Simplify Your Wardrobe by Discovering Your Color Palette

I've always longed for a simple, cohesive color palette for my wardrobe, but I've never been able to restrict myself. I like too many colors! Early in college, after my wild rainbowy high school years, I drew a line in the sand and decided that all my clothes would be either blue or brown. That lasted about half a week. Sure, it was easy to mix and match, but it was way too restrictive. Anyway, I didn't even look good in brown.

Last year, for the first time, I found a color palette that's restrictive enough to simplify, versatile enough to work for any occasion, and totally looks great on me: True Summer. I took this quiz on to find out. The idea of the quiz is that you have a friend take it for you, since they can be more objective about what looks good on you. It helps to have your friend there with you when you take the quiz for them, and ideally to be able to hold up different colored items to their face. My friend and I took the quiz for each other and confirmed our results with some color-swatch-holding-up. After some time, we were able to quickly decide "yes" or "no" to figure out what color looked good on each other. We found, time and time again, that certain palettes were extremely good predictors of what colors looked good or bad on us.

I resisted my results at first. I didn't like True Summer colors! They were childish colors, designed for toddler clothes: bright pinks and blues. Basically if it's the color of a My Little Pony, it's my color. My favorite colors, red and black, were nowhere to be found on my palette. Nor was white. The most versatile colors were apparently not for me. But as I stood in front of the mirror in a bright aqua and purple dress I never would have picked out for myself, I had to admit it: "Grrr! This looks GREAT ON ME!!!"

When I went shopping after that, I couldn't deny it: items in my palette simply looked better. It was sometimes subtle, but it was always true. And suddenly I had an explanation for many items of the clothing in my wardrobe which didn't quite work, and I didn't quite know why: they were off-palette. More and more of these items were moved to my "maybe" pile and, from there, to Goodwill.

Like many simplification techniques, the process of adopting my color palette didn't feel simple as I was doing it. It felt like I was adding complexity. I had to figure out my palette and then commit the colors to memory, or carry around a printout when shopping. I had to get rid of some items that "sparked joy." (Nobody was making me do this, but I still felt compelled.) I had fill holes in my wardrobe after getting rid of off-palette items. (Of course, there was no urgency, and I could have just replaced things as they wore out.) Many times, I questioned why I was doing it. The reason of course was that I knew it was working.

I've now gotten to the point where almost every item of clothing I own is on my palette (largely from shrinking my wardrobe). I have to say, the view from the other side is great! So many things are simpler: dressing, shopping, decluttering. I've also learned to genuinely love my colors, and I find myself drawn to them even when picking non-clothes items like paint colors or dishes. 

Here are the upsides I now enjoy:

All my clothing looks good on me. Color-wise, anyway. Nothing in my wardrobe makes me look pale or washed-out. All items of clothing make me look healthy and alive. It's not even something I have to think about anymore. I'm not saying that I look like a supermodel in everything or that I've become instantly more attractive, but I know this: my clothes aren't making me look less good than I can optimally look. The colors of my clothes bring out the natural colors of my eyes and lips, and I feel little need to wear makeup.

Everything mixes and matches (without being mitchy-matchy.) It's easy to mix and match because every color in the palette looks good with every other color in the palette. At the same time, because the palette encompasses many colors, I'm generally not wearing all the same color, so I don't have to do things like make sure my navy blues are exactly the same shade. I just grab two things out of my closet and generally they look good together. Pale purple button-down shirt and gray pants? Great. Navy dress and pink sweater? Fine. Jeans and a sky blue T-shirt? Sure.

This simplifies getting dressed in the morning, it's made my wardrobe more versatile, and it's made my decluttering process much more straightforward. Because I used to have the odds and ends of multiple palettes in my wardrobe, I ended up keeping items not because I loved them in and of themselves, but because they went with other things: "Well, I can't get rid of this black shirt because it's the only top that doesn't clash with my red pants." There's no more isolated pools of items that look good together but not with other items, or pieces that only make sense in a specific outfit.

Shopping is so much quicker. I've committed my colors basically to memory, so it's easy to scan any store and zero in on the items that are in my palette. From that limited pool, I quickly eliminate more things based on cut or fabric, so I only really end up with a few choices. Shopping much faster, especially in complicated stores like Goodwill, and I'm less likely to buy things I regret, at least from a color perspective.

If you're not sure why certain wardrobe items aren't working, if you're frustrated trying to get your outfits to go together, or you simply want to streamline and simplify your closet, finding your color palette is immensely helpful. Grab a friend and discover your colors!


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