Sunday, November 15, 2015

Capsule Wardrobes: Choosing Your Color Palette

Wait, Monika - so you do have a capsule wardrobe?! Uhm, yes and no. I do in the sense of now owning a smaller, curated set of mix and match pieces I love and wear regularly; well, that + around 10% of my wardrobe I keep waffling over. I don't in the sense of only having a set number of pieces, be it 37 items, a 10 Item Wardrobe, or Project 333. I guess I could count all the articles of clothing I have kept and say that it's my spin on any of the above mentioned ideas, but I don't really want or feel the need to - after all, it's just a number. At any rate, I have made great strides in achieving a more edited closet that's fun and easy to wear in my day to day activities, and I've wanted to share what helped me along the way.

One of the things that terrified me early on in my search for my perfect capsule wardrobe was the idea of editing your clothing according to a chosen color palette. I guess you could absolutely skip this step if you're one of those people who only wear monochromatic clothing (white, grey and/ or black) but if you're anything like me and love ALL the colors, limiting yourself to just a few shades can be a bit of a daunting prospect at first. It's worth it, though - I've found that sticking to one color scheme makes dressing in the morning so much quicker and easier.
Some images from my Color Palette Pinterest Board I used for inspiration during my selection process.
Deciding on a color scheme using the clothes you already own is a bit of a weird, backwards experience. I would compare it to choosing a room decor not by browsing furniture catalogs and comparing paint swatches, but by dusting off some old paint cans you've been storing in your garage instead, or going through your house and collecting pieces of furniture from all different rooms to outfit that one particular space. It's one thing to visualize a brand new collection of items you cherry pick from all the fabulous stores, and another thing entirely to work on the fly with what you already have on hand. It's a challenge - and you know me, I love a challenge ;)

Here's a rough sketch of my color scheme thought process that I arrived at more or less organically while decluttering my closet:
L-R: Free People Masquerade Cuff top (from last year), The LOFT Linen Tee (2013), Hollister Henley (crica 2011), ZARA Velvet Black Leggings (crica 2012), H&M open cardigan (2012), River Island leather jacket (2013)
1. Neutral colors - the bare bones of any capsule. They may be boring, but hell, we all need them. I chose white, various shades of grey and black, simply because that's what I already had the most of in my closet, but I don't think that's your only option. You could do ivory, beige and different shades of brown, especially if warmer shades suit you more. Or something like navy (more on that below), or khaki. You just need some colors that are versatile, and will go well with your favorite attention-grabbing shades. Another element you may want to add for more variety in your neutral staples is the actual fabric and its texture; I find it more interesting to have a mix of plain smooth cotton and jersey, slightly knobby/ rough spun linen and interwoven knits.
L-R: The Loft Linen Tee (2014), handmade sweater knit by my mom, The GAP Shrunken Boyfriend shirt (2012), Michael Kors Selma bag (2013)
2. Pop of complimentary colors. I know, I know, but you love ALL the colors. If you truly think so, take a good look at your discard pile, and maybe see if you can pinpoint some colors that are not so much your favorites anymore. For me that was all shades of pink and purple, oranges and warm coral reds, as well as greens and teals. Not that I don't find these colors beautiful - but I just never felt quite right wearing them, you know? Then, I looked at favorites pieces in my wardrobe, and the colors that immediately stood out to me - and I was sure I wanted my color scheme to include pale blue and burgundy. I know these shades suit my coloring well, and they make me feel comfortable and pretty. Together with those two main colors, I've also kept similar hues belonging to the same color family and having the same temperature/ undertone: cool reds and berry shades for the burgundy, cool-toned indigo/ ultramarine and navy for baby blue.
L-R: Steve Madden boots (2013), Urban Outfitters thermal top (2014), Urban Outfitters jersey scarf (2015), The Loft Long Knit Pencil Skirt in Royal Red (2015), gifted wrap sweater (2005, maybe?)
Alternatively, at this point you could also start researching some outfit combos, maybe centered around a basic piece in a neutral shade that you've already established as part of your color scheme (like a black mini skirt, or dark grey jeans for my color palette). Pin them all into one board first, without analyzing, and once you have about 20 to 30 images, take a look at everything you've gathered and see if there are any similarities there as far as the color scheme. You're basically trying to pinpoint exactly which shades appeal to you the most at the moment, without the internal panicking you may be getting just by looking at your cluttered closet.
Outfit inspiration taken from my Color Palette board.
3. Favorite random/ contrasting color. Now, this part is entirely optional, especially if you've picked out more shades in the previous section, but I think it's a fun addition if you like pairing contrasting colors together. While browsing different images online (not just fashion, also photos of nature or still life), I found myself drawn to the same color combination again and again: cool, light shades of grey and/or blue broken up by a warm, orangey brown/ cognac shades. I've actually had a slight obsession with cognac leather for years now, but something about pairing it with cool-toned colors makes me especially happy. If you too are left with an odd color you love but that doesn't really seem to go with the rest of your scheme, just keep it. Same goes for clothes in strange patterns you're always drawn to, be it plaid, florals or polka dots. Life's more interesting when everything isn't so matchy matchy.
L-R: Cole Haan Chukka booties (2014), The Loft Linen Tee (2013, and yes, it's my favorite), Forever21 top (2013), Target scarf (2012), leather crossbody from Italy (2015)
Now, as for the magic proportion between these shades, I do think it's easiest to own the most pieces in your basic neutral shades. By relying on your staples, you're making the whole mix and match thing a piece of cake. Taking that cake analogy to another level, your basics would be the actual layers of dough, your complimentary colors the filling, and your contrasting color the sprinkles on top. Mmm, cake... Okay, maybe I took it a little too far :)

