The Color Guide You’ve Never Read Before
“Here. You should try these. They’d look GREAT on you!”
…cringe…silence…I know that look. It’s the look of fear. 15 thoughts just ran through your head. ‘I have no idea what to wear that with.’ ‘I’m afraid I’ll look ridiculous.’ ‘I don’t even know where to start’ ‘That’d look great on YOU! You’re ____ (fill in the blank about whatever you think I am. It’s ok. I’ve heard them all.)’ ‘I don’t have anything in my closet that color.’ And the list goes on. Am I right?
Hey! It’s ok! Believe it or not, I used to not know what colors to wear with navy! (Spoiler alert: it’s a neutral, and it goes with everything). And, no, it wasn’t when I was 5! 😛 I may or may not have been the person who wore brown and black together, before it was a thing. If I can learn, you can too!
One of the biggest fears we have is looking ridiculous (right up there with public speaking and dying). If you have been on planet earth for any amount of time, you’ve probably been told (or read articles) about which colors to wear together…for a pop of color your should wear red and green (or other opposites). Or you should wear “triad” colors (colors that are spread equally on the color wheel). In these articles, the color options look more like they came out of your 8 year olds marker bin, than colors you ACTUALLY wear. Am I right?
It’s ok. I’ve read the same articles, and have been told the same thing! I will tell you that those colors look amazing on one small group of people: True Winter. The rest of us will look like Ronald McDonald. The colors are FAR too harsh for the rest of us.
Then there is the problem with the traditional equilateral triangle approach to fashion, is:
A: The colors are usually only presented in their purest form (think primary colors).
B: Not all seasons have a perfect triangle of colors.
C: Many stylists will include prints with this, AND will show color ALL OVER. (This is a HUGE issue. Caution cannot be thrown to the wind. One of the challenges here is to not look like you are making a statement (most of us have grown out of that need), or are going to design school (again, making a statement), or look like we got dressed in the dark.
Pick one. I’m sure it’s daunting to you. Put all three together, and “no thanks! I’ll stick with black.”
Don’t worry. Take my hand. I’ll walk you through how to add color to your wardrobe, and not look like you took lessons from Ms. Frizzle.
Some tips before I show you how to mix and match colors.
– Colored pants are life changing. They make your wardrobe SO much fun. BUT, I try to keep the color on ONE part of my body (this is a good tip for you!!). Most of us carry the majority of our weight around our mid section or hips. You CAN wear color all over, but you need to make sure you pay extra attention to wear you carry your weight. So for this guide, we’ll focus on color on the upper part of the body. Bonus tip: colored shoes don’t count in this. You can wear colored shoes for a fun pop of color!!
– I cannot stress enough, it’s SO important to know what season you are. Wear the wrong colors, and you’ll feel silly! Wear the right colors, and you’ll feel like you are ready to conquer the world (or your to-do list…which ever comes first).
– I have focused heavily on Soft Summer colors in this post, because they have the most limiting color palette. If I can pull out triadic colors for a Soft Summer, you’ll be able to find colors that will work for you as well!!
– If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. You can do it!!! Having several color options in your wardrobe is truly life changing. This is another tool in your 5 Minute Style toolbox. Having color will allow you to quickly pick out your clothes in the morning.
Triad – Pleasing to the Eye
If you look on a color wheel, the triad colors create a triangle. The old school rules are: equilateral triangles (all sides are the same length) are the only option. I’d like to loosen those rules, and suggest a modified triangle: if it make some form of a triangle, it’ll work, and your outfit will look better! 😄😄
Our eyes were made in a way that we like 3s. In a photography class, you’d learn to think about a photo in 3 sections. In an art class, you’d learn that you can create all the colors in the rainbow by mixing 3 colors. Putting together an outfit is like making a painting.
Triad is a fancy word for 3. There are several kinds of triads. I’ll show a few, but don’t get hung up on the names. Just think “triangle”. 🙂
Instead of focusing on the perfect triangle, think about the perfect colors within a triangle.
An outfit will look so much more stylish, and pulled together, if you vary the intensity of the colors. I like to use 2 darks and a light, or 2 lights and a dark. In this example, the teal and purple, are dark, and the yellow is darker. If all the colors were of the same intensity (or paleness), the outfit would be boring, or chaotic. Think of nature – there are shadows, and places where the sun shines. It’s nice to have a mix of darks and lights.
In this example, I used pieces that created an equilateral triangle, but I varied the intensity of the colors.
Triad for Soft & True Summer
I hate to share that there are some palettes that are harder than others, but the summer tones don’t easily fit in the traditional color wheel schemes. We have to think out of the box a little. Remember, the purpose of this post is to break out of your style rut, and try new color combinations that you wouldn’t normally wear.
Yellows are limited with Soft and True Summers. I’d opt for a lovely Celadon tone that suggests yellow, without being obviously yellow.
You also don’t have to pick EXACT colors on the color wheel. When colors are all the same intensity, it doesn’t allow the eye to move around. The eye will jump from color to color. The outfit will lack harmony, and it will feel like there is a disconnect. When you use my rule of “2 Darks and a Light” (or “2 Lights, and a Dark”), your outfit will have balance and harmony. I’ve used 2 Lights and a Dark in this example.
The colors in the top row feel disconnected. If you wore these together, you’d probably feel juvenile, or uncomfortable. An outfit that is loud and bright, doesn’t make your outfit more stylish. It needs to flow, and go together…like a beautiful painting, with light areas and dark areas…you want to keep the eye moving!
You’ll feel more comfortable in an outfit if you tone down one of the colors; it makes the combination more pleasing to the eye.
You don’t HAVE to use Yellow, Pink and Blue-Greens for a triad. But to keep things as easy and consistent, I’ve used the same colors.
A few notes:
I HIGHLY recommend getting my Closet Love Makeover. It’s free, and I cover seasons, and how to identify your season (If you think you know your season…you might be wrong! I use a 12 season system that is more accurate).
This may be overwhelming at first. Save this page, and come back to it…let the info percolate for a bit. Think about the colors. Think about what colors you like to wear. What colors you can add to an outfit. Use this as a guide, and not a hard and fast rules. Most stylists use a blanket approach to telling how to break out of a rut. This is going to be more specific, and tailored to YOU!
How to avoid color overwhelm: Look for the bold text. Those are universal style truths. 🙂
If you are stuck with what season you are, I am more than happy to do your colors for you!
Out with the Old…In with the New
So it’s cliché. But if seasons have changed, so have color guidelines! WHO said that you HAVE to wear primary colors for mixing and matching?!! Not me. Primary colors look good on mostly True and Bright Winters (as well as some primary colors on Bright Spring).
If you had your colors done in the 80’s or 90’s, and you are not in the middle of the seasons (look at the 12 seasons – the middle column are the purest tones, and are the colors generally suggested for the 4 seasons we are used to), you’ll notice that some of the colors look terrible on you – and you need darker/lighter or softer/muted shades.
Because of these changes (which are still not commonly used), it makes sense that colors you ‘should’ wear, really look terrible on you. Can I get an “Amen”?!
If seasons have changed, then color combinations ought to change as well.
Throw out anything you have ever read about color combinations, and let’s start over.
I have 2 color wheels I love. The first is “The Gardener’s Color Wheel” – it breaks the primary colors into the colors between (ex: blue-green, green blue, etc), and shows the pure colors to the lightest colors on one side, and the purest colors to the darker shades on the other.
The other is “The French Color Wheel” – I love that this one is a simplified version of the above. It is missing the variety of shades that the Gardener’s Color Wheel has. These color wheels will help you look at your clothes with fresh perspective.