Create a colour palette

Do you have a hard time pairing your garments into matching outfits?

It might be because your wardrobe contains all the colours of the rainbow or colours that don't go well together.

If your wardrobe has never heard of the word colour coordination before, it's time to put some strategy into your colour selection by creating a colour palette for your wardrobe.

Colour analysis

Colours are a powerful visual tool. They can conjure up certain emotions, evoke feelings, moods and reactions, and you can use them to express yourself. By choosing certain colours you are telling a specific story about yourself.

As a result, you don't want to pick your colours willy-nilly. The final colours in your colour palette have to fulfil the following three criteria:

  • suit your personal style
  • suit your complexion
  • go well together.

Colours that suit your personal style

Colours that suit your personal style and personality will most likely be your favourite colours. The first step in building your personal colour palette then is to write down your favourite colours. They don't have to be in a particular order and you can collect as many as you want.

Just look into your wardrobe, the vision boards you have created and study the colours you are drawn to the most.

A further starting point for building your colour palette could also be the style categories you selected. For example, if you selected feminine or girly, you might naturally be drawn to pink.

II. Colours that flatter your complexion

The next question then is if your favourite colours flatter your complexion?

You might be drawn to a warm olive green. However, if the undertone of your skin is cool, you will looked washed out and tired in that colour. Not a great look!

Now this does not mean that you cannot wear olive at all, it just means that you need to find the right shade of olive to flatter your skin. Usually, there will be at least one shade of a colour that will suit you.

A good way to find out what those shades are is by taking the seasonal colour analysis test. It will provide you with a whole range of custom colours which will look fabulous on you. You can select the shades you love the most as a basis and build your personal colour palette from there.To find out more about seasonal colour analysis, head over to the COLOUR ANALYSIS section.

III. Colours that go well together

The last criterium dictates that the colours that you choose go well together. This is important because you want to be able to create the maximum number of outfits from the clothes in your wardrobe. Let's find out what the right balance of colours is in the next step.

How to create your colour palette

Now that you have collected some colours, it's time to create a colour palette.

There is no restriction on the number of colours that go into your palette, but there should be a balance between neutrals, complementary colours, accent colours and metallics.

Your neutral and complementary colours are your base colours and your accent colours and metallics are your highlights.

Fashion Colour Palette Pyramid - the concept wardrobe

I. Neutral colours

Neutral colours are just what they sound like - neutral.

In colour theory, neutrals are called achromatic colours meaning a lack of colour. True neutral colours in this sense are therefore only black, white and variations of the two, i.e. shades of grey.

The fashion world, on the other hand, classes other colours such as brown, khaki and navy also as neutrals. What makes a colour neutral in the fashion sense is that it doesn't compete with any other colour, works well combined with other colours, and doesn't provoke much emotion.

Fashion neutrals are the backdrop for the bolder, brighter colours in your outfit.

There is also another difference between true neutrals and fashion neutrals: Fashion neutrals are classed as either warm or cool based on their appearance.

We tend to associate black, beige, tan and cream with warmth while white, grey and navy appear somewhat cool.

When selecting your neutrals select the appropriate colours according to your seasonal colour category and the other colours in your colour palette.

Fashion neutrals include the following colours (each colour season will have its own version of these):

Colour Palette Fashion Neutral Colours - the concept wardrobe

Why should neutrals be the base colours of my wardrobe?

Neutrals don't necessarily have to be your base colour, but there are a few characteristics that makes them particularly suitable for the job. Because neutrals are

  • timeless: They never go out of style and are acceptable to wear to any occasion.
  • versatile: Neutrals can be paired with almost any other colour which makes them easy to style.
  • non-competing: They don't compete with other colours but help make them stand out more.
  • staples: The number of outfits you can create with neutrals will increase significantly because of their versatility,

they are the easy choice for starting off any outfit.

Your staples should include the colours that are your go-to colours for every outfit and that work best with the other colours in your wardrobe. If that is a hot pink or scarlet red, then make these colours your base colours.

There is, however, another reason why you will find most fashion basics bearing a neutral colour: Due to their neutrality they are not attention-grabbing, meaning you can use your accent colours (the brightest colours in your colour palette, see below) to draw the focus on a particular part of your body or outfit. This helps to visually balance out your silhouette.

So there is a lot to consider when selecting your base colours. Make sure you select the appropriate colours based on your personal style, your colour season, what you feel most comfortable in, and what your fashion goals are.

