Imagine you’re out shopping and after a long day without much success, you stumble upon the perfect top. You try it on and the fit is on point, the cut is a little cool and contemporary, and you know exactly how it will slot into your wardrobe. But it comes in a choice of three colours… which colour should you get?
If the situation above sounds familiar and the usual answer is ‘black’ then I hope this series of posts will help and give you a bit of guidance when it comes to introducing more colour into your personal style.
I’ve met so many people that time and time again resort to buying pieces in black because they know it will just ‘go with everything’. But I totally get it, colour can be that stumbling block that many people experience when building a wardrobe. It’s one of those things that can be difficult to master, so unless you’re 100% sure a colour will work with what you already own, why wouldn’t you go with something that you know will work.
The elephant in the room
I can’t discuss colour without mentioning colour analysis. If you’ve ever looked at my services page you’ll notice there’s no mention of colour analysis. If you’re not sure what it is then let me explain. Colour analysis is the process of matching colours to a person’s skin tone, hair, and eye colour. It was really popular in the 80s but is a service some stylists still offer. Usually, a person is matched to a season that represents the colours they can wear. So if you’ve ever heard someone referring to only being able to wear ‘autumnal’ colours, this is where it comes from.
Personally, I find this approach restrictive and I don’t think it’s always accurate. When I worked at Harvey Nichols I remember on a number of occasions customers passing up on pieces that looked amazing on them because it wasn’t a colour they’d been told they could wear. I’ve heard similar gripes from friends and family who work as make-up artists. Imagine you’d been given a range of colours you could wear, but your favourite colour wasn’t anywhere to be found? Pretty depressing right?
The restrictive nature of colour analysis can also add to frustrations when shopping. Colour trends tend to dictate what colours we’ll find each season on the high street. Again, being restricted to a certain set of colours can cause headaches when what’s on the high street doesn’t match your ‘season’.
It can have some value if you use it as a guide as opposed to strict rules you have to abide by at all times. Sadly, most of the people I’ve met in real life who’ve had this done seem to follow the later approach.
Minimalism and colour
I think there’s often a misconception that if you’ve taken a minimalist approach to your wardrobe then you need to stick to a limited colour palette. If you search for ‘minimalist wardrobe’ on Pinterest you tend to find wardrobes made up of clothes in black, grey and white. If you happen to love black, grey and white then that’s great! But it doesn’t mean you can’t have a wardrobe on the smaller side that has colour. You can wear whatever colour you want AND still have a minimalist wardrobe.
Steps to get you started
Some people just have a bit of a knack for putting colours together, but if you’re not one of those people, don’t worry you can absolutely learn how to pair colours with ease. It does take a little bit of an investment in the form of time and practice.
Most great wardrobes don’t just ‘happen’ you need to put a bit of thought behind them and plan ahead. When it comes to colour, it’s no different. You’ll have the most success if you plan out what your wardrobe’s overall colour palette will be. This can change over time and when you fancy a refresh, but you’ll find it easier to combine colours that work beautifully together if you’re working with a colour palette of up to 12 colours.
You can break this down further into categories…
3 x neutrals
Neutrals are really the foundation that helps bring together the other colours in your wardrobe. I tend to find people either have a wardrobe full of neutral coloured clothes (think about the black, white and grey palette of a perceived minimalist) or they have none at all. What colours are considered a neutral? Black, grey, white, beige, navy, brown could all be considered great neutral options for a stylish wardrobe.
4 x main colours
These are the main colours in your wardrobe and can be whatever colours you like, they could be soft muted colours or bold bright colours or something in between. The choice is entirely yours.
5 x accent colours
These are colours used as accents. You’re probably familiar with the cliche of ‘pops of colour’ this is what accents can be used for when paired with neutrals. They can also be worn in small amounts with your main colours.
You’ll notice earlier I said ‘up to 12’. There are no hard or fast rules here if you don’t want to work with 12 colours you don’t have to. Just make sure you have at least one of each category. So if you if you’re the world’s cleanest person and tidiest eater, you may want to simply pick white as your neutral.
- To start with I’d recommend going through your wardrobe and making a note of the neutrals you currently have, then any main colours, and finally accents. Don’t worry if your wardrobe is currently a sea of colours and there are no real themes jumping out.
- You can download my ‘how to create a sustainable wardrobe guide’ here to help you with the step above. Inside you’ll find a section on planning colours which you can print out and use. Simply colour it in or just fill in the colour palette on an image editing tool on your computer.
- If you’ve been through your wardrobe now spend 30 minutes browsing the web for inspiration on what colours you may want in a colour palette. Don’t get caught up on how well they work together just yet. It’s about finding inspiration right now and seeing what colours you like. Remember you can take inspiration from anywhere! So don’t limit yourself to just looking at pictures of outfits and clothes. This tool might come in handy later, if you upload a photo to it you can then select a colour in the photo and it will give you details of the colour you’ve selected.
- While you’re finding inspiration make a note of the colours you like and see whether any would work with the existing colours in your wardrobe. Using the colours you’ve found you could also come up with a couple of sample colour palettes. See which combinations work best together. Mix them up. Try some as the main colours and some as accents. It doesn’t have to be a palette you settle on for your wardrobe. It’s an opportunity to experiment and see which colours look best together.
At this stage, you’re simply experimenting and getting a feel for the sorts of colours and shades you like. This is really important as we rarely get anything right the first time so this allows you to see what works and what doesn’t, while also learning about your preferences when it comes to colour.
In the next post, we’ll look deeper into how you can start to understand which colours look best together and why they look great.
I always love to hear from my readers so let me know how you’ve got on incorporating colour into your wardrobe in the past by leaving a comment below.
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