Breaking Your Colour Palette “Rules”

Life is more fun when you break a few rules, right? I love my wardrobe colour palette, but every once in a while it’s nice to break out of it and try something new.

For example, every winter I get lured in by the cosy reds and plaids, and end up with a winter wardrobe that doesn’t match my typical palette.

winter reds Collage

There are a few keys to making this mini-collection work:

  • Everything goes with black leggings and black boots, because in winter, I’m stuck wearing my snow boots all day, every day!
  • I’ve got cardigans and scarves in red, forest green and dark grey. When the winter dresses get packed away, so do those wintery accessories!
  • Seasonal make-up! I’m suuuuuper pale in winter, and dark coloured clothing makes me look even paler, so I roll with it by avoiding all orangey-coral blush or lipstick, and going for mauves and dark plums instead.

On the flip side, the last few summers I’ve distracted by fluorescents!

fluoro Collage

I’m not convinced fluorescents are actually flattering on me, but they are so cheerful that who cares?

Not every experiment is successful though – I’ve been trying to add olive to my wardrobe for a few years, and, well, I don’t wear any of these makes!

olive Collage

The next colour I’d like to experiment with is purple! I’ve been saying for years that it would fit well into my colour palette… but somehow I never buy or sew it!

I think the key to breaking out of your palette is either to make a complete outfit or a little capsule wardrobe. That way, it doesn’t matter if blends in with the rest of your makes or not! Also, new colours are more likely to fit cohesively into your wardrobe if they go with your basic neutrals.

What was the last thing you sewed that didn’t match the rest of your wardrobe? Was it a success, or an unworn orphan?

PS. Please go check out my new friend Caitlyn’s blog! She commented on my “Follow Your Bliss” post about how hard it is to build a blog following and community, so I though I’d share some of my awesome readers with her. She says, “I’m an almost-30-year-old living in the North Carolina Triangle who’s learning to overcome her perfectionism in the pursuit of a more beautiful life through sewing, knitting, and (eventually) DIY home improvements; I blog at http://www.practicemakespretty.com.”


35 thoughts on “Breaking Your Colour Palette “Rules”

  1. Fun! I ALMOST like the olive. The middle shade is good on you, but not as a block colour. Try clashing it with acid green or yellow. The dress almost works but does look drab…again, bright yellow accessories?
    Reds look great on you. As for purple, come on woman, who doesn’t look great in purple? It’s BRILLIANT!

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    1. I keep TRYING to wear purple – I’ve put on and then taken off a purple sweater twice this week, and I sewed a purple tee a few weeks ago that I haven’t even worn yet. I just can’t quite figure out the right shades for me!

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  2. Thanks for the shout-out Gillian! I love seeing seeing this snapshot of your seasonal/non-palette garments. I also have trouble with olive, and agree with thedementedfairy that a shot of neon may be the ticket. Breaking it up as a print also might help – of your three garments, the dress seems like it works the best. I have the opposite problem with purple – I kept buying it even when I didn’t know what to pair it with!

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    1. I hope it helped! 😉 That olive dress is now a tank top – maybe Ill try to wear it for Me-Made May so you all can help me decide if it works!

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  3. You know what? You actually look wonderful in the olive, but I do think you need a coral or even a peach lipstick to brighten it up. Stick with it! For years, I knew purple really brought out my coloring, but I just didn’t feel comfortable with it. After venturing to make a few purchases of items that looked good even in dressing room lights, I’m now very happy with my Burgundy wine coat from Talbots — and I get compliments on it every time I wear it.

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    1. Oooh, I hadn’t noticed the lack of strong lip colour in those olive pics… but I’ll give it a try! Awesome suggestion!

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  4. I LOVE the olive dress, I think it looks fantastic on you! Of course I think it looks good on myself too, and I think we’ve got similar colouring haha.

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    1. That olive dress is now a tank top – I’m going to try to wear it soon for MMM so you awesome folks can help me decide if it works!

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      1. Oooh nice! And I agree with Giuditta’s suggestion about a bright lipstick – I think it’ll make you feel more colourful!

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  5. I always gravitate towards navy (still do after almost 50 years!) but when I was in my early twenties my then tres hip and father’s “5th wife” (yes he was ALMOST Henry the VIII – he only made it to VII :))) ) said she loved autumn colours and thought I should give them a whirl… lo and behold! they suited me amazingly well – orange looks great on me (I think it’s the orange cast to my skin) and browns, russet and olive. I’ve come to gravitate to those colours and now they dominate my wardrobe but I still find myself gasping with desire when I see a yummy navy. I thought you actually suited that olive! It’s the greenery to your lovely flower face (all peaces and creme like a blush flower) particularly the one in the middle which appears darker on the screen.

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    1. ” It’s the greenery to your lovely flower face (all peaces and creme like a blush flower) ” <– You are the sweetest! That's a lovely way to picture it! ❤ Kuddos to your Dad's #5 wife for setting you on the right colour path!

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  6. What I would say is that while olive flatters your skin and hair color, it falls flat compared to the brighter jewel tones that also flatter you. Maybe you should aim for a brighter version of olive with a bit more richness to it. I think the earthy tone of the olive you chose just seems blah compared to your usual choices and that is why they don’t get worn.

