Should I Care Which Colors Are In?: Enjoying Fashion Frugally

The Pantone Color Institute (the company that assigns numbers and names to specific colors for standardization between designers and paint companies and stuff) releases a "fashion color report" twice a year, based on runway looks from New York's Fashion Week. If Pantone is to be believed, fall 2016's colors will be largely muted jewel tones. I've gotta say, these colors aren't really doing much for me. I guess I could wear Riverside or Airy Blue, maybe Lush Meadow, but I'd really prefer a clearer shade of emerald. None of them are my favorite shades to wear.

I'm conflicted about following which colors are "in." On the one hand, it's fun. I love colors and I like the chance to be introduced to new ones. (None of them are really new, of course, but I enjoy being exposed to arbitrary, specific shades.) But I also don't want to be so influenced by what's "in" that I buy a bunch of new stuff in colors that are going to be "out" next season. I already went through one expensive Color Revolution!

I feel similarly conflicted about following fashion as a whole. I enjoy clothes, and I Iike looking at what's new. In my personal style, I don't feel the need to be on the cutting edge, but I also don't want my clothes to be so outdated that they make me look frumpy or ridiculous.

Here are my strategies for enjoying fashion frugally.

Know What's Right For Your Body and Coloring

The point of the Color Revolution wasn't being fashionable, it was finding colors that worked for my skin tone. In fact, I thought at the time that all the colors in my palette were hideously unfashionable (though I've since learned to love them, and one or two seem to pop up in each season's "it" colors.)  

Similarly, I find it's helpful to be aware of which current or past trends look especially good on me personally. Some of the silhouettes I like best on me are: slouchy tops and skinny jeans; puffed sleeve button down shirts and pencil skirts; fit-and-flare dresses. Some of these are more in than others (the puffy sleeve thing is so 2005, I realized while watching Gilmore Girls reruns). But just like with colors, I hone in on whatever is at the insection of Good On Me and On-Trend/Easy To Find.

Dressing for yourself is more important than being trendy. A flawless imitation of a runway model's look may or may not look good on you, depending on whether you have the body/coloring/confidence to "pull it off." But when you dress in a way that flatters your personally, you can get away with clothes that are a  little outdated or unusual. Because they look so good on you, you will just look like a person with a good sense of her own personal style.  

Timeless Basics Are the Main Dish, Trend Pieces are the Sides

I try to make the "bones" of my wardrobe very basic pieces that are never really especially fashionable or unfashionable: plain dresses with simple lines, straight leg pants, solid color sweaters and T-shirts in cuts that flatter my body type. These are my most worn items. I could probably get by on only these if I didn't mind being sort of boring. (And, usually, I don't.) I am happy to invest money in quality, durable items when they're timeless basics like this.

I certainly don't think one should ONLY wear basics. I think it's important to be able to add fun and flair. I just try to remain conscious that my "flair" items are more subject to change, both in outside fashion and my own whims, so I don't invest as much in them.

For awhile, I tried hard and fast rules of thumb, like, "pants and dresses have to be timeless classics, but tops and accessories can be trendy," but one pair of aqua skinny pants later, I think it's okay to get any kind of trend item as long as I'm not constantly rebuilding my whole wardrobe around some new fashion idea.

When your wardrobe is built on a foundation of classic basics, it's easy to swap trends in and out.

Be a Season or Two Behind

I could be on the cutting edge of fashion and always wearing the latest trends, but I don't think anyone around me would really notice or care. I don't work in the industry, I'm not a teen, and my friends, family, and coworkers have better things to do than keep up with fashion. So do I, for that matter. So I figure I can safely fall behind by a few years. Honestly, I don't even think it's noticeable for about a decade; a 30-year-old trying to keep her college fashions alive might stand out as a bit behind the times. (That said, if she rocks it, she rocks it.)

If I don't mind being a year (or five) out of fashion, I have two options. I can get things when they're "in" and keep wearing them; or I can wait for things to be slightly "out" before I get them cheap secondhand. And THEN wear them for several more years, heh.

Lucky for me, Pantone's fall 2015 fashion color report contains colors more appealing to me than the fall 2016 lineup, including two teals (Biscay Bay and Reflecting Pond). Gotta keep my eye out for these colors in thrift stores in the coming months as people declutter last season's wardrobe!


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