The 5 levels of tonal dressing, from starter to expert
Photographs: Jonathan Taylor | Styling: Mandy Nash
Uniformed and seriously on point, tonal dressing always comes across as considered, even when you’ve only had five minutes to decide what you want to wear. Since Yeezy kicked off our love for the look a few seasons back, we’ve seen it everywhere. Off-White’s last athluxe-infused show provided a streetwear highlight, while Max Mara’s A/W17 show celebrated tonal outfits ranging from soft textural nudes to an array of red wine hues.
Not sure how far you want to take the trend? Place yourself on our tonal scale below to find a way to make it work for you.
Where to: Saturday afternoon plans
Tonal level: Could do it with your eyes closed
You’re off to meet friends for an afternoon drink, and who knows where you’ll be heading from there? This look is dinner, house-party and dance-floor approved, thanks to the way it brings together luxe textures and seamlessly blends tonal hues.
Top tip: For added elegance, drape the bomber over your shoulders.
Where to: off-duty activities
Tonal level: Starter
It’s the weekend, and you want to look great without trying too hard. Whether you’re off to a market, relaxing at home, or heading out for a leisurely lunch, this layered look is ideal for people who want to ease themselves into tonal dressing.
Top tip: Create impact in subtler ways: layer hemlines for contrast at the hips and with your sleeves.
Where to: Work
Tonal level: Dabbler
For those days when you’re late and nothing’s looking quite right, your secret to dressing for success is a tonal look. Instantly poised and pulled together, an ensemble like this puts a new spin on power dressing. Plus, it’ll make coming up with a new outfits everyday that much easier.
Top tip: Make sure your look includes a structured item, like an overcoat, tailored trousers or bodycon dress to lend shape and order to the ensemble.
Where to: The club
Tonal level: Dab hand
You’ve been donning black-on-black for years, so the tonal look seemed like a natural next step. You don’t want your outfit to shout, hence the soft buttery greys, but you do want the world to know you’re there, hence the over-the-knee boots.
Top tip: Make sure your dress is in proportion to your boots, as overlap tends to cause unnecessary bulk.
Where to: Weekend brunch
Tonal level: Expert
You didn’t even give the other kids a chance at being being the best-dressed bruncher! Having moved past the perfectly-polished stage, you’re experimenting with layers to bold effect. This ensemble has the kind of seize-the-day vitality suited to bottomless mimosas and decadent breakfast dishes.
Top tip: Tie a jersey around your waist to give a look like this some definition.