Note – browser and computer screens display colors in different ways. If you look at these images and think I must be color blind because my descriptions are way off, please consider that the color display may not be accurate.
In fashion, color stories are themes that designers and retailers put together to tell a story, but in colors. If a collection has a military theme, the color story will most likely be something like brown, khaki, and army green. If a collection has a summery island get-away theme, the color story will most likely be something like turquoise blue, emerald green, and sun-kissed orange. The colors will mix and match well with one another and set a certain mood.
Now let’s relate this to my wardrobe. Part of the reason I got fed up with my clothes was…nothing ever matched! I would go shopping and fall in love with items in a dizzying array of colors, but when I got them home, nothing went with anything else I already owned. I didn’t have a color story…I had a rainbow, and no idea what to do with it.
For example, my favorite color is red, my favorite neutral is grey, and I think purples look good on my skin tone. I also really love saturated tones when it comes to my colors (pastels are not for me). I started focusing on buying clothing and accessories in colors that were close to, or pair nicely with those colors. I also looked through my photo inspirations to see what color combinations I was naturally gravitating toward:
Notice how the saturation of these colors are very similar. I find it easier to match colors of a similar saturation (dark with dark, light with light), so for my wardrobe, I tend to focus on darker, saturated colors.
Now, don’t think those are the only colors I buy. I buy other colors, but in smaller amounts, and I consider if they’ll go with my basic color palette before purchasing.
Disclaimer – These are only tips and not hard-fast rules. If you’re completely lost about color, then these tips might help get you started. If you’re a color-mixing pro, you may disagree, and that’s fine. Wear colors any way that makes you feel fabulous! :)
So…how do you choose which colors to pick?
Here is where the class I took on color theory comes in handy…
Any colors that are side-by-side on the color wheel
These colors are the easiest to mix and match and look great together. They have the least amount of contrast to one another, so are often described as being calming and pleasing to look at. If you’re going to try color-blocking, analogous colors are usually the best for this. Analogous colors are what I tend to focus on when putting together outfits, for example:
So, if one of your favorite colors to wear is blue, look at the colors right next to blue on the color wheel. Green and violet will mix well, as well as the in-between colors of blue-green and blue-violet. Stock up on those colors in a variety of clothes and accessorizes, and then you can mix and match with your favorite color much easier!
Any two colors that are completely opposite each other on the color wheel
Complementary colors have the most contrast to each other, and can be a bit shocking when paired in large amounts, like color-blocking. Examples of complementary colors are the red and green associated with Christmas, and almost any sports team jersey (like yellow and purple…go Lakers!). Unless you’re a color mixing pro, I’d stick to pairing complementary colors in small amounts, like jewelry, for a “pop of color” to an outfit.
So, if one of your favorite colors is blue, and you want to add “pops” of color to your outfits, look at the complimentary color, orange. One of my favorite color “pop” pairings is turquoise (a shade of blue-green) and coral (a shade of red-orange).
The same color, in different tints and shades of lightness or darkness
Dressing all in one color can be pretty boring, but not if you do the same color, in a variety of tints and shades.
This is how I learned to branch out from all my dark, saturated colors. :)
The feeling of warmth or coolness that a color gives the viewer
Things that are hot are usually red, yellow or orange (like fire or super hot peppers). Seeing these colors remind of us of things that are hot, so those colors are called “warm”. Looking at warm colors can make us feel alert, energized and yes, even warmer. I love wearing warm colors, which might have something to do with me being a leo. ;)
Things that are cold are usually blue, green or violet (like water or grass). Seeing these colors remind of us of things that are cold, so those colors are called “cool”. Looking at cool colors can make us feel calm, relaxed, and cooler. This is why a lot of doctor’s offices are painted blue!
It’s more pleasing to the eye to pair warm colors with warm, and cool colors with cool…but the really great thing about color temperature is you can find warm colors that are a little “cool” and cool colors that are a little “warm”. Take my red Chanel handbag for example:
It’s certainly red, but it’s not a crazy bright, flaming red. The color is toned down by a little bit of blue in the red color, which makes it a little darker and “cools” down the red. This “cool” red is now easier to pair with cooler colors, like purples and blues.
- Color can be very subjective, and everyone views colors and those that are pleasant or beautiful together, differently. Wear the colors that make you feel good and beautiful, regardless of what’s in “fashion”.
- Are there colors that people tell you look great on you? Stock up and wear them near your face, like blouses and scarves.
- Do you love a color, but it’s not a good color for your complexion? You can still wear it, just wear it away from your face, like in a skirt, handbag, shoes or belt.
- Need color inspiration? I love the site Wear Palettes, that organizes outfits from Lookbook.nu by their colors and gives you a handy color palette for each one.
- Advanced color user? Kileen over at Cute and Little hosts the Color Brigade.
More Posts in the Developing Personal Style Series:
Developing Personal Style
Developing Personal Style – Collecting Inspirations
Developing Personal Style – Wardrobe Color Stories
Does your wardrobe have a color story?