My colour story: styling colour in a minimalist wardrobe
Updated: Apr 16
When I thought about minimalist dressing and capsule wardrobes a few years ago, the image that came to mind was a bunch of streamlined silhouettes in black, white and grey. Now that I've dipped my toes in capsule wardrobing (is that a verb now?) and have put much more time researching minimal closets, I know that colour isn’t limited in a smaller closet.
Let me tell you a bit of my background with colour in my closet and then I’ll tell you how I’m now integrating more colour into my capsules.
My colour story
As a child and a teenager, I loved wearing a lot of colour and I tried to wear one patterned item of clothing with a solid coloured item that matched one of the patterns' colours.
In university, I started to paint and create artworks that were colourful. Simultaneously, my wardrobe got drained of colour. It was as if the colours from my wardrobe got transferred to my canvas instead and I was left with a whole lot of black clothing. The majority of my closet was black, dark grey and a little bit of denim blue. In my mind, I think that my brain was so overwhelmed by colour artistically, I subconsciously eliminated colour from my closet in order to keep it simple.
After school, I slowly started adding neutrals into my closet. Along with all my black t-shirts, I threw in some camel-coloured items, some white and creams, a little bit of brown. I found it fun to start working with colours again, albeit a still very neutral palette.
Now coming into summer, I’ve been pulling out some older colourful pieces and rediscovering how fun it is to play with colour in clothing!
Simple colour theory
Since I’m an art major, I’m going to geek out a little bit and go on a slight tangent about colour theory and how you can use it in your wardrobe.
Successful colour harmony is when colours work nicely together and are pleasing to the eye. If you don’t have colour harmony the result will either be “boring” (ie. an all-white outfit might be under-stimulating to the eye) or chaotic (ie. lot’s of colours competing for your attention)
Colour harmony is combining interesting colours without overdoing it.
There are 3 “tried and true” colour schemes that are visually interesting while also being harmonious in art:
This combination is for the wild at heart (I’m joking - but actually it’s probably the hardest to pull off). Complimentary colours are opposite on the colour wheel and help each other to stand out. These would be red+green, orange+blue or purple+yellow. Those are the basic combinations but you could also do a green-yellow+magenta (but this is digging deeper into the colour wheel). These combinations will definitely stand out and be vibrant.
A complimentary combination that I love is pink+olive green (the root colour is red+green). This combination is something that I’ve always gravitated towards and enjoy wearing as outfits and also using in my paintings. In an outfit based on those complimentary colours I’d wear my olive green trench with a pink scarf.
This is when everything is the same colour but different tones and versions of that colour. So let’s say you’re wearing an all blue outfit: you could be paring a denim blue jean with a light blue blouse and navy shoes. Your outfit is harmonious and interesting while only using one colour.
These are colours that are neighbours on the colour wheel. It could be yellow-red-orange or blue-purple-green. All the colours are different but reside in the same neighbourhood. This is my favourite way to style an outfit.
How to translate colour into your closet
I think the most important way to incorporate colour while maintaining your personal style is to create a wardrobe colour palette. Now this doesn’t have to be strict, but it’s a way to guide your purchases and to ensure that no matter which combinations you put together you’ll have colours that work together (in any of the colour schemes).
Here is my wardrobe colour palette:
You can see that I still have a ton of different colours in my closet. Some pieces are variations of the same hue, some colours are muted and some are vibrant.
Take a closer look and see how I can create complimentary, monochromatic and analogous colour schemes (even with a “limited” palette)
I hope this has helped you to realize that styling colour in a minimal closet is entirely possible! And you can go about it the nerdy way (geeking out over colour theory, like me) or just go with your instinct: have fun and wear what makes you happy!