What’s your color story?

By IN Find Your Style

The color wheel

The color wheel

On “Project Runway,” the judges and Tim Gunn often talk about a designer’s “color story.” That is, what’s the particular palette they’re working with for a garment, and what are they trying to convey through that choice of color? Often, a poorly conceived color story translates into a less-than-stellar creation.

When editing your closet and creating your own wardrobe, then, don’t forget to tell your own color story.

But what does that mean, exactly? And how do you begin? I’ll admit it’s something I’m working on all the time.

Step 1: What story are you telling now?

Whether done so deliberately or not, our closets are full of color choices. Open the door to yours. What do you see? Are you confronted with a lot of neutrals—especially in the darker (OK, black) end of the spectrum? Guilty! Are you that rare bright creature with a closet like a rainbow? Or do you see a hodgepodge of dark and light, reds and greens, blues and yellows?

Identify the shades you’ve been shopping in. You can simply take a general assessment (“I never noticed how often I bought red blouses”), or get super detailed and write everything down, noting the color of each. Spreadsheet lovers, here’s your chance.

Most likely, you’ll discover a pattern. I can tell you right now, without even looking, that my wardrobe is heavy on the dark neutrals of tan, brown, black, and grey; and I mix these with more neutrals, or purples, greens and reds. You won’t find a drop of orange or yellow.

Step 2: What story do you want to tell?

Whether your closet is already predominantly focused on one group of colors, or you’re all over the spectrum, you need to decide what color story you want to tell. Is it what you have now? Or is it something else?

To help you arrive at an answer to this question, start by thinking about colors not in terms of what’s easy to buy or easy to match, but what looks best on you. Often, these colors are the ones we naturally gravitate towards. But it’s worth verifying.

Remember the fad in the ’80s for “getting your colors done”? The concept of choosing colors that flatter your skin tone still holds true. Jot down a list of the colors that are best for you. Take a moment to scan through your clothes; are there any that aren’t on this list? If you try them on, do they make you look good?

Step 3: Creating your (new and improved!) color story

Armed with this knowledge, decide what your core palette is going to be, that set of 3-5 shades that everything else is built around. If you’re already there, congratulations! The rest of us may have a little weeding out to do. If you haven’t edited your wardrobe lately, this is another great opportunity.

Finally, complete your story by choosing a few colors from that preferred, flattering list that will complement the core palette. A simple color wheel can help guide you to pairs of colors that work well together. Just remember to wear cool with cool, warm with warm. If these complementary shades are already in your closet, congratulations again.

Everyone else? Let’s go shopping! It’s time to pick up a few tops and accessories, so we can wear these pops of flattering color by our faces. Knowing what works best for you will help you choose items from among the current color trends.

The continuing story

But of course, telling your color story isn’t a one-time event. Every time you shop for new items, you’ll be adding to it. Once you’ve identified your personal palette, make buying a little easier; create a purse-sized list of favorite colors and shades. Or go to the hardware store and take a few paint chip cards in your core colors—they’re super portable, for handbag or pocket.

Your turn

  • What’s your color story?
[Photo credit: Western Governors University]

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