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    1. That’s a helpful insight! i’ll look for some other shades of olive next time I’m fabric shopping, and see if there is a variation that works better for me! Thanks!

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  7. Yes to purple! There are many variations, and I think one will work well. Idea – get some paper or large color paint swatches to see which ones are best on you. My guess is toward the pink side/plum as in the right side of your heading of the blog. : )

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    1. That’s a great suggestion! I do tend to wear a purpley magenta colour in the summer, and I could use more of that sort of tone in the rest of my wardrobe!

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  8. How about a mossy green rather than olive? Close, but a bit deeper and richer.

    I’m currently breaking my self-imposed rules and wearing way more black. It works so long as the neckline is low enough, or it’s a Cardie or bottoms. I reckon it’s only when things are right up against your face that you can have skin tone clashing issues.

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    1. I wear black too, even though on paper I shouldn’t – like you say, it’s a very useful colour and it is fine when it’s mixed in with other things!
      Moss green – I’d never considered it, but not I want to give it a try! 🙂 thanks!

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  9. There are times it’s good to go outside of the rules! I was really surprised by the black dress I made for my Day and Night Dress Challenge. Black is on my NOOOOOOOOOOOOO list–it’s too saturated, pure cool, I don’t have enough personal contrast to pull it off etc… Yet black has a place occasionally. I found by fixing my hair and wearing full makeup it wasn’t all that bad. Next time I’m violining in a concert, I won’t feel quite so out of place.
    Who knew?

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    1. It is kind of hard to avoid black in this line of work! I’m glad that I generally feel good about wearing it, even if it does emphasize my paleness.

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  10. I naturally gravitate towards blue and green almost all the time, with either black or brown depending on the shade. Most of the time, when I go off of that, it’s colors that go with, but I have been trying to add warmer colors into the mix. For my first Appleton dress, I was uncharacteristically drawn to a red-peach floral ITY in Paris. I wear it, and since it’s a dress it’s not an orphan, but it doesn’t quite feel like me. I’m trying some different warmer tones that I did put in my palette now, namely gold and plum.

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    1. I bet you look fabulous in plum. I can really picture it. Gold is a tough colour for me to wear, so I don’t have much experience with it…. but if you can pull it off, it’s a great colour!

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  11. There are fifty shades of purple, so there will be something for you. The trick of course is finding that colour in fabric, but give it a go. I love purple. (and I’m still waiting for brown to be the new black again, last time that happened Princess Diana was still alive. I’m not averse to wearing it when it is ‘out’ but it makes it much harder to find the fabrics.)

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    1. I bought a second-hand purple sweater yesterday that I’m loving – it’s a vibrant orchid/magenta type purple. Close to pink, which I always love!
      Good luck waiting for brown to make it big – better sew yourself some brown clothes in the mean time! 😉

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  12. I love olive but it isn’t great next to my face. I just love the way the drab color makes my preferred bright colors pop.

    I want more purple in my wardrobe too. In theory, it should be a good color for me. Blues and reds are my favorite and purple is just both of them at the same time, right? In practice though, I have a hard time finding the right purples. I don’t think it’s about how it looks on me but more about how I feel about the color on me if that makes any sense. An orchid purple might look good on me but it makes me feel juvenile for some reason. I like the color just fine on others but not me.

    When I go outside my wheel house, I tend to either make a dress or top. I wear neutral to neutral-ish pants and skirts a lot (navy, grey, denim…) so any color will work. And a dress doesn’t need to match anything else. I once bought some beautiful Cloud 9 voile in a watercolor print. Coral-ish pinkish red on a white background. Orange hates me so I avoid anything that looks like it like the plague. But this is a bit redder and cooler so it actually works. And if I fall in love with a print that really doesn’t work for me, I just use it to make something for one of my daughters!

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    1. Any kind of pale or even slightly pastel purple definitely makes me feel juvenile too! Here’s hoping we can both find just the shade for us!

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  13. I want to wear purple but, unless it’s rather pale with blue undertones (like lavenders) or muted jewel toned (like red wine), I just can’t get with it. Purple, in its royal form, just puts me off – even though I can wear it. I feel the same way about red. Unless it’s on the seriously pink or orange side, I’m not wearing it.

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    1. What are your favourite colours to wear? I can picture you sewing/knitting navy, grey, grey-blue and maybe taupe… what else is in the mix?

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  14. Great tip, sewing an outfit or capsule. Now that I have sewn some basics, I can mix and match better. I do have a few duds. Brown and tan are really not my colors, and I’m finally realizing that jewel tones are.

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  15. Love the suggestions… I have been trying on RTW dresses today to break out of my normal patterns, but I didn’t have much success! Love the comment at the bottom…so nice to be part of this lovely community.

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  16. I agree that olive is maybe not your best colour. What about a print with it in? Or as a “bottom” instead as a top? Too like chinos??? Purple is an absolutely awesome colour. I think that a rich violet (with blue tones) would look fabulous on you as you suit blue toned colours really well. Caitlyn’s blog is lovely. Fabulous photos and lovely knits. Xx

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