Colors and Neutrals
Sometimes I feel like a Color Convert, or maybe a recovering Blackaholic. Either way, I have seen the light! (Horrible science pun, I know…) I appreciate all the colors of the rainbow, and feel obligated to spread the color gospel.
Some color preferences are universal; some are cultural, and some are purely personal. Most of us have a favorite color, and interestingly, different favorite colors for clothing. As children, these colors are usually the same, but as adults, we often choose a favorite clothing color that becomes a default. This handy sorting mechanism may save time shopping, but it can also be limiting, or downright unflattering if we choose a color that doesn’t suit our personal coloring. Many people think you can tell a lot about a person by his or her favorite color, but often those favorites go back to experiences we have had, either positive or negative. If you had a horrible time in middle school, and your school’s colors were garnet and gold, you may avoid those colors like the plague. If you were on the winning team and your team color was orange, you may associate orange with success. Time spent thinking about the colors you love and despise and why can be a small journey into your past and therapeutic to boot!
I know many a woman with a sea of neutrals in her wardrobe. By neutrals, we mean those colors that are not found in the rainbow, black, white, navy blue, grey, brown, tan/khaki, taupe, camel, and variations on these. To confuse the issue, there are colored neutrals as well! Colored neutrals are those rainbow colors with enough black added so that they work as neutrals. Deep burgundy, dark olive, deep teal, eggplant, and other similar shades are colored neutrals.
A wardrobe full of neutrals may allow you to mix and match almost everything in your closet, but your outfits will often feel lifeless and draining, unless you add color with accessories. I see many women who buy bags full of neutrals because they are afraid of making a color mistake. Neutrals are “safe.” Furniture retailers and decorators will tell you the same principle applies to upholstered items; customers will regularly default to the safety of a neutral. The world does not need more beige sofas or walls!
The Tyranny of Black
Bridgette Raes, a New York stylist, coined the term “Blackcident” for those women whose wardrobes overflow with black. I hear (and myself often gave) all kinds of reasons for black-heavy wardrobes. “Black makes you look thin.” “Black clothes look more expensive.” “Black looks good with everything.” “Everyone looks good in black.” “Black is chic.” “Black hides stains.” And on, and on… Most of these are opinion rather than fact!
One afternoon, I was in a dressing room with a client; a mother nearby was shopping with her petite, fair-skinned, blond, high school daughter for (college) interview suits. They found a darling navy sheath dress with cream trim and a coordinating jacket. Then mom saw a black crepe dress and matching jacket. The sleeveless black dress was perfect for daughter’s figure; the neckline was flattering, and her bare arms helped break up the dark color, but when the young lady put on the jacket, she looked overwhelmed, and unwell. The daughter hemmed and hawed and mom determined that the black suit made her girl look sophisticated and serious. The poor girl looked like an orphan in mourning.
Be Bold: Pick Another Neutral, or Two!
So instead of black, how about a different neutral, or two, or three? Even if black was a great color for us when we were younger, it can be harsh and aging as we grow in wisdom. Since letting my natural grey shine through, grey has become my new black. I have been transitioning my once black-heavy wardrobe into one relying on grey, white, and navy as neutrals, depending on the season. (I still have a few black pieces, but these have become the exception, rather than my rule.) For the warmer complexioned, how about a trio of ivory/light tan, olive, and warm navy? These would look amazing paired with coral (or russet) and turquoise for accent colors.
How about you? Do neutrals form the backbone of your wardrobe? Or does your closet look like the rainbow? Please let me know in the comments below! I love to hear your thoughts!
Liz, I’m all for happy and health!!
Liz, In the Fall/Winter neutrals do fill my wardrobe. I would like to add more good pieces in teal, rust, peach, and maroon. Even working in those neutral colors feels like going out on a limb! I tend to buy color for casual clothing and my Summer Wardrobe. I was taught that classy women wear neutals growing up!!
I LOVE Coco Chanel’s quote: The best color is the one that looks good on you. I understand that bias toward neutrals, they’re easy and simple and “tasteful”. But at this point in my life, I could care less about taste. I just want to feel and look happy and healthy!