II. Complementary colours

Complementary colours are your other base colours.

While technically these can still include some of the "neutral" colours discussed above, they are generally muted versions of bright colours or have more of a visual colour impact than neutrals do. Think of a forest green or wine red. These shades are more muted versions of a grass green and bright red.

Like neutrals, they are not attention-grabbing, but visually they add some colour to an outfit next to neutrals.

Neutrals + Complementary colours = Outfit

If you pair neutrals with complementary colours alone, you've got yourself an outfit! That's why they rank second in the colour palette pyramid.

They won't be the garments you reach for for each one of your outfits, and they also won't be the essentials that you start each outfit off with, but once you have chosen your basics, you would go on adding complementary colours to them.

You should be able to put all of your outfits together from neutral and complementary coloured items.

Unlike neutrals, though, complementary colours don't tend to be as versatile and timeless. You will find that not every complementary colour will work well with other colours.

When you select your complementary colours you can either choose harmonious complementary colours that work well combined or you can choose disharmonious colours and ensure you don't incorporate them in the same outfit. The former strategy will of course yield more outfits. Just make sure that your complementary colours work well with your neutral colours.

III. Accent colours

Accent colours are what make your outfit pop. These are bright colours that add interest to your outfits and instantly pull the focus on them.

Your accent colours don't have to be the brightest colours out there - not everyone can pull them off and it's not what this is about. Accent colour simply means that this colour stands out more in comparison to the rest of your colour palette. This may be a sunny yellow, but it could also be a muted purple depending on what your base colours are.

Use them to highlight certain features

These are the colours that will not necessarily go with every other colour in your wardrobe, but they have a lot of visual impact. If your shoes pop, your feet will be the first thing people will notice when they look at you.

That's why accent colours are a great way to balance out your silhouette and to highlight certain body parts. For example, wearing a jacket in an accent colour will draw the attention away from the lower body and towards the upper body, which is a great way of hiding voluminous hips.

How many accent colours?

Since accent colours are at the top of the colour palette pyramid, you will only need one, two or perhaps three. Items in accent colours will not be your staples but a handful of individual items to polish off your outfits.

Chances are, your accent colours will not be harmonious and you will only find yourself incorporating one accent colour into each outfit. But the great thing about accent colours is that you can update them frequently. You wouldn't throw your essentials out of your wardrobe every season or so, but you can do that with your items in accent colours.

If you find earthy tones appealing in autumn but appalling in summer, then this is the best way to have fun with your wardrobe. Keep your essentials, update your accent items. You will feel like you have a new wardrobe every season.

IV. Metals

Metals are like accent colours. They polish off your outfit and add interest to it. Most likely, they will be most present in your jewellery, but they can also work on other accessories, such as shoes or handbags. And they may even appear on clothing, such as on a silver shimmer gown or a gold sequin top.

Just like with other colours, metallics can be neutral or accents. Either way, they are great because they act like neutrals but have a bit more sparkle to them.

True metal colours are considered fashion neutrals:

  • gold
  • silver
  • copper
  • gunmetal
  • bronze
  • pewter

What makes these metallic colours neutral is that they are based on real metal, and they do not include colours - such as red or blue - that have been processed to have a metallic finish. Other metallics such as rose gold, white gold or platinum are not neutrals.

Just like fashion neutral colours, neutral metals can appear either warm (gold, bronze, copper) or cool (silver, pewter). Choose your metals based on your complexion. If you have a warm complexion, the warmer metallics will look lovely on you; cooler metallics will look nice on cooler complexions. A neutral complexion can wear either.

The final colour palette

As a general guideline (as outlined in the colour palette pyramid above), you want to have more neutral and complementary colours than accent colours and metals to create a harmonious wardrobe. You can also apply this rule of thumb to your outfits.

This is because an accent colour paired with neutrals will stand out more and can draw the attention to certain body features. If your entire outfit consists only of accent colours, your outfit might appear overbearing and disharmonious. But again, this is entirely down to your personal fashion style and what you like.

Below you can find an example of a colour palette, consisting of three neutrals, two complementary colours, one accent colour, and two metals. The complementary colours include another fashion neutral "Dusty Pink", while the accent colour is a deep, dark blue. Although this is not a very bright colour, it is very deep and stands out among the other colours in the colour palette. Accessories for some outfits can be dark gold, whereas for others, rose gold could be used.


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