And that's all, folks. I realize I got a bit verbose here (as I'm wont to do) and maybe made the whole thing sound waaay more complicated than it actually is, but you can make it as simple as step one, choosing neutral colors, step two, choosing your favorite pops of color. I was just trying to show that working out your perfect color palette is basically an extension of a very simple color pairing, like black and red, or brown and yellow, or cream and mauve. You could go hardcore minimalist and only work with two shades, discarding everything else in your closet, but for me personally that's a bit too extreme, and, uhm, boring. Now, tell me - have you ever thought about choosing your clothing according to a specific color palette? Or maybe you find the whole concept too limiting and unnecessary? I would love to know!


  1. Interesting post, Monika! I've been recently thinking about what colours I want to have in my wardrobe. Most bloggers have a lot of classic colours (white, black, grey, navy...) but hopelessly those are the colours which don't fit me best. Therefore I have also tried to choose my color scheme upon my current wardrobe, but I also try to purge some colours I don't like.
    I like your hints and will try them. Thank you!

  2. Our colour palettes are SO similar! I think the only thing I'd add in is an olive/military green -- but I tend to include that in my neutrals category.

  3. This. This is helpful. I mean, I know which items I need but I never think about colors and color combos enough.

  4. its pretty hard for me to find a color palette b/c...coming up with one completely s far beyond my creative ability and if i try to draw inspirations from magazines i just find that i'm drawn to too many options. i dont even love color all that much LOL. and yet and yet....i've purged a lot of my clothes and i'm finally getting the last instalment of all my clothing from my mom's into my apartment this week so there will be another round...

    cognac is such a lovely shade and totally autumnal. it would look so nice with your hair color i think. and i agree about the not too matchy-matchy things but sometimes im' worried about how /un/-matched i might look...i dont know. just need to literally get comfortable in the clothes i actually love (which tend to look a bit weird).

  5. What a lovely post, Monika, and timely too! I've been reorganizing my own closet, downsizing and also keeping those I really need. My current needs definitely changed but my closet hasn't! I'm slowly changing it and it's been a fun (and sometimes difficult) process. Thanks for sharing the color palettes. Looking at my wardrobe, I'm definitely more of a monochromatic / neutral person :)

  6. Love seeing tone-on-tone! There's something so calming about seeing them organized neatly like this.

    I haven't gotten to the point where I organize by colours or a certain scheme. For a long time I had a very neutral wardrobe thanks to boring office jobs, but my way of compensating for that was to add pops of bright red or orange accessories. And there are certain colours I avoid now because they're not flattering on me (pastels) but I sure love seeing other people rock them out.

  7. I never really went through the process of looking for/ defining a color palette for my closet. But I do like the idea, and admittedly have mostly gotten there on my own. Of course since I didn't really sit down and plan it there are some random pieces in colors seen no-where else in my closet. But the bulk of my clothes are Navy/medium blue and grey for neutrals with deep purple (eggplant coloring), blushed pink and coral as my color. They tend to look really good on me.

  8. You have such a great taste! I love everything burgundy and that GAP Shrunken Boyfriend shirt especially.

  9. I used to wear all colours and my annoyance with the concept of the capsule wardrobe is the limited colour scheme and neutrals that every example shows. I can't be bothered with block neutrals and seasonal colours and all of that. However I have narrowed it down to specific shades of colours; bright red/burgundy, pale yellow/bright mustard, turquoise and pale blue and mint/emerald green with black and grey patterns. I think monochrome patterns are great, goes with colour and isn't boring