How to coax a palette out of your existing wardrobe;
Identifying your primary colors;
Ideas for using your palette to create new outfits;
Tips for using accent colors in unexpected ways;
Using your palette when you shop!
Once you’ve created your palette based on the clothes already in your closet, carry it with you when you shop! (Click the photo to go straight to my article. Photo is my own, also used in the published article.)
This post appeared originally at my A Musing blog, here.
This is the biggest newsflash item I’ve had the pleasure to post about so far: I’m actually creating my dream of a color-centric business, by combining several different areas of interest under a single name:Yes! Knittique (yarns, knitwear patterns, samples, & jewelry), Photo/Graphic Design (art on canvas, tutorials, & graphic files), and The Bratelier (lingerie sewing kits) are now all part of the Colormusing family— a reunion of sorts, where all the various relatives play together nicely because they all have one thing in common: color palettes. Continue reading →
There are the fun surprises, like finding that shocking-pink cashmere V-neck I’d thought I’d accidentally thrown away during a houseguests-are-coming organizational frenzy. Then there are some less pleasant surprises, such as a broken zipper on the skirt that would have been the perfect thing to wear out dancing or the jeans that don’t quite fit any more. And every once in a while, something simply serendipitous (not to mention alliterative!) takes you by surprise, usually when you think you have things all planned out, but then the plan changes…
The other day, I went to the library in search of books about dyeing (please note the crucial letter e in that word). Specifically, I was looking for useful information about dyeing yarns with acid dyes (I touched on my adventures in Dye-land recently). I’m working on a book proposal on this topic, so I naturally wanted to see what’s already out there. Since I had already done extensive online searching, including scans of library databases, I wasn’t totally surprised at the meager results: less than a dozen books grouped in the dyeing category, and almost all of them focused on (a) dyeing fabric, primarily cotton fabrics for quilting (which requires a different type of dye), and/or (b) using natural dyes. (Of course, it could be that books that would meet my criteria were all checked out, but I checked on the library computer before I left, and this was not the case.)
However, it’s virtually impossible for me to leave any library empty-handed, so I looked around the color/art section and found…
The Color Scheme Bible, my latest library find. (Image courtesy of Amazon.com; click the picture to see this book at Amazon.com.)
Yes, I know it says it’s about interior design, but if you look, you’ll find that most color palette-oriented materials available do seem to be for interiors. But that doesn’t mean you can’t put them to use in your closet! In fact, the following experiment may just inspire you to try new color combinations with the clothes and accessories you already have, not to mention the way you choose new items to add to your current wardrobe. Try it!
Here’s what I did.
Step 1. I skimmed through the pages of palettes (organized into sections by color families: pink, grey, blue, etc.), settling on this one that jumped out at me:
Step 1: Pick-a-Palette! I chose this one primarily because I know I already have several things in my closet in the main color (bordeaux, although they’re calling it damson berry). I love the general idea of wearing several different shades of red together, so this seemed like a good place to start.
Tip: Make sure your palette has a minimum of 3 colors: main color, secondary color (often a contrast to the main color), accent color. A simple, high-contrast wardrobe example would be a black skirt (main color), white blouse (secondary color), hot pink heels (accent color). If your palette has more than 3 colors, like the one shown here, you’ll have that many more options, particularly with your accessory colors.
Step 2: Start with something in your main color. I found this skirt. (This should be a garment, not an accessory.)
Step 2: Main-color garment: Bordeaux skirt.
Tip: When laying out your garments, it helps to put them on top of a white sheet so you can judge the color effects without distractions. (This is especially helpful when I’m laying things out on my bed— it’s covered with a deep claret-red comforter.)
Step 3: Add a secondary-color piece. An ensemble is not made with a skirt alone, so I pulled this be-sequinned espresso-brown tank:
Step 3: Top that skirt! This is the closest match I could find to the darker secondary color (top left on the book page), which they’re calling “eggplant”. This deep brown looks pretty close to me.
Already I have an outfit of pieces that I hadn’t previously thought to combine!
Step 4: Add another secondary-color piece. I wanted to find something in bright pink (the other secondary color in my palette), if possible:
Step 4: Add pink! Hand-knitted capelet, combining bordeaux shades with both light and bright pinks. Also note the difference made by adding multiple new textures to this outfit. Layering also makes it more versatile.
Notice how with each additional step, I’m actually creating a new look? And all based around the same skirt, and all done with things I already have!
Step 5: Add accent colors. I’m so intrigued with the sort of deep chartreuse and bright turquoise accent colors in my palette, neither of which I would have thought of pairing with bordeaux. I’m not so sure I have anything in those exact shades, but this sweater comes kind of close to the chartreuse:
Step 5: Acc-ent-uate the palette! With the addition of the chartreuse cashmere pullover, this outfit suddenly feels totally different. Okay, I’m not sure this particular sweater works wonderfully with the style of the skirt, but the point is to start to visualize new color combinations, right?
