MaryBeth just posted a provocative video to Inge’s regular call for fashion-related articles. I’d like to foment discussion of the topic here.

Is defining your colors or other aspects of your style limiting or freeing? I can see both sides, depending on how you go about things.

Identifying my style and my colors has meant going to my closet like a Pinterest board and pulling out themes. Actual Pinterest or the wild wide web is confusing—even if I like a thing, it’s hard to tell if I would like it if I brought it home, or even to say what about it I like. My wardrobe, otoh, has been very unintentionally filtered over decades. I have the wool skirts I loved wearing in high school, but I ditched the brown and dark sage argyle sweater, Easter egg colored plaid shirt and matching lilac and butter yellow chinos soon after graduation. Looking back, I can see how they didn’t fit my palette and that chinos are a bad shape for me, but even without the analysis I instinctively didn’t like them, so they’re gone. What I’m left with is a selection of things that (I think) work for me. Finding descriptors (including colors) for this stuff can be helpful in looking for new items, because I don’t have to sit with a thing and see how it feels; I can simply say (to myself or a sales associate) “tomato red? Nope, sorry—no go” and move on to something like my navy and cranberry paisley top. I do have to take a hot minute for potential purchases, but starting with the colors and patterns I know I’ve liked forever makes it easier.

On the other hand, I’ve certainly seen people try to limit themselves (or me) to exactly those things that are already represented there, slapping the hand that reaches for something different. That is incredibly limiting, and leads to a static and eventually boring (or humorously time-capsulish) wardrobe. My black leather jacket, for example, doesn’t duplicate anything else I own, but I think saying that means it isn’t my style is crazy. Or my new plaid goldenrod raincoat—if I’d restricted myself to exactly what I already have, instead of looking straight across the color wheel from my blackberry, there is no way I would’ve considered that jacket. So strictly forbidding anything that doesn’t already have a partner doesn’t work for me.

This isn’t to say that I don’t change things up. I’ve decided that banning knee-length skirts and halter tops was incorrect. Wearing tights with my shorts (or skorts) has been a revelation to me recently, as has wearing colors that are all close to each other on the color wheel, and I added to the burgundy/berry/ frost pink compliment that already existed in my wardrobe to be able to do that. (By “recent” I mean “in the last couple-3 years”). But the changes are generally based on what’s already there.

How about you? How does “your style” limit you? How do you find it freeing?