How to choose a colour palette (and why it makes you more productive)
Updated: Sep 6, 2021
In this series of articles we are thoughtfully exploring ideas to help curate your own signature style.
There are five parts in this series, and I've written mini, less-than-5-minute articles within each one for you to explore bit by bit.
This article belongs to defining.
Enjoy this series~
"Life is art; live yours in colour."
It started with a pair of yellow socks. Secrets socks.
The type that don't show when you wear them with flats or trainers. But they're comfortable to wear around the house, especially when there isn't carpet around.
Typically, such socks are always either black, white, nude or grey.
Those are kind of dreary colours if you think about it, especially if you are looking at them a lot during the day because they're on my feet at home.
But one day, as I was browsing through the secret sock collection in a pharmacy (for some reason such secret socks are sold in abundance at pharmacies in the UAE - *confused face*), I came across a pair that stood out. And they stood out for one reason alone:
They were yellow.
And so it began, with a yellow pair of house socks: the acceptance that certain types of yellow would be a part of my colour palette.
Before I'd acknowledged this was a colour I loved, I probably wouldn't have bought them, even if I thought they were great.
But having recently decided that yellow was going to feature as a core colour in my palette, I didn't really hesitate when I saw those yellow secret socks.
Many little things happened after that, like noticing how they matched with many of my other clothes effortlessly, or simply how much I enjoyed wearing them. Also, simply: joy. It showed me how useful having a colour palette can be.
I like simplicity and I like systems. When you choose a colour palette, three important things begin to happen:
1- Your clothes begin to match with each other without you thinking about it.
When you buy new pieces using your colour palette to guide you, you'll almost always find the item effortlessly matches with several other things in your wardrobe. Even if you're in a hurry, throwing things together won't look so crazy because they're of a similar colour scheme.
2- Suddenly, one item can create several new outfits.
It's a beautiful moment, because you bought one top - and it naturally fits so well with other pieces that you may find you have a few more outfits than you intended.
3- Your wardrobe begins to look visually very beautiful!
The colours complement each other, or you can even arrange by colour too, if you have the space and context for it. It's a lovely feeling.
4- You're able to filter 'noise' out when you're shopping.
Your mind and vision, boosted by your palette, helps you gravitate towards clothes that match your palette and will be ideal in your closet.
Your unique colour palette becomes a kind of filter that allows you to select and choose the things you love most, while appreciating others.
So how should you choose your colours?
I know that there are many guides out there for what you should and shouldn't choose in terms of an ideal colour palette. It's often based on your skin tone. I somewhat reject this.
I think it's much more freeing to choose a beautiful colour palette based on what you really love. I figure if you like a colour that much, it must bring you some kind of joy, so you'll glow in it even if it doesn't really "suit" your skin tone.
First, look at your current closet from afar: what are the recurring colours you already see? Do you love them? Make note of the top ones and decide whether they make your palette or not.
Second, you can also consider the colours that you love on others. They might be ones you'd love to wear yourself.
And finally, of course, simply considering the colours you love most is the easiest way.
Once you've done that, here are a couple of options to building your own colour palette. I've tried them both, and number 2 works most productively for me. I found constraining to just 4 colours including black and white really tough.
1- A palette of 4 colours, including black or white.
This was pretty difficult for me to manage, because I ended up expelling black from the scene completely. Constraints are great in many cases, because they reduce the number of options and with less choice it can be easier to choose. While I don't like to wear a lot of black, I missed it as a signature colour in my wardrobe. So I had to bring it back.
2- A palette of 6 colours, including black and white.
This is what I currently work with. I have 5-6 colours that I go to, with one or two being black and creamy white. I enjoy a pastel set of colours.
So: if you use black and white/cream as a base, which other 3-4 colours would fill your palette?
Mine are curerntly:
In the last post we looked at how defining your style is like having 3D glasses to help you filter out things that you'd really love to wear. In this post, we gave our 3D glasses an upgrade, as they can now show you which colours to look out for in a store when you're considering new pieces. Having a filter, or constraints, helps you pick up on precisely what you love most.
These aren't set in stone, and your colour palette, like your values, and your priorities in life can shift over time.
There are always going to be times when you need to wear a certain colour for a particular context.
There are always going to be inevitable changes further down the line.
But having an idea of your colour palette helps in unexpected ways. Not least because your wardrobe has a kind of visual harmony to it once you've started to apply the colour filter.
Owning your colour palette provides a lens through which you can filter out the 'noise' of other colours you find less interesting.
And gives rise to all sorts of other quirky moments: like wearing yellow secret socks around the house, happily. :)