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What goes with what

How to create a wardrobe colour palette

How to create a wardrobe colour palette

A wardrobe colour palette? What’s one of them when it’s at home, you might be asking. Well, what we’re not talking about is giving your wardrobe a new lick of paint. But don’t put away the paint swatches just yet, because they might come in handy later.

What we mean by a wardrobe colour palette is simply a colour scheme that you stick to when it comes to clothes and accessories. Whether you have a capsule wardrobe or your closet’s overflowing with trend pieces, a well-chosen colour palette allows you to mix and match different items easily and get the most bang for your buck.

So that’s the ‘what’ and the ‘why’ sorted. Now for the ‘how’.

Assess your current set-up

Chances are, you already know what colours you’re naturally drawn to when it comes to clothes. So the first step is to open your wardrobe, see what colours dominate, and jot those down. If you’re like most men, the colours ‘navy’, ‘grey’ and ‘black’ probably feature heavily in your current rotation. Without going too Marie Kondo about it: are these the colours that bring you joy?

Take a moment to browse online or look through magazines and then see if there are any additional colours you’d like to add. If you're digitally minded, create a Pinterest board. If not, just collect them in a physical form (here's where those Farrow & Ball swatches might come in handy) so you can get a better idea about what colours from your list would go with everything, and which could prove tricky.

Your wardrobe at the moment is likely to be what you’ve always worn. This cheat sheet can give you a glimpse into what you want your future to look like (when it comes to clothes, we’re not going all ‘cosmic ordering’ on you).

Differentiate between base colours and accent colours

As you can probably guess by the name, base colours are the basics that will make up the bulk of your wardrobe. They’re also the colours that will work best for the pieces that you wear the most often, such as jeans or coats. Accent colours are the pops of brightness that will add interest to your outfit, such as orange or lavender.

We recommend you keep your colour palette narrow to start with: around six or seven colours is plenty. This is to keep things easier to manage and means you can be really versatile with how you build looks. Don’t forget, you can always add colours later, once you’ve mastered the fundamentals.

You might find it helpful to think of your wardrobe in terms of cool tones (blue, grey, and black) or warm tones (brown, cream, rust). A very simple minimal colour palette would combine all of these; you’d have black, white, grey, blue, brown, and maybe rust as an accent colour.


Think about seasons

There are certain tones and fabrics that work better in autumn/winter than they do in spring/summer. Don’t ignore this for the sake of shoehorning your wardrobe into a specific colour palette. Instead, it can be helpful to do a colour palette for each season, or at least one for each half of the year.

In the colder months, you might find yourself reaching for darker colours and more insulating fabrics such as flannel, while your summer self is awash in pale shades and airy linens. While it's best if most of the colours in your wardrobe work year-round, it’s easy enough to make a few seasonal adjustments. That way, you won’t have to completely overhaul your wardrobe each season.

Consider prints

While solid colours are the easiest to mix and match, there are certain prints and textures that will work better with each other. Learn a few rules about what goes with what and you’ll drastically expand your wardrobe.

Rule number one: whenever you’re mixing patterns, consider the colours and size of the shapes. For instance, mixing checks and stripes works because both patterns are made up of straight lines, so it gives a natural coherence to your look.

It’s also a good idea to allow one of the patterns to be the focus, so that the eye isn’t being drawn to too many places at once. A tried-and-tested method of doing this is to pick out a colour in one of the patterns and echo it in the other. Of course, now you have a wardrobe colour palette, this should be easier than ever. If in doubt, stick to two patterns and keep the outfit tonal.

The exceptions to the rule

Sometimes, you fall in love with a shirt and it’s not in one of the mandated colours or prints. What to do? Well, we’d suggest applying the cost-per-wear analysis. Then, if the sums work out, consider buying it. It’s important not to give yourself too many of these ‘outs’ though, otherwise your versatile, colour-consistent wardrobe will become a rainbow that doesn't work in any combination.

Words: Theresa Harold
Illustration: Calum Heath