How to Dress in All One Color Without Looking Like a Crayon

There is a game I like to play with fashion’s new penchant for tonal-blocking (when you dress head-to-toe in different shades of the same color), called: Which fruit are you? A lemon, perhaps. Maybe a raspberry. You could go fully grape, like ladies of a certain d’age for whom the British term ‘grape spotting’ was coined. OR. How about a tomato? (Yes, you heathens, it is a fruit.) Because tonal blocking is having a moment. Every fashion magazine editorial this spring advises dressing head-to-toe in (millennial) pink. It’s ‘a Look’ with a capital L, as my friend Monica would say — but how truly wearable is the solo-color thing?

As it turns out, wearing one color OOE* is not *that* wildly weird. At least for me. I’ve loved tonal blocking for ages and felt a vague familiarity when plotting my fruity ensembles. I’m old; I thought it just might be the passage of time rippling through my gnarled limbs. But look what the Internet threw up! Mid-twenties Pandora, enjoying red and burgundy (for timescale reference, she is now 30-year-old Pandora. With a tendency to third personify.)

It was pretty easy to choose the colors I’d dedicate outfits to. I wear a ton of red, I love yellow and, well, pink — there’s no escaping it. It would be irresponsible to try. I was tempted to throw white into the mix, because I particularly enjoy wearing this doublet at the moment, but I thought some smartass might tell me that white is by definition the absence of color.

Melissa Pinkstone leather coat, Mochi Flamenca earrings, vintage T-shirt, Bliss & Mischief jeans via MATCHESFASHION.COM, Petar Petrov boots

A tip: When tonal blocking, make sure one thing does not match. It throws your outfit ‘off’ and ensures that the “love your fancy dress!” comments are kept to a bare minimum. Typically, I would say lose the matching shoes, but in this case I knew, I JUST KNEW, that my red Petar Petrov boots (complete with rum stains) would go swimmingly with my red, leather Melissa Pinkstone coat and a pair of really comfortable Bliss & Mischief jeans (I love Bliss & Mischief, Hillary’s whole range is spectacular.) Lilac isn’t my usual jam, but I bought this vintage T-shirt recently for £8 on Portobello Road (forever my favorite spot for vintage shopping and, helpfully, on my doorstep) and I really like how it works with brighter colors.

The eagle-eyed among you will spot that I am toting a cup of coffee, the ever-popular street-style prop. I wanted you to see the smudge of red lipstick on the rim, thus bringing the ‘red count’ to six. It felt meta, or in some way a commitment to the cause. The coffee was nice, though; I bought it from the place you see in the photo because I wanted to keep my steps really, really low that day. (It’s not a competition or anything, but my Health app states that 24,000 steps is my record high and 232 my record low. WBU? Please tell me in the comments section. I’m curious and not ashamed about this.)

I would swap the tee and coat for this Topshop red-and-white striped shirtdress, worn with the jeans. Or, because spring is still fucking cold over in London, this fluffy, tomato red Ganni jumper.

Marni crepe blouse, Rebecca de Ravenel earrings via MATCHESFASHION.COM, vintage dress, MR by Man Repeller mules

For the pink look, I almost shot this Marques’Almeida pink shirt and these Petar Petrov pink trousers, but I wanted one of the outfits to feature a dress to show that tonal blocking can be femme, too. I bought this floral tea dress a few months ago and typically, I like to contrast its tissue-paper fragility with enormously chunky black Ellery boots. But it also works well with a layer underneath — in the same way that nineties boy-band members found a long-sleeved tee worked wonders under their short-sleeved tee. Pleats abound at the moment, and I love the salmon-y blush hue of this Marni blouse. These mules are designed by Leandra, but this is not hashtag spon. I’m just trying to suck up to her. Joking! Or am I? I’m generally a fan of dresses worn over trousers but something about the silhouette of this dress just didn’t work with these bubblegum Gucci pants. Best to endeavour only with dresses free of nips and darts.

Loewe coat via, Marques’Almeida taffeta blouse via MATCHESFASHION.COM, Topshop trousers, Staud bag, Céline pumps

And finally, my favorite: me, freshly hatched, like the baby-bird emoji. Like I said, pleats are full-throttle right now and I’ve double dropped here with Loewe’s pleated coat and Marques’Almeida’s pleated blouse. Full disclosure, I don’t know how comfortable I’d feel taking the underground in this (it’s verging on a total Look), but the way the various hues clash with one another — lemon, canary, egg yolk and mustard — does something for my soul. Incidentally, this Staud bag is a real crowd-pleaser. I get comments on it everywhere I go. You’ll note for once (very un-me), I avoided earrings. It felt like overkill. As for shoes, yellow and purple work well together. Just ask Celine.


Photos by Frances Davison.

Pandora Sykes

Pandora Sykes

Pandora Sykes is a contributing editor at Man Repeller, freelance journalist, stylist and consultant of She is also the co-host of the weekly news/pop-culture podcast The High Low. Follow her on Twitter @pinsykes @thehighlowshow and Instagram @pandorasykes.

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