The most difficult part of building a respectable, adult wardrobe, aside from the cost, is developing your own cohesive style without accumulating too many pattern, colour or structure doubles. I, for one, would have a closet full of polka dots if I brought home every garment that caught my eye. Through the many years of building a classic, timeless wardrobe on a budget, I have found that the best way to avoid saying, “I have nothing to wear” while staring eagerly at an overstuffed dresser, hoping that if you look at it just the right way, all of those rainy summer afternoons you spent with those Magic Eye books as a child would not have been in vain and you might be able to see something that wasn’t there before, is to shop by colour.
Before I buy any new piece of clothing, I think about how many other pieces I currently have in that same colour family and compare that with how many pieces I should have. Here are the approximate proportions of each colour a woman should have in a functional, wearable wardrobe for all seasons, broken down into percentages.
Navy, not black, is at the top. A large eighteen percent of your wardrobe should consist of navy coloured clothing. This makes sense when you think about just how many other colours match navy, and how few actually match basic black, without looking like a bumble bee or jack-o-lantern. You can bring navy into your collection almost anywhere, t-shirts, blouses, tailored button-up shirts, jackets, pants, slacks, skirts, shorts, dresses all look good in navy – yet another reason why it is number one.
Next is gray, at a whopping sixteen percent or your wardrobe. This is, like it was with navy, because it plays well with so many other different colours. Pair a cool, slate gray with a bright blue or orange and watch the colours pop. With so many beautiful, differing shades of gray available, it is not hard to make it a major part of your wardrobe.
Not at black yet (sorry Coco), white comes in third at a close margin of fifteen percent. White is a tough colour to wear, especially if you are a “spilly-pants” like me, the reason why it ranks so highly is because it includes all of the underwear necessities like tank tops, camisoles and slips.
Finally, we arrive at black. Your clothing collection should only be about twelve percent black. Black has a time and a place, the little black dress for example, but, being the traditional colour of mourning, it should be kept to a minimum for the everyday. Black is best for staple pieces such as dresses, pants and cardigans.
Next we come to beiges, browns and off-whites. This vast colour family should make up approximately ten percent of your wardrobe. My favourite place to work it in is with cardigans, shorts and khaki coloured tailored pants. Like white, this colour group also includes underclothes, because when wearing white, it is best to match your underwear to your skin colour to get a seamless, finished look.
Finally, the fun colours! Eight percent of your wardrobe should be made up of blue. I like blue best on shirts, my favourite being masculinely themed, striped or plaid button ups. This group also includes blue jeans, which as you can see from the percentages, should be kept to a minimal after the age of twenty.
Next comes one of my favourite colours to wear: pink, at six percent. I am a sucker for pink dresses and 60’s Jackie Kennedy-esque jackets.
At a scant five percent are the greens. Personally, I don’t care much for green clothing, and therefore maintain an even smaller percentage in my wardrobe. The only place I do tend to bring green into my collection is with teals and turquoises, but that is only because they are my favourite colours, outside of the clothing realm.
Now we come to red, a beautiful colour that should be kept to four percent due to its striking nature. I love wearing red in dresses and skirts. It can be difficult to match with however, which strengthens its fate to fill out only a small portion of the wardrobe.
Yellow has been gaining popularity in recent years. Seemingly absent from the palate for many years, yellow should now make up three percent of your wardrobe. I absolutely adore wearing a sunshine yellow dress on a beautiful summer day. I’m also quite fond of mustard and ginger yellows, in small doses.
I have never been a fan of purple clothing. With rich purples being reminiscent of excessive monarchs, dictators and tyrants and pastel purples making every day look like Easter Sunday, purple should be kept to a lowly two percent of your wardrobe. I own one purple shirt and I never wear it.
My favourite colour of last season, orange, brings up the rear at a recommended one percent. I like to work this colour into the mix with small, replaceable pieces like tank tops. Orange can also work well used as an accent to other colours in the case of plaids, stripes or floral prints. I sometimes cheat a little and buy red garments that lean towards the orange side.