Reds of varying hues—oxblood, burgundy and more—are in vogue this season. For fashion designer Vivienne Tam, the color has been a constant on her runways and in her own closet. "The energy it brings is empowering," the designer says. "When a person wears red, it says they're powerful."
This bold hue is flattering to most women, she says—and especially useful in fall and winter, when most people's wardrobe palette tends to be darker.
"All black is too sad," says Ms. Tam, who likes to break up dark ensembles with red accessories such as shoes, a handbag or a striking red belt—not to mention red lipstick.
Using a dash of red is also a handy strategy for women who may be intimidated by the bold color, she says. For instance, she likes dark jackets or coats with a red lining that appears in occasional flashes. "The little accents of red sparkle when a person looks at you," says Ms. Tam.
Still, she notes that it's best not to wear too many red pieces together. "Do just the red belt or shoes or clutch," she says. "You want just a touch of red."
How much red to wear can depend on who you are. "A red suit is really difficult to do," Ms. Tam says. "If you're a politician and you're going on stage and you want everyone to look at you and think, 'OK, wow,' that is different. But most times it can be too much."
Instead, she suggests smaller doses—"inside pieces, like a shirt or tank, or a jacket that is shorter so it's not as overwhelming."
For casual occasions, Ms. Tam often prefers a more washed-out red for "a more sportswear kind of look," whereas evening events call for brighter reds that will stand out more
Even though Ms. Tam sees red as a classic, she often tries to modernize it by pairing it with unusual colors. It's common fashion sense to pair bright reds with more muted colors, such as camel, but Ms. Tam sometimes puts them with bright oranges or yellows for a mod look.
"Orangey reds go great with purple," says Ms. Tam, who is also partial to combining reds with metallic materials such as rose gold or silver. Even some shades of green can work, though "holiday green" should generally be avoided with red outside the holiday season.
Sometimes she'll pair reds with reds of other shades. A darker burgundy can offer an eye-catching contrast to a warmer red, she says. The designer recently created a piece in which the fabric was a patchwork of different reds, for example. For more muted reds, earthy hues like brown are a fetching accompaniment, she adds.
How You Know Her
- She's the designer of Vivienne Tam, sold in 30 eponymous retail stores in more than 100 specialty and department stores world-wide.
- Her pieces have been part of the collections of the Andy Warhol Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology.
- She's the author of 'China Chic: A Visual Memoir of Chinese Style and Culture.'
When it comes to choosing jewelry to match her reds, Ms. Tam believes that the color is versatile enough to pair well with most metals, from yellow gold to silver. The shade, especially if it's a bright version, works especially nicely with precious and semiprecious stones that saturated with rich tones, she says.
"A clean-cut real gemstone goes great," she says.
Ms. Tam urges women to not be intimidated by the color. "Look in the mirror and just play around with it," she says. "Be creative—a little bit of red can make you more lively."
Write to Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan at firstname.lastname@example.org