Choosing the Perfect Colour Palette for Your Handmade Wardrobe
I love colour, all colours, and for a long time, my love of every colour permeated every aspect of my life. Some people pull this off so well, but for me, it resulted in a wardrobe that felt disjointed, and made it difficult to pull outfits together. It wasn't until my thirties that I finally learned why.
In 2017 I made a decision that changed my life. I hired Suzanne Colmer, the style consulting queen of Toronto, of Your Shop Girl. She taught me the best cuts, colours, and prints for my unique complexion and frame, and so much more. I gobbled up all the information she gave me, and now, it feels like second nature, allowing me to quickly rule in or out pieces based on what I know works best on me.
Your handmade wardrobe is a big investment, both in time, and in yarn. Choosing carefully will increase the wearability of each piece, making them worth the effort. Narrowing down your ideal colour palette is a great place to start. The colour and subtle undertones of your skin, hair, and eyes, and even how they contrast with each other, all play together to determine what colours of clothing will complement you best. They are your wow colours - the ones that show up in your life again and again, and you consistently feel your best wearing. Or maybe they'll come as a complete surprise!
I spent a year knitting myself a wool cardigan. I knew that for the cost and the amount of time I would spend on it, I'd need it to be something I could wear all the time, with everything. Guess what colour it is?
Black? Neutral? Goodness no!
It's dusty rose.
My whole wardrobe is made up of cool, muted shades of pink, burgundy, and blue, with lots of soft greys, because I know these are the colours that suit my cool complexion and the low contrast between my hair, eyes, and skin. Since I know these colours work best on me and together, I was confident that a dusty rose cardigan was exactly what I needed in my life.
The groups of colours within your colour season will play well together, making it easier to create a cohesive look. Once you see it, you won't be able to un-see it - people dress in their colour seasons all the time, because it works! Choosing a cohesive palette will help the majority of the pieces in your wardrobe work in harmony, and mix and match with ease. You won't need to rely on neutrals to avoid clashing. Although I have narrowed the colours in my wardrobe down, it has actually allowed me to wear more colour because they work together so well.
Read on to discover how to create your perfect palette.
Seasonal Colour Analysis: A Crash Course
Traditional colour analysis, in its simplest form, groups the colours into four "seasons" - although many people flow between the seasons. I'll start with the basics, and include resources for nailing down your best colours.
Note that this can be a serious rabbit hole topic - but have fun with it! You can go into your own closet and grab the pieces you feel best in, and even more educational, the pieces you want to love but always put back on the hanger. Sit in front of the mirror in good natural lighting, and "drape" these colours near your face. You might be amazed at what you find when you compare, for example, brown or grey vs true black.
"Springs" mostly have ivory or peachy skin, often with freckles. Their complexion is considered "warm". Their hair may be golden, strawberry, or red. Their eyes may be green, bright or turquoisy blue, or warm brown. Overall, think warm and bright. I straight up get chills when I see a Spring in their element, like Blake Lively wearing yellow. This is the definition of a wow colour.
"Summers" mostly have cool, beige or rosy skin. Their hair may be considered "ash" or grey. Their eye colour may also be greyish or cool. Overall, think cool and muted.
The summer colour palette includes a lot of pastels, since they are, of course, soft and muted. But do not fear - dark colours such as burgundy, eggplant, navy, and even teal can also be found in muted versions that will look amazing on a summer. I never thought I could wear pastels, or successfully mix colours together, but since learning about colour analysis, blush and burgundy has become one of my favourite colour combinations.
If your hair, skin, and eyes are all similarly light or dark in colour, your colouring might be considered low contrast. If this is the case, keeping your outfits low contrast can really work for you. But if you want to wear a more bold pattern, you can up the contrast in your face with a bold lip, like Reese has done.
This is the most intuitive palette: rust, orange, mustard, pine green, and warm browns.
"Autumns" have warm complexions, but may be deeper or richer tones than spring. Warm olive, beige, caramel, or bronze skin, with warm and/or deep blue, green, brown, or hazel eyes. Overall, warm and muted or warm and rich.
I am SO jealous of autumns. Autumns always have the best Instagram posts because their natural colouring and best wardrobe palette are perfectly complemented by nature.
"Winters" have cool skin tones across the spectrum, from milky porcelain,
cool beige, all the way to deep ebony. Their hair can be ash, grey, salt and pepper, or black. Their eyes can be bright icy blue, greyish blue or green, or deep brown. Overall, think deep and icy.
Winter people look amazing in jewel tones, and if your skin/hair/eyes have a high amount of contrast between one another, then high contrast patterns and colour-blocking will look fab in your outfits too.
Your best clothing colours will be described in the same way as the colours of your complexion, hair and eyes - deep, clear, and cool.
So how do you find out what your colour season is? As I mentioned above, draping different colours near your face can help you recognize your best colours - this is actually how the pros do it. Comparing different versions of the same colour, such as a warm beige vs a cool taupe, or a bright red vs a muted red, can offer major insight into your season. 30 Something Urban Girl has a free colour analysis quiz, and Your Shop Girl offers fully personalized colour analysis, now available virtually.
Applying This To Knits
Being mindful of your best colours and contrast can help create knits you'll love forever.
Are you bummed out because you are a low contrast summer (like me!) and think a Soldotna or Panglossian is now off the table? Don't fret - it's absolutely not!
This is the beauty of making your own clothes - you get to choose. Either of these patterns look just as stunning in bold high contrast colours as they do in muted, low contrast options, and you might be more likely to wear them if they match your colouring, because you will feel like a million bucks. Don't believe me?
Safoolja's Soldotna project on Ravelry is a great example of how this design can work for a low contrast summer in dusty mauve and cream, and how the colours work beautifully with her complexion.