If you love the idea of a capsule wardrobe but can’t see yourself relinquishing color from your closet, I promise you don’t have to. It’s entirely possible to create a colorful capsule wardrobe. Capsule wardrobes are supposed to simplify, not constrain, your wardrobe. This means that if you love color, you should incorporate it. I hope that some of the suggestions below will show you how.
How to create a color palette for your capsule wardrobe
Versatility is fundamental to the concept of a capsule wardrobe. By building a wardrobe full of clothes which easily coordinate, you can maximise the number of outfits you can create with fewer pieces. Not every color matches, so it can be helpful to add color to your wardrobe intentionally. Using a color palette (comprising base colors, complementary colors and accent colors) as a frame of reference and understanding the colors which suit you best can help, your capsule wardrobe remain cohesive but vibrant.
Use base colors as the foundations for your wardrobe
You can think of base colors as a canvas. They don’t have to be neutrals, but neutral shades make good base colors because they:
- match a lot of other shades allowing you to maximise how you style them in your capsule wardrobe;
- blend in and don’t draw your eye too much;
- are timeless;
- allow you to layer other colors over them in a way that adds interest but which remains cohesive.
I like my “wardrobe staples” (think jeans, t-shirts, blazers) to be neutrals. Such pieces are classic, foundational pieces that I’m likely to use as a base for a lot of outfits so, like base colors, having them in neutral shades make them more versatile.
Incorporating Complementary Colors
Complementary colors, in color wheel theory, refers to the contrasting colors opposite one another on the color wheel. However, they can also refer to colors which complement one another. Colors which are more washed out or muted can be less stark alternatives to their brighter counter parts – think a blush pink instead of fushcia. They can be forgiving and are often easier to style with other colours. I love incorporating complementary colors into my capsule wardrobe in the form of floral prints, dresses and statement tops.
Add Accent Colors to elevant an outfit
As the name suggests accent colors are bright colors, metalics and bold patterns. Outfits which pop and draw your eyes toward them. Because they pack a lot of punch, they can be hard to style unless you have other base colors to pair with them. These types of colors can be very impactful, though I often find that less can be more which adding them to your capsule wardrobe. I love to reserve these sorts of colors for special occasions (think sequin metalic dress for New Years Eve) or as a splash here or there. Think a bold accessory or statement top.
Understand the basics of color theory
When creating a colorful capsule wardrobe it can be helpful to understand the basics of color wheel theory. This can inform the color palette you choose and outfit combinations which complement one another. For example, blue and yellow are complementary colors because they lie opposite one another on the color wheel, monochromatic means different shades of the one color, and red and pink, colors next to each other on the wheel, are analogous.
Other tips for creating a colorful capsule wardrobe
Here are a few other suggestions for building a wardrobe with color.
Monochromatic and tonal outfits can be very effective
I love using monochromatic and tonal outfits when styling color in my wardrobe. There’s something elegant by wearing the same colour head to toe and it allows you to play with shades, silhouette, texture, fabric and drape to add interest. Monochromatic dressing can be an effective way of adding colour to your wardrobe while still creating a minimalistic, understated look.
Consider the color's undertones
When creating a colorful capsule wardrobe pay attention to the color’s undertones. Different shades of the same color can have warmer undertones, while others are cooler. Cooler undertones pair better with other cooler shades and ditto for wamer shades. Even neutrals fall into these categories.
Use the 80/20 principle to create a cohesive, but colorful wardrobe
I personally like to create a wardrobe that’s 80 neutrals and 20 percent color. You don’t need to adhere to this exact ratio – but I’ve found it helpful to keep in mind when considering the overall make up of my wardrobe.
The three color rule
As the name suggests, it can be helpful to incorporate no more than three colors (black and white excepted) in one outfit in order to ensure the look is cohesive and that the different colors don’t compete too much for attention. You could also use a similar principle if you were taking a small capsule wardrobe away when travelling.
Less can be more
If you’re reading this blog post my guess is that you love color – or, at least, doses of it. But sometimes less can be more when it comes to color. It’s all about how you use it to create interest. Accessories, or outfit details, can be a great way to incorporate color into your capsule wardrobe. In fact, sometimes all you need is a good red lip.
What are your communicating with the colors you've chosen for your wardrobe?
Colors are symbolic. They have long been associated with particular traditions, status and causes. Think black for mourning, purple and gold for regality and green for sustainability. When creating a colorful capsule wardrobe it can be useful to consider:
- what the colors in your wardrobe communicate about you;
- the style aesthetic you are trying to create;
- how they impact your lifestyle; and
- the seasonal influence.
For example, light academia style aesthetic might incorporate more pastel tones and pinks compared to the rustic browns of a dark academia aesthetic. If you create capsule wardrobes seasonally, this might influence your colour palette with rustic, burgandy and muted tones being more often associated with autumn compared with the brighter vibrant tones of spring.
Seasonal colour theory might be a useful resource
Seasonal color theory is supposed to help you identify the colors which best suit your features. The premises that each of us falls into one of 12 categories based around seasons:
- clear winter, cool winter and deep winter;
- deep autumn, warm autumn and soft autumn;
- soft summer, cool summer and light summer;
- light spring, warm spring and clear spring.
Your category is determined by your skin’s undertones, coloring, eye and hair color. Identifying the seasonal color category that you fall into makes it easier to choose colors which enhance your natural features and avoid colors which wash you out.
It’s an interesting concept and has the potential to be a helpful resource when creating a colorful capsule wardrobe. Like many categorisation models there will be people who clearly fall within a certain category. There will be others who are the outliers and whose category is more difficult to determine. Both I, and friends I have spoken to, have found it complicated to truly determine the seasonal color category which we fall into. For example, I think I am a soft summer or a soft autumn (my hair is light brown but has some copper to it, but my skin is cooler toned). This gives me a general idea of shades which might work for me but I take this information lightly and won’t let it stop me wearing colors I like and enjoy wearing.
I hope this has been helpful! Let me know in the comments whether you love creating colorful capsule wardrobes or if you lean more towards neutrals?