Mixed Neutrals

The word "neutral" hasn't always had the best fashion connotations. Sure, the word symbolizes timeless, classic, inoffensive colors--but that can also mean boring. After all, when we want to imply that someone has unmemorable personality, we say she is a bit vanilla or beige, right? But this season, neutrals are anything but blah, thanks to the way designers and style stars are wearing these essential hues. See, rather than simply going monochromatic--an interesting and worthy idea of its own--ladies like Sarah Jessica Parker and Alexa Chung are deftly blending multiple shades of khaki, taupe, and tan to create nuanced outfits. We love this look, so we've decided to celebrate it in today's Trend Report!

The runway origins of this trend are vast, so it's practically impossible to narrow it down to a single, definitive example. That said, we do have our favorites! For inspiration purposes, definitely check out the Burberry Prorsum and Chloe F/W 10 shows, as they will give you step-by-step instructions on how to mix your camels with your coppers or your olives with your ochres. Another excellent reference point is the current Gucci collection, particularly the above look, which features an interesting amalgam of materials. By juxtaposing the velvet Straight Leg Pants ($950) with a burnished Leather Jacket ($10500) and the silky Oxide Print Shawl with Fringe ($995), the resulting outfit is not only tonally harmonious, it's also texturally interesting.

Off the runways, we've noticed that lots of our favorite celebrities are trying out this trend and the resulting outfits are quite marvelous. For example, Sarah Jessica Parker and Alexa Chung both opted for mixed neutrals at the Burberry S/S 11 show in London last month. SJP paired the British brand's Sleeveless Lace Ruffle Dress ($1995) in Tobacco with a short leather trench coat from the Resort 11 collection in a lighter camel color. The actress added even more neutrals via her accessories: Nicholas Kirkwood's Lizard and Mesh Sandals ($1380) and Alexander McQueen's Novak Bag ($1949) in Bone. Ms. Chung, on the other hand, explored a different side of the neutrals spectrum, opting for a drab (that's meant in the best possible way) green Burberry dress that was custom-made for the current British ELLE cover girl. Chung styled her epaulet-accented frock with a small studded Burberry bag from the Winter Storms collection (similar to the Studded Leather Sling Bag ($1395) in Dark Nickel) and a nude pair of Moschino Cheap & Chic ankle boots.

In addition to Sarah Jessica Parker and Alexa Chung's Burberry picks, we also adore the way two other fashion favorites are mixing their neutrals: Paris Vogue's Editor-in-Chief Carine Roitfeld and singer/songwriter Diane Birch. Our favorite French editrix showed up in a combination of taupe, khaki, and light gray for the Donna Karan and Marc Jacobs S/S 10 shows in New York. (Love that she's still reaching for her go-to over-the-knee Gianvito Rossi boots.) While we swoon for Roitfeld's sophisticated look, another option for this trend is to go for lighter, flowy pieces, much like the outfit Diane Birch opted to wear to the 3.1 Phillip Lim S/S 11 show. The up-and-coming stylesetter paired a full-skirted beige dress--specifically 3.1 Phillip Lim's Lace Up Halter Dress ($575, 310.358.1988) from the upcoming Resort 11 collection--with a light linen double-breasted 3.1 Phillip Lim Cropped Vest ($425, 310.358.1988), also from Resort. Additionally, Birch personalized her ensemble with girly Isabel Marant socks and brown vintage boots.

If you're particularly enthused by our celebrity examples, we've got some amazing options for emulating their outfits. SJP fans should check out Forever 21's Khaki Trench Jacket ($33) and J. Crew's Short Icon Trench ($258); either option will look smart over a filmy, neutral frock. If Alexa Chung's proper shirtdress caught your attention, you might like the Twelfth St. by Cynthia Vincent Army Button Up Belted Dress ($275) or Calvin Klein's Casual Shirt Dress ($70). Of course, you can recreate the vibe of Chung's look with separates instead; try See by Chloe's Wool Blend Tweed Skirt ($320) with Vince's Cotton Utility Shirt ($210) and Via Spiga's Ethos Ankle Boots ($225) in Putty Suede. Readers who like Carine Rotifeld's fashion-editor sensibilities should style a menswear-inspired blazer, like J.Crew's Super 120s Lisse Jacket ($198) in Heather Flannel, with a peep-toe lace-up bootie, such as Sam Edelman's Belmont Ankle Boots ($175) in Graphite, and your favorite camel skirt. Or you could always go for a more bohemian Birch-inspired look by combining Nasty Gal's Plunging Maxi Dress ($58) in Khaki with an ivory Winter Kate Stella Vest ($165) and some sensible brown ankle boots or oxfords.

But wait--there's even more! Since this trend is so flexible and fabulous, we found a few more amazing neutral pieces for you to mix and match however you want. Equipment's Classic Washed Silk Blouse ($184) in Mink is a smart staple to invest in; we also approve of ASOS's Brushed Yarn Long Line Jumper ($61), also in Mink, and Club Monaco's Max Blazer ($239) in Camel. As for your lower half, we recommend checking out Charlotte Ronson's killer Pleated Long Skirt ($250) in Rust, Pepe Jeans' Tie-Front Harem Trousers ($118) and Praline's Block Heel Loafers ($160)--the perfect building blocks for constructing your mixed neutrals look!

Photos of Sarah Jessica Parker, Alexa Chung, and Diane Birch, courtesy of INF; Photo of Carine Roitfeld, courtesy of Getty