Step 6: Add another accent color, this time with accessories, that is, if I can find anything in my closet that’s reasonably close to turquoise. How about this green bag? It’s kind of in the same color family. I think. Ooh, and this turquoise scarf!
Step 6: Adding accessories. The scarf comes closer than the bag to the palette’s accent colors, but this exercise is not really about rigorously matching colors; it’s just about playing with colors. (The scarf is one I hand-knitted with some luscious merino/cashmere yarn that I dyed to create this ombré effect; the scarf is made with just 1 skein. Here’s where you can find this yarn in my Etsy shop.)
Step 7: Add finishing touches. I’m going to put a favorite sweater-jacket in a deep rose-red over this outfit and see what happens!
Step 7: Finish with a jacket! To my eye, at least, this ensemble suddenly looks much more cohesive. Again, the color of my jacket doesn’t exactly match anything in the palette, but it works. And the felted wool adds another textural surprise!
Tip: Looking at this last photo makes me realize that it’s a great example of the use of complementary colors, in this case, red and green (and various shades thereof). Remember my color theory crash course? Complementary colors are opposite each other on the color wheel—the origin of many a fine color palette.
Step 7, Part Deux: Try a different accessory color. Just by switching the turquoise scarf for one in shades of pink and red (also one of my own hand-painted yarns), this look changes yet again. And this time, the red/green complementary color thing is even more apparent:
Step 7, Part Deux: The Big Scarf Switch! Changing to this subtly-variegated scarf makes a crucial difference with all these solid colors. And for me, considering all the different textures I now have in the outfit, this combination works the best, color-wise; it’s just shades of red and shades of green. Simple!
Looking at these photos again now, it really still amazes me that I could, in a matter of minutes (less if I hadn’t been taking these photos!), pull together an interesting outfit in a color combination I hadn’t thought to try before now. Quelle surprise, indeed!
Find a color palette that speaks to you, then take it into your closet. I’m betting you’ll be surprised by what you find!
I’d love to know what happens when you try this! If you want to get started right now (you know you do), browse palettes on ColourLovers. The link will take you to my page there, but you can search through the whole site; for example, when I searched for “bordeaux”, these are the palettes that came up.
Just in from my fashion gurus at WhoWhatWear: the fruity summer shades of red and pink are transitioning to the deeper, richer wines of autumn. This slideshow explores this delicious color trend, from rosy mauve to velvety bordeaux.
Shades of wine and roses.Click the photo (courtesy of WhoWhatWear) to see the entire slideshow.
Honestly, I’m a bit surprised that my actual travel wardrobe turned out almost exactly as I planned it; I’ll give more details about the changes as we go. First, here are photos of the pieces I packed: tops, bottoms, dress.
The tops; it’s unusual for me to wear prints at all, so you can see I’m trying to push myself! (I made the one-shouldered silk tunic and the sage and lavender cap-sleeve knit top.) Continue reading →
I was working on a sewing project the other day, and was changing thread colors on my sewing machine. Without really looking at what I was doing, I set down the sage-green spools I’d been using (laying them behind the machine so they wouldn’t roll off the slightly sloping table). Something back there caught my eye, and I suddenly noticed that I had put the green spools down on top of a zip-top bag with a couple of spools inside it. This is exactly what I saw:
I just love the way these colors look together, but how do you translate that into an actual palette? Go to ColourLovers! (The link will take you to my page on ColourLovers, but feel free to browse the whole site. It’s worth the trip, I promise.) Using this photo as my starting point, I created this palette:
Threads palette created on ColourLovers; note the addition of the white (from the spools) and charcoal grey (from the background of the photo).
When you’re looking at a photo like the one with the threads, the subject matter of the photo can be distracting; it’s often easier to visualize using a color palette when you can see it in solid, flat colors as in the ColourLovers palette.
Why don’t you try creating your own custom palette with a photo? Even photos that are not that great (out of focus, etc.) can be rich sources of beautiful color palettes. You can do this online at ColourLovers, and/or use their palette-creation software, ColorSchemer Studio (they even have a smartphone app version of this!). Have fun! And be sure to post your palettes here for us all to enjoy!
All right, maybe I’m taking this color obsession a little too far… Yesterday, when I was visiting my sister up in Poulsbo, Washington, we were enjoying a wonderful home-cooked lunch at her house that included many young, delicious vegetables from her garden (and a chicken). This locovore’s delight included a dish of beautiful beets, regular (or whatever the red ones are called) and golden, together on a platter, thus:
Beets, part of a delicious lunch at my sister’s house. Little did she know… Continue reading →
Closet confession #1 (yes, there will be more): I reorganize my clothes regularly, partly to remove the things that no longer work for me, but mostly in an attempt to find the perfect system. Care to make a guess as to my success rate?
The way I’ve generally organized my closet in the past has been by type, i.e. skirts together, dresses together, etc. Here’s how my wardrobe (at least the parts that hang) looked using this plan:
My clothes (the hanging ones), grouped according to item type.