There is no one correct way to build your wardrobe colour palette. Unless you’re in the very unusual situation of starting a wardrobe from scratch and building it all in one go, your palette will evolve organically over time through an intuitive process. That said, it is definitely worthwhile to give the colour palette of your wardrobe some thought so that the items work together to create cohesive outfits that make you feel fab.
Helping clients with their wardrobe palettes is a fascinating aspect of my work. I find that palettes differ quite a bit from one client to another, and seldom do they mirror my own. Over the years I’ve found that being in touch with the way colours make you feel, assessing your affinity for colour mixing, identifying your important neutrals and colours, and being deliberate when adding a new colour to your wardrobe, are all important parts of mastering your wardrobe palette.
Listen to Your Emotions
The colour of a wardrobe item can make us feel happy, sad, confident, blah, serious, playful, powerful, weak, energetic, anxious or alluring. LISTEN to these emotions and make sure that the emotion associated with the colour of a particular wardrobe item is the right one.
Do a little soul searching with colour because it’s not always as straightforward as it seems. You may love a colour in theory — like magenta — but feel off when wearing it as a wardrobe item. Or perhaps it’s a question of sporting a particular colour in the right smaller dose — like through an accessory. Explore how colours make you feel on a regular basis because this does change over time.
Assess Your Affinity to Colour Mixing
The more willing you are to combine unexpected and clashing colours together in an outfit, the easier it is to manage a wardrobe with a large assortment of colour.
In other words if your affinity for colour mixing is high, you’ll happily combine all sorts of weird and wonderful colours into an outfit and feel fab. Because you like wearing a wide assortment of colours and in unconventional combinations, you feel in control of a wardrobe that is steadily increasing in colour possibilities. This is not the case when your affinity for colour mixing is low. In this case a wardrobe full of colour will be overwhelming. The colour combinations that tickle your fancy will be narrower, so it will be a good idea to limit the range of colours in your wardrobe.
Identify Your Favourite Neutrals
Identifying which neutrals work best for your complexion and style creates a foundation that can be mixed and matched with other neutrals and non-neutral colours.
It’s important to choose a range of neutrals — from dark to light — because some neutrals work better with non-neutrals than others. For example, whites and tans work particularly well with pastels. Dark neutrals work well with brights and jewel tones. And chocolate and cognac work well with earth tones.
If you like to keep it very simple, choose a dark, mid-tone and light neutral as the backbone of your wardrobe. Stick to these neutrals and don’t add another unless you’re prepared to move out of your comfort zone when styling neutrals in outfits.
Again, if your affinity for colour mixing is high, you’ll effectively build a wardrobe with a larger assortment of neutrals. For example, there is no need to choose between dark neutrals like black, chocolate, charcoal and ink blue when you like wearing them together in an outfit or styling them with a large range of non-neutrals. The same holds true for mid-tone and light neutrals.
Identify Your Favourite Colours
Most people also enjoy wearing a range of non-neutral colours, even if the range is very small. Identify the colours that work with your complexion and make those the permanent colours in your wardrobe. Having a dark, mid-tone and light neutral to work with them will increase the outfit combinations you can create.
You might find that you wear colours seasonally, in which case you need to ensure that you have the right neutrals to support the wardrobe colour spectrum that changes with the seasons.
In the rare instance that you ONLY wear neutrals, you can skip this step entirely. Building a wardrobe that consists solely of neutrals can be done if those are the only colours that create a positive emotion for you.
Think in Capsules When Adding a New Colour
It is inevitable that our style will evolve over time, and that is a good thing. It also means that you will be introducing new colours to your wardrobe from time to time. But you have to be mindful about how you’re going to integrate that new colour into your outfits. Ask yourself whether you already have the neutral and non-neutral items to wear with the new colour. If not, purchase the new colour with a support act. Perhaps you need to purchase more than one item in the new colour in order to create cohesive outfits.
For example, a dark neutral and jewel tone-loving client of mine wanted to add blush to her wardrobe for Spring. In order to make the blush work well in outfits, she also needed to purchase a few more separates in white and blush, as well as tan and silver shoes and bag. Having invested in a support act of light neutrals, it opened the door to add new colours like mint and lilac quite effortlessly because they also worked well with the white, tan and silver.
As I mentioned at the outset, building the colour palette of your wardrobe can be intuitive, which means that some of you are following these steps without giving them a lot of thought. This is especially true for those who have a high affinity for colour mixing.
Just when you have it all figured out, your colour preferences will change. And so the thought process starts all over again, making our wardrobes a perpetual work in progress.