How To Look Chic In Earth Tone Colors For Winter And Spring

I realize this time of year is not necessarily when earth tones come to mind. I know in the dead of winter and on the cusp of spring we can’t get away from dark, dreary color combinations while dreaming of the light, airy colors of the season to come. However, earth tones are a color story that can be translated into any season. I like them for winter because they warm up an otherwise drab outfit or color that is an assumed go-to for the season. Think about how nice it would feel to wear a chocolatey brown sweater instead of a steely gray or black one? Granted, earth tones are not for everyone, but I think they make a wonderful alternative to some of the more common winter colors. Here’s how to wear earth tone colors for winter and spring.

The Earth Tones Colors On the Runway 

Cinnamon browns, chive greens and deep merlots were all showcased on the fall 2019 and spring 2020 runways. I loved how the earth tone colors were saturated and rich. The designers took the color tones to a level beyond what you would normally picture when thinking about this type of color story. Tom Ford, Oscar de la Renta, Kate Spade and Lanvin were among a plethora of designers that took on the earth tones trend. One of the things that I love about these shades is that wearing them gives off a feel of maturity. I do not mean in an old or matronly way, but in a confidence in what you are wearing kind of way! 

A perfect example of this was the chive green button front leather utility dress shown by Kate Spade New York. The dress makes a great statement piece but the way it was styled – with a brightly colored silk scarf, statement bag and orange sandals – proved that you can work with the color during any season and it can be playful and fun. I have a very similar dress in a cognac/hazel color and I always go back to it for many occasions.


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Speaking of hazel and heading back to the runways, Rejina Pyo’s fall RTW collection had some beautiful pieces that showed earth tones in some softer shades. One that I loved which was simple but still looked chic and comfortable was the oversized hazel cardigan with color block sleeves paired with the matching wide leg pants. I can see this as a perfect look for travel or a relaxing weekend at home. 

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Wearing Earth Tones When You’re Over 40

Earth tones look absolutely beautiful on deep and olive skin tones, but sometimes it can be difficult to find the right shades for lighter skin tones without looking overly pale and washed ou. I think this Express Textured Buckle Belt Cardigan is an ideal color for someone with pale or alabaster skin; just look how stunning it is on the model! An incredibly versatile sweater like this with any type of jean and the shoe of your choice is a subtle and chic way to wear earth tones when you’re over 40. It’s simple and you can literally throw it on for any casual occasion.

A tried and true option for incorporating this trend into daily wear is to go with a classic loafer shoe style. These Sperry Leather Penny Loafers would be a mainstay in your closet. I remember I had a pair of chocolate brown penny loafers when I was in grade school. Now if that isn’t a timeless style, then I don’t know what is!

If you are going for something more substantial with a little more drama, invest in a piece like this Chamula Merino Poncho from Free People. The dramatic bold lines keep it looking modern and the 100% merino wool fabric content ensures that you are getting a quality piece that will keep you nice and warm during the transitional weather. You can elevate this piece further by pairing it with some tailored trousers like these high waisted pair from Vince

Expert Style Tips

  1. Earth tones serve as neutrals.

    Just like black and navy, tones like chocolate brown, clay red, cognac, and olive all serve as neutral colors. That being said, feel free to take some of your brighter colors, prints and patterns that are already in your wardrobe and work them in with your earth tone pieces. 

  2. Keep it chic with a texture or solid.

    This is not a hard and fast rule, but I think when wearing earth tone pieces that have multiple prints or patterns, it can make your look come off as a little “hippie” or have a southwestern flare. No shade if that is what you are going for! But for those of us that are not, I prefer to keep it chic and simple with a solid color in a beautiful finish or an interesting texture. Something like this Antonio Melani silk shirt is exactly what I’m referring to. The color is rich and the high shine finish keeps the look elevated regardless of what you choose to pair it with. 

  3. Earth tones don’t have to be boring.

    I know when considering deep browns, reds and greens, it’s easy to think about them as a total snooze-fest. However, I personally love deep earthy colors. You know they will never go out of style, so you don’t have to worry about replacing every piece of your wardrobe with the Pantone Color of the Year. Don’t get me wrong, I love a beautiful pantone color, but knowing that I can buy a piece and have it to wear for as many years as I want is pretty refreshing. 

  4. Embrace your inner Earth Mother.

    As much as I poo-poo looking like a hippie in your earth tones, there is a way to look “earthy” but still thoughtful and stylish. I would start with this absolutely beautiful Nanushka wool turtleneck sweater. It’s hard not to appreciate the oversized fit and it works for pretty much anyone. Pair that with a print skirt like this Patrizia Ruffled Maxi and top it off with an oversized scarf like this reversible leopard scarf, both from Anthropologie. I love the idea of mixing the prints of the scarf and the skirt!  

Shop The Earth Tone Trend

Veronica Beard Heritage Utility Jacket w/ La, $750

Express Textured Buckle Belt Cardigan, $69.90, now $48.93

Chamula Stripe Merino Blanket Poncho, $550

Sperry Women’s Seaport Leather Penny Loafers, $99.99

Frye Melissa Medium Backpack, $348

Eileen Fisher Organic Cotton Silk Hooded Box-Top , $248

Vince High Waist Tailored Pants, $345

Will you be trying an earth tone shade for winter or spring? What is your favorite earth tone color?

–Carmen Turner

Runway Photos:

You may like to read more of Carmen’s trends posts for women over 40 like How To Style The High Gloss Finish Trend for Fall and The Best Ways To Wear Spring Florals In Winter.

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