Sally had a reader request ages ago about limiting yourself to a well-edited color palette, and I wanted to share my experiences with doing just that. If you’re like Sally and love all colors, this isn’t the path for you! But if shopping is overwhelming, you find it difficult to mix and match what you have, or you find yourself buying colorful pieces that sit unworn, then it may be ideal for you.
I love to shop, and I’ve always loved color. But in the past, I would buy certain items out of “necessity.” (Meaning because some list told me I needed them!) They’d sit in my closet, never worn. Brown pumps, I’m looking at you! I’d buy a mint shirt and wouldn’t know how to style it. It looked harsh against black, washed out against grey. So it sat, unworn. I envy ladies and gents who mix and match colors like pros, but that yellow cardigan in my closet needs a new home.
One day, I decided to stop buying colors I wouldn’t wear and to focus on buying the colors I would wear. My color palette (or range) is far more liberal then some. I can’t imagine wearing only one shade of blue. Hell, I can’t even imagine limiting myself to black, white, and red. But I found a system that works for me.
Begin by breaking down YOUR colors:
I broke mine into three categories: neutrals, bases, and accents.
- My neutrals encompass white, “nude,” navy, grey, and black. No tans or khakis, no deep chocolate browns. I also consider patterns like stripes, polka dots, leopard print, and pinstripes to be neutrals, so long as they stay in neutral shades.
- My base colors, which make up the primary shades of my closet range from jewel-tone to earth tone shades. You’ll find: dark pinks, ruby and rustic reds, vibrant to earthen greens, bold blues, and vibrant purples.
- Accent colors are shades to use in moderation, but that complement the base colors for a little kick of color. I like to give my accent colors a bit of flexibility each season (last spring it was a dash of coral), though they tend to be mustard and chartreuse. These colors mix and match beautifully with bold shades, and I buy them in moderation.
How did you pick your colors? (Or: Other ways to develop a palette.)
For me, much of it is driven by intuition: How do colors make me feel. When I’m getting dressed, when I try them on, when I look at them in other contexts (decor, art, the zoo–everywhere!). I find, for most people, the colors we “look best in” and the colors we “feel best in” tend to overlap.
You may look at that list and think, “Where in the world have you scaled down?” But here’s a short list of the colors you won’t find in my closet: Browns and tans, pastels, orange or yellow (except mustard), or even playful, bright, candy colors. This has knocked about 60% of colors and shades from my closet.
Refining your color palette doesn’t have to be about restricting the colors you wear. It could be about limiting the tones and saturation of shades. Maybe pastels make you feel washed out and like a wisp against the wall. I’ve known several women who’ve admired my love for bold, jewel-tones, but don’t feel comfortable in them themselves. I can’t stand wearing a white blouse! It saves me time and trouble to narrow these things down and eliminate them from my shopping scope.
If you’re like Sally and can’t part with any color but you’re still having trouble figuring out how to scale back, maybe it’s due to too many shades being in your closet. Try a temporary closet overhaul — pull out all of the pastels and hide them. What do you have left? How do these items work together? How do they make you feel? And if that’s not jiving, replace the pastels and take out the earth tones. How does it feel to see the pastels against the jewel tones? Does it feel more or less comfortable? Are you finding unusual pairings by seeing your closet modified this way?
4 Years Later…
It’s been almost 4 years since I’ve taken on this challenge. While I’m constantly finding myself rebuilding my wardrobe, the undertaking is … easier. I don’t sit in a store plagued by which color shirt to buy: It either fits in my closet or doesn’t. This system has provided me with more flexibility and creativity and improved my relationship with shopping overall.
Have you refined what colors you buy? I’d love to hear the experiences of ladies who’ve undertaken similar challenges — accidentally or purposefully!
If you’re curious for a bit more about my process, many found my original series useful. You can read more about my quest for a refined closet in these posts!
- Developing Your Wardrobe Palette Part 1: Why Develop a Wardrobe Palette?, Part 2: Developing Your Own Color Palette, Part 3: Evaluating Your Current Wardrobe, and Part 4: Planning for the Future.
- A Definite Palette: One Year Later.
- Building a Seasonal Wardrobe from your Basics.
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Call her Ash, Ashe, or Ashley– she doesn’t mind! Already Pretty contributor Ashley began blogging in 2007 about fashion and style to fill a void in her life while living in the wintery tundra of Indiana. Her blog Dramatis Personae focuses on food, life & style. Ashley’s love of fashion began at 10, when she bought her first issue of Seventeen magazine; this also began a life long battle with learning to love her body (she never looked like the girls who graced those pages). As a plus-sized woman, she loves promoting fashion for all women and shops that want to make all ladies feel beautiful. She currently calls New Orleans home and share her little house with a wonderful fiance and two brilliant and playful Maine Coons kitties.