Personal style: creating spring colour palette - S/S14

Colour doesn’t actually exist, it’s our perception of light that makes us see what we view as colour. Which explains why the same dress that made me look divine in Miami, frightens the living daylights out of my friends in London.

Or why a pretty coloured bag that looks perfect under flattering shop lighting, transforms itself into a fashion faux pas, once at home.

How to create the spring wardrobe palette.
The reality of my life is that I have to dress in a flash and be out of the door, before you can say , ‘what shall I wear?’ There is no time for daily colour co ordination. Mornings are frantic and I rarely have the time to come home and change before going out in the evening. So whatever colours I choose, have to work hard all day. I love opening my wardrobe and finding ONLY clothes that are a delight to wear.

Colours have a powerful effect – can be uplifting or depressing and alter our mood. Depending on lighting conditions, various tones may appear to us very differently, so irrespective of what fashion dictates it’s important to choose what we adore and find uplifting. There is a whole colour industry out there, that can identify ‘your’ colours, but there are some simple and quick rules.

Living in London, and using public transport, my personal preference for colour is kept on the muted side of the spectrum. Adding some lovely colour can improve the mood no end, and anyone suffering from depression is often advised to include some ‘happy’ colours schemes.

Wardrobe colour palettes for beginners

Base colour
These are my so called neutrals, and they can be charcoal grey, white, black, chocolate, bottle green, burgundy and indigo/denim/navy. Darker shades in the winter, chalkier shades for spring. What I call ‘base’ colour would form the dominant shade in my outfit. This spring my base colour is mostly navy, as I already have a spring coat sorted – from carven. I get most of my ‘expensive’ items (coats, jackets, trousers, bags) in base neutral colours. This season seems to have an explosion of florals and sugar almond hues which can also be used as a delectable ‘base’ colour. (Personally I avoid pastels as neutrals, they are such High maintenance in terms of keeping them looking good, plus always the danger of ending up mother of the bride-ish.) As a rule, darker colours recede, so wear the darker shade where you want to appear visually slimmer. This trick works with any base colour, not just black.

Accent colour
These are the secondary colours, for example, an aqua coloured shirt (plain or patterned) with a (base) of dark grey jacket/ trousers. Shirts, shoes, scarves, hats and gloves are often the chosen pieces to carry my accent colours. They may be a contrasting colour (such as purple accent on a green base) or a tone ( such as a paler shade of the green). Its nice to pick a new colour or two each season as it refreshes existing pieces. Only go for colours You simply love looking at – obvious I know – but more than once I have made the mistake of picking colours I didn’t actually like. My own accent pieces this season: knit tops in powder pink (from last winter) they work beautifully for spring – adding some fresh aqua shades too -all from the same designer. Accent pieces are also an easy way to get some fresh spring-like prints into the outfit and some of those uplifting, mood enhancing hues in the wardrobe. Personally I don’t favour cheap throwaway accent items. Quality shows where colour is concerned. A cheap badly printed scarf will generally always look like a cheap scarf – and can ruin an otherwise well thought out outfit. Everyone can wear any colour they have their heart set upon, though in general, best to keep the shade of colour which is closer to the face, one that flatters skin tone/hair colour.

Highlight colour
Certain colours Are very much loved, but look best in very small quantities – for example a solid gold cuff could be my highlight colour. Or metallic silver shoes. (an  über dramatic outfit could reverse the rules, such as wearing a lame gold coat with a solid black cuff. Film stars tend to go for that sort of outfit as their job is to be noticed. Not so good, if like me, you use public transport.) Highlights can also be something simple like a satin cream ‘faux’ collar on a blue dress. Highlight colours tend to go beyond seasonal dressing and can work with most other colours. Jewellery, shoes, hats, scarves or even socks can be highlight items. Some of My own highlight colours are some cherished chalcedony rings, which were especially commissioned from here.

Quick spring wardrobe palette (the shortcut method)
If you observe the spring fashion collections, good designers already have a set palette and pretty much most of their clothes will somehow work together. This is the aim in my own wardrobe. A small selection with a limited colour palette for each season. The easy & quick way to create your own spring palette, is to pick a base colour, (such as a favourite pair of jeans, that you already own or a spring coat, suitable for climate/lifestyle. Don’t pick imaginary lifestyle items!) Then for accents, go upmarket and add two or three pieces of clothing bought from the same designer collection. The professionals have done all the work for you and if you choose the right designer, it’s foolproof. A season, is only a few months, so no need to buy lots, (more thinking and trying on/less buying) you can always change the accent colour next season.

To summarise
Do not overthink it and do not over co-ordinate, keep it fresh! Resist the PRIMARK mentality of shopping for masses of cheap, shapeless, indeterminate coloured synthetics. Instead spend the time to try on some well made clothes from designers who make the effort to actually design, rather than just copy and cut corners. Go for brands who have their items made with care and finesse, following basic ethical principles. (no sweat shops/no fur)
Developing this sort of self discipline costs a little more initially, but in the long run you look practically divine, the wardrobe becomes a delightful place to visit and you save an absolute fortune. Win – win scenario.

miu miu ss14, Selfridges collection.

Bright clear spring colour palette from miu miu ss14, Selfridges collection.

Related posts:
Personal style (part 1): defining the silhouette.
Shopping the classics (and still looking cutting edge)
Love thy wardrobe
London shopping strategies ( green, ethical & well educated)


13 thoughts on “Personal style (part 2): Creating a Spring Colour Palette – S/S14

  1. A Spoonful of Style

    Such a great post. I love all your fashion tips – need to get my closet cleared out and organised for spring asap. I actually had my colours done by a consultant a few years ago (I won it in a raffle at our village Christmas fair..) but still wear mainly black/grey/white. I’m sure I still have the booklet with all the swatches that I SHOULD wear somewhere, maybe time to dig it out. X

  2. Virginia

    Great post. I was thinking all those wonderful spring items we’re yours, and I wanted modeling pics (Maybe just one skirt?) Love your neutrals, Navy and grey are my best go to colors for neutrals, and they go with everything. I love color, as evident by all my postings on tpf, and appreciate your comments on how it affects us. Thanks again for reminding us to buy less, better quality items!

  3. HappyFace313

    Thank you for all the interesting advice and suggestions!
    In spring and summer I love to wear skirts in beige, olive and sometimes black and mix them with real colourful accessories – t-shirts, scarves, shoes etc. That’s easy-peasy and works well for me for the office and on other occasions, too, plus the basics are very good priced, so I can splurge on the accessories 😉 Once I had the style figured out for myself, spring/summer wardrobe became fairly easy 😀

  4. Tabitha

    So true about the light here, when I’m abroad I can wear bright coral lipstick which makes me look like Dick Emery when I arrive home – he’s before your time.


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