Do's and Don'ts of the Neon Trend

How to wear neon

by Alison Jimenez, NYC Recessionista

When you hear the word “neon” what does it make you think of? The crazy fashion of the 1980s? Neon signs? A Wham! music video? For me, the word neon makes me a little nervous. In my last post, I gently eased us all into the trend by showing how you can accessorize with clutches in some very bright colors. But as you’ve seen over the last month or so, the whole neon trend isn’t going anywhere. In fact, it’s going to be really big for spring.

First off, there are some rules we need to take into consideration:

Rule #1: A little neon goes a long way. You really only need a pop of neon, and it will stand out. You’ll see.

Rule #2: Don't be afraid to wear neon with other colors, but...

Rule #3: …make sure they're darker or more saturated than the neon you’re wearing.

Rule #4: Don't forget neon accessories – they’re the quickest and easiest ways to experiment with this poppin’ trend.

Rule #5: For most workplaces, try to stick to one shade of neon or one really bright color per outfit.

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If you’re interested in exploring the trend further but aren’t quite sure where to start, fear not my neon-curious friends! I’m here to walk you through it step-by-bright step.

The most popular neon shades that you’re likely to see when you hit the stores this spring include bright yellows, striking greens and blues, and popping pinks. In addition to showing you some of the most affordable – and fabulous – neon pieces currently available, I’ll offer up ideas on what to pair these pieces with.

Let’s start off with perhaps the most intimidating of all the neons: Neon Yellow.

The great thing about neon yellow is that you really don’t need to wear a lot of it to make an impact. Take the ASOS premium jeweled bib necklace for example [1]. Pair it with a simple denim chambray button-down or a white t-shirt, and you’ve got a major statement.

The next item, Forever 21's neon-trimmed pencil skirt, shows you how gorgeous neon yellow looks against a rich navy blue [2]. It’s just a skinny stripe of neon down the side of the skirt – nothing to be afraid of! I’d wear this with a simple white t-shirt (tucked in, obvs), a blazer or denim jacket, and a big statement necklace.

I love that the Ann Taylor ‘alpine’ striped Camp Shirt is technically neon, but the colors are just so soft and chic [3]. If you work in a more corporate work environment and you’re dying to try the neon trend, you can pair this with a blazer or tuck it into a tweed pencil skirt and still feel workplace appropriate.

And okay, so you may not consider the Anthropologie pilcro colored denim jacket [4] to be neon yellow, but as someone who is a little scared of bright colors, I do. Lucky for us they’ve styled it just right in the photograph, too – the lemon yellow jacket looks amazing over a darker printed skirt.

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The next piece – a bling buckle snake-embossed skinny belt [5] from C. Wonder might just be my favorite piece of all. I love that the buckle looks like a piece of jewelry I’d want to buy. And the contrast of textures between the smooth stones and the snakeskin makes it visually interesting. Consider pairing it with a gray and white striped sweater, or a simple black or navy dress.

Sliver wedge sandals are going to be everywhere this spring. So the pair of neon strap wedge sandals [6] from Forever 21 is definitely right on-trend. Again, all it takes is a little bit of neon to take the pair from boring to brilliant. I’d wear them with cropped skinny pants (to show off the shoes, of course) and a simple peplum top.

Now, a neon yellow handbag – like the ‘sunshine on my shoulder bag’ from Modcloth [7] is a pretty big commitment to neon, especially if you’re a gal who doesn’t really change purses on a daily basis. However, you can’t really deny how much fun that bag is. I love that it still has a ladylike structure and a hint of retro with the boxy shape, brass closure and tassel detail.

The next two neon shades you’re likely to see in the stores this spring are neon greens and blues. And since they’re two of my favorite colors, I decided to put them together.

I recently won this exact Cambridge Satchel Company fluorescent satchel bag [8] at a conference and my eyes got really wide when I first saw the color. Wow! But now that I’ve had it for a while, I’m beginning to realize that I can actually pair it with more than I thought. It looks great against neutrals – my camel colored blazer, my gray sweaters and my navy peacoat.

