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Personal Style: How to Define Your Signature Color Palette

Personal Style series: defining your signature color palette  www.pencilshavingsstudio.com

image by Boden; graphics by me.

We’re back to more posts on personal style today, and this one is a doozy.

A few years ago I remember seeing a woman who was super chic. She was wearing trim cropped white jeans with a camel-colored sweater, all with gold jewelry and simple, chic accessories and some kind of high-end looking tan driving loafers. It went beautifully with her  olive colored skin and dark hair. My sister told me that she knew her, and that she chooses only items in that specific color palette to wear. It works for her, and she’s rockin’ it daily.

Now that’s knowing your personal style.

So how do you go about defining your signature color palette? Here’s a few different tips, but by all means don’t view these as hard-and-fast rules. Rules are meant to be broken, darlings.

1. Determine your favorite neutrals. In interior design, I tend to believe that you’re either a white or a cream. And I also think that applies to fashion. Are you a black-only kind of person? Or maybe – like me – it’s navy. (I prefer navy because it’s preppy and it’s less harsh – to me –  with other colors than black.) Other good neutrals include heather grey, army green, chocolate, camel/khaki, etc.

2. Add color to the mix.  Jewel tones, pastels, primaries, neons, muted tones – the list goes on and on. What are you complimented on when you wear it? What lights up your face or makes you stand out in a crowd? I’ll be honest – I won’t spend as much time on this one because the next one is more important.

3.  Know where you won’t go, color-wise. I don’t believe that there’s a color out there you can’t wear. I really, truly don’t. It’s a matter of finding the right shade of every color. Figure out what those wrong shades are that don’t work with your hair and skin color, and avoid them like the plague. But don’t be turned off by a single color just because you don’t like a shade of it.  Take a friend with you when you shop or take a few selfies in the dressing room and then assess them to see what makes you pop – and what makes you flop.

4. Channel your favorite locale. Are you drawn to Parisian chic? Nantucket summer? Culturally, location can make a big difference in color palettes. The old adage that New Yorkers always wear black? There’s a reason for it. Parisians are the same, although toss in a few bits of navy blue here and there too, but not a lot of color. Palm Springs and Palm Beach are known for hot hues, as is Miami. Is there a city or a place that you find yourself drawn to over and over again? Take note of the culturally prevalent color palette.

5. Emotional attachments. One of my favorite memories is a pale yellow Swiss dot dress I had as a little girl. I remember feeling pretty in it – and those feelings stick with me every time I wear yellow.  Color makes everyone feel a certain way – and it’s pretty important to like how you feel!

So what are your gold standards? What are you rocking? Where are you struggling? I want to hear it all!

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  • Britta Newton

    I love this post Rachel! I am a stylist and I tell my clients to pick colors and stick with them all the time- everything in your closet will match!

  • KellyW

    Navy, grey, and green. Occasionally black. Some pops of yellow. You will not find any shade of red (except maroon, for gameday-hollering-for-my-team attire), purple, or orange anywhere in my closet. A pair of khaki pants, yes, but no browns or tans. I am a simple girl. 🙂

  • Stephanie Holladay

    I HATE orange. When I used to wear it people would ask me if I felt alright. It makes me look sick. I like navy and grey for my neutrals. All colors of pink, mint green, turquoise, light yellow and sometimes lilac as well. I love colors too much to stick to the neutrals too much though.

  • Thank your this wonderful advice! I adore color so much that I use it in my art and clothing. But, I want to brand myself into my fashion. I will use this tip for sure.

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