of the look. Examples include a charcoal gray tweed suit with a pale pearl gray silk shirt or blouse, or charcoal twill slacks or skirt with a sophisticated white chiffon blouse or a heavy-knit white cotton cable sweater.
Choose elements of silver and black, which complement charcoal clothing as main wardrobe pieces and accessories. In selecting black items to wear with charcoal, pick different fabric textures to break up the dark line and use lighter accent pieces to differentiate the two similar shades. For example, a black chiffon blouse paired with a charcoal skirt is nicely accented with a silver chain belt or a black and silver scarf. Shades of silver, including steel gray and brushed silver, pair nicely with charcoal as well.
Select pastel items in shades of green, lavender and rose pink, which are nicely matched to the deep tones of charcoal. Avoid pastels including yellow and blue, which are typically overshadowed by charcoal. Pastels should be limited to secondary clothing items when paired with charcoal. For example, a pink blouse paired with charcoal slacks works well, whereas a charcoal blouse with a pastel skirt does not produce the same effect.
Look for flattering bold colors to pair with charcoal, particularly from the red family, like fuchsia, maroon and cherry red. If blue is your style, select a royal blue shade. Avoid oranges and yellows, which clash with the boldness of charcoal staples.
Pair a patterned clothing item with charcoal clothes. Select either delicate, understated designs or bold stripes and patterns in complementary shades. For example, a soft scroll pattern on a printed blouse will be picked up by the deep color of a charcoal sweater and create a soft, romantic look; likewise, a bold black and silver pinstripe blouse will make a visually-appealing power statement.
Choose silver, black and gray accessories to create flow in a charcoal-focused ensemble. Consider gray or black footwear and silver accents such as belts, ties, jewelry and cuff links.
References and ResourcesWomen’s Business Clothes; Artistry and Strategy; Color Coordinating Clothes
Ask Andy About Clothes: Practical Color Advice