Side note: are you noticing a trend here? A lot of these neons look amazing against navy blue. It really makes them pop, but in a totally preppy chic way.

I’d probably call the color of these Old Navy ballet flats [9] with the cutouts a “citron” because it’s almost a lemon lime. I think the pair would actually look really adorable with some camouflage print skinny pants with the cuffs rolled up. (Psst! Cutouts on everything from dresses to shoes are another big trend for spring.)

The dress from Anthropologie – a brightblock shift dress [10] – could actually take you right through spring and into summer. You could even dress it up with chandelier earrings or a bold necklace, and wear it to a spring or summer wedding.

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Okay, so the J. Crew Postage Stamp mini skirt [11] is pretty bold, I’ll admit it. But it also has a really beautiful texture to it in its floral brocade design. I’d love to pair it with gray – I think it would both complement and tone it down just enough.

The statement necklace – a bright stone necklace [12] from J. Crew – makes me swoon like a little girl playing dress up in her mom’s jewelry box. It’s just so very luxurious, and in the perfect spring color palette. Who would’ve thought that neon green stones could look so chic? You can wear it with everything from a simple t-shirt  to a fancy dress and everything in between.

A piece like the striped knit cowlneck scarf from Gap [13] might be one of the easiest ways to incorporate neon into your wardrobe. And yes, I consider that to be neon, too. For those of us who are a little more reserved, it’s the perfect way to add a hint of neon to our outfits. Over a jean jacket, the scarf would be so pretty.

Last but certainly not least, we have the neon pinks.

While pink is usually one of the very last colors I gravitate toward, there's just something about the Forever 21 patent neon boston bag [14]. The fact that it’s mostly a conservative tan with amazing patent hot pink detail makes it all the more interesting.

They aren’t the most budget-friendly shoes I’ve ever seen, but I could not resist them. The Kate Spade New York terry cap toe flat [15] really shows you how easy it is to pair neons with other colors, patterns and textures because they’ve already done the work for you. How chic would they be with skinny jeans, a long sleeve boatneck t-shirt and a green fatigue jacket for weekend errands?

The Zigi Soho ‘lunar’ colorblock pump from DSW [16] is one serious shoe. Not “serious” as in corporate serious – I mean fierce! Similarly to the neon yellow wedges, I think they would look amazing with skinny pants and a peplum top. Or with a simple button-down shirt tucked into a nice full flare skirt.

If you’re someone who really loves pink, then why not add a neon pink blazer to your collection? The drapey crepe blazer [17] from LOFT still has a really classic cut to it, even if it is in a bright color … so it’s still totally office appropriate. And the fun color means you can totally dress it down with dark denim for the weekends, like they did.

There’s nothing I love more than a handbag with a 1960s silhouette. Like the yellow bag from earlier, the crossbody bag [18] from Urban Outfitters has that great boxy shape and secretary pool feel. Imagine it over a fitted denim jacket and a printed maxi dress or skirt. 

We’ve seen pencil skirts from Madewell’s big sister, J. Crew, in pretty much every color of the rainbow lately. So it’s really no surprise that Madewell would follow suit with a pencil skirt [19] in a neon sherbet pink. Try pairing it with a striped knit shirt or a crewneck cardigan in cream or ivory (hint: the skirt also comes in neon yellow, should you be so inclined).

The Ella Moss ‘lanie’ cap toe flat has three spring trends all rolled into one shoe: a cap toe, colorblocking, AND neon. Talk about fashion efficiency! These flats would work well with a cotton shirtdress, or a wrap dress, or pretty much any kind of dress!

(Design courtesy of NYC Recessionista; all product images courtesy of retailers as listed)

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About Alison, a.k.a. NYC Recessionista: Alison Jimenez is the sole creator and author of NYC Recessionista, a bargain shopping and fashion blog since 2008. Alison has an insatiable appetite for bargain shopping, mixing bargain basement and designer fashion in the same outfit, and getting more than one season's use out of her favorite pieces through the magic of mixing and matching. She also has a husband who would prefer it if she saved more than she shopped. In addition to her blog, Alison can be found on FacebookTwitterInstagram and Pinterest.

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