Red — the color of power ties and VIP carpets — has taken on the characteristics of a neutral this year; it's seemingly everywhere, all at once.
Visit women's clothing retailer White House/Black Market and you'll see rosy hues, the first color added to the store's bread-and-butter black and white offerings. "We love the way a few bold, bright pops of red make black and white really look vibrant and fresh," says Donna Noce, the stores' president.
Fashion watchers attribute the crimson tide to this season's simpler direction.
"Minimalism is a big trend for fall, but a bright color like red is an easy way to add a sense of luxury or a bold statement to what could be a sleek outfit," says Jen Ford, fashion news director for Lucky magazine.
"Red has connotations of power, of glamour, of sexiness," she says. "It spans so many emotions and so many dressing-up moods that it carries over into a lot of different things."
Black can be the perfect backdrop for a red focal piece, but Ford says there are other great pairings that can look fresh through the "midwinter blahs."
She loves red with khaki or even olive green — another of this season's hottest colors. "It sets the olive off in a way that feels very feminine," she says.
The 'right' red
Red isn't a one-size-fits-all proposition. There's scarlet and cranberry, strawberry and paprika and brick. Finding the right hue for your skin tone is essential, yet tricky.
"The secret is in the palm of your hand," says David Zyla, the Emmy-award winning costume designer for "All My Children," and the author of the new book "Color of Style."
Zyla recommends finding an area with lots of natural sunlight and examining your fingertips for the blush tone. "It could be a raspberry, a merlot, a port, a rust or a tangerine." Ask yourself if the color you see is a cool pink or a warm tone.
"Then, go to a closet or makeup drawer and pull out a piece of (red) clothing or a lipstick or blush, and hold it up to a fingertip and see if that color is being illuminated," Zyla says. "Your skin should look extremely healthy against it; your skin should look full of life and bloom. If the pigments in your skin separate or go a little pale or blotchy, that could mean the color is not right."
Looks to try
* Red is especially complementary to all of the camel hues and leopard prints seen in stores at almost every price this season. Try winding a skinny red belt around dark blue jeans and pairing both with a leopard print blouse. Or slip on some red ballet flats with a leopard print cashmere sweater and cropped black pants.
* Get a red dress. Whether it's a dressy cocktail dress (think sequins) or a casual daytime dress (think plaid), make it red and make it a statement.
* A new pair of eyeglasses or sunglasses can incorporate red into a daily routine as well. Ray-Ban has a new twist on its classic aviator with a red-piped frame called the "Road Spirit" for $150.
* Jewelry, shoe and hat designers are using red in interesting and exotic ways. These accessories can add spice to any look.
* What's more classic than a good red lipstick? Chanel's new Rouge Allure shade titled "Excessive" ($32) is a true pop of red that will put a feminine spin on the season's military trend and camo colors or bring drama to an all-black evening look.
* Look for a matte red handbag — as opposed to patent — that plays down the intensity of the color for a laid-back everyday accessory.
* A great alternative to red this season is hot pink. This color seems to be popping up everywhere and flatters many skin tones. Pair a pretty pink with black to make a strong-but-feminine fashion statement.