Dress Form: Citrus colors make a splash into spring

By Tina Safi


Whoever came up with that radically inaccurate saying, “They call me mellow yellow,” anyway? Well, OK, it was Donovan, and the song did hit the top of the charts in the 1960s, but times change and yellow is no longer so mellow. It’s the color of sunshine, daisies and … mimosas?

Donovan got one thing right, at least: We’re still mad about saffron. And buttercup, citrine and lime, too. All shades of yellows and greens, really. In fact, Pantone, the global authority on color, recently declared mimosa the shade of 2009.

The citrus trend transcends age and status: First lady Michelle Obama, who graces the pages of Vogue this month, ignited a fashion fire as she walked down Pennsylvania Avenue on Inauguration Day in Isabel Toledo’s optimistic, lemongrass-colored sheath and coat.

At the 2009 Oscars, Angelina Jolie paired her simple, black Elie Saab gown with an eye-catching emerald ring and earrings. The electric, almost lime-green hue of Jolie’s jewelry almost outshone her best accessory, the newly mustachioed Brad Pitt. Almost.

To adapt the look to everyday life without looking like a giant banana, stick to yellow- and green-toned accessories and play with unusual color pairings. Some tips on how to make a citrus splash:

Think vitamin C: Look to your fruit bowl for inspiration. Grab the gala apple and eat it, because it serves no purpose in this case. Pull aside the pears, bananas, kiwis and lemons and study them. The fuzzy, brown skin on the outside of the kiwi perfectly complements the bright green interior.

The neutral-colored banana looks great against its yellow peel, as do the bright, white lines of the lemon against the pops of yellow. Sounds crazy, right? Don’t knock it until you leave the house in a brown cardigan layered over a green camisole and feel fabulous.

“These are the perfect colors to awaken your wardrobe,” said Lisa McVay, a sales consultant for the clothing company Etcetera. “The lemon and lime colors are great accents and will coordinate beautifully with all of your neutrals, such as navy, khaki, browns and, of course, white. The citrus colors really add a pop to energize your clothes.”

Pair oranges with gray tones and couple yellows and greens with brown. Just stay away from black unless the desired look is either bumblebee or crazed Halloween fan.

“These colors are like sunshine on a rainy day!” McVay said. “They’re very fresh and new and so uplifting. It’s a new playful punch to women’s fashions.”

Work with what you have:

Look to our first lady for inspiration: Darker skin tones look great against the brightest colors, such as sorbet orange and lemongrass, while lighter ladies shine in buttercup and apricot.

“Women with hazel eyes look great in green shades, while yellow looks fabulous on girls with auburn and strawberry blonde-colored hair,” McVay said.

Keep the rest of the outfit neutral: Pair citrus-toned shoes and a bag (they don’t have to be the same color) with jeans and a neutral-colored sweater. Wearing a yellow shift dress? Keep heels and jewelry simple.

Key pieces:

  • Moschino slingback sandal in yellow, $410, and See by Chloe bow front dress with removable strap, $535 (both at


  • Lodis “Lily” large clutch, $235 (


  • J. Crew cotton gladiola cardigan in light chartreuse pewter, $88, and Skinny leather belt in sour lemon, $29.50 (both at


Now that we’ve combated this color misnomer, if only people would stop referring to themselves as “blue.”