Reader Request: Color and the Well-edited Wardrobe

well edited wardrobe

Reader A sent me this question via e-mail:

I was shopping with my sister, and she was telling me that her wardrobe is composed entirely of neutrals, plus green, purple and…yellow, I think. This, she said, is why she can spend as much on clothes as she does – everything she buys can go with everything else. I have to admit that the concept in theory appeals to me. I love clothes, but I’m more likely to wear favorites over and over again, and I’m always tempted to pare down my wardrobe to the essentials. I was taken enough with the idea that I even mentally picked my triad of colors and have been browsing my favorite shopping sites with an eye out for teal, purple and orange.

But then I started thinking: can I really give up the fuschia and magenta shades of pink I love? And what about green, I love green. And I just purchased a classic pale blue button-up shirt that’s seriously appealing to my preppy side. I love color, and I don’t think I could limit myself to just three shades. At the same time, I’m not someone who wants a lot of clothes; I really like the idea of a small, edited closet. Is it possible to have both?

Here’s what I told her:

In my opinion, the “well-edited” wardrobe is a lifestyle choice that is placed on a rather lofty pedestal by style experts. It seems to me that in order to make it work seamlessly, it helps to have a fairly generous clothing budget and the mindset of a creative minimalist.

One can certainly do well-edited on a shoestring, but it works better with high quality, high-end classic basics. If you’re going to be wearing the same dozen pieces in steady rotation, they’d better be beautiful, well-constructed, durable, versatile, and chic. That’s a tall order for most mall stores, and a daunting task for most thrift stores. (Doable, but daunting.)

And in terms of mindset, some women – myself included – prefer variety, options, and the shimmering potential of a wardrobe that contains both beautiful basics and personality-laden non-basics. The prospect of paring down the available resources to a handful of plain-but-versatile items holds little appeal. Some can do it, some can’t.

So unless you’ve got the budget and temperament for cultivating and maintaining a well-edited wardrobe, don’t let anyone convince you it’s the only way. Or a superior way. It’s a way, and it works fabulously for some but it may not work fabulously for you, and that is just fine.

Now in terms of the color question, a former coworker of mine maintained a similar wardrobe to that of your sister. Nearly everything she owned was brown, black, white, or gray and once in a while she’d introduce blue or yellow. Everything she wore worked with everything else, and everything she wore was simple, well-made, and classically designed. But there was almost no personal expression in her outfits, no spark, no creativity. And this likely had more to do with her demeanor than her clothing, but the effect was rather off-putting. My experience with a well-edited wardrobe of neutrals and a select group of colors has been influenced by this experience, so I’m definitely biased!

All that said, here are some suggestions if you’re looking to condense your closet:

Consider expanding the included colors. Just because your sister chose neutrals and three colors doesn’t mean you couldn’t do four or five. And I assume that accessories are a bit more liberal, so you could work more shades in that way.

If you want to tighten up your wardrobe but can’t imagine yielding color as part of that bargain, don’t. Instead, work with your current pieces and determine which are the most versatile. If I were forced to pick a single skirt from my own closet, I’d leave behind all my blacks and grays and grab my flame orange wool circle skirt. It’s been an absolute workhorse for me. If you love color, my bet is that many of your staples are colorful and can be just as versatile as your neutrals.

Finally, if you’re just not sure which route to take, give yourself a month with each. Pick what you’d keep if you did neutrals/colors and eliminated everything else and put all your other clothes in storage or out of sight. Force yourself to wear your selections for a month. Then try your tightened-up-but-colorful wardrobe for a month. Which works better? Or do both make you miserable?

Editing your wardrobe down to the pieces you truly love and wear is a worthwhile endeavor. But no matter what magazine editors may say, the tiny, minimalist, well-edited wardrobe just won’t work for everyone!

Image via Naturals. It’s Eileen Fisher. If someone were to force me to assemble a well-edited wardrobe at gunpoint, it’d probably be 90% Eileen.

Originally posted 2011-12-02 06:15:51.

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78 Responses to “Reader Request: Color and the Well-edited Wardrobe”

  1. Sigrid

    Great question and great comment! I have a rather small wardrobe (I think), and I think a small wardrobe can work with much more than three colours in addition to neutrals. That way it’s easier not to get bored about my clothes. Many colours go together and can be worn in the same outfit even if they are not neutrals – but it is probably easier if they have the same amount of saturation, i.e. one bright, one pastel and one muted shade will be more difficult to use in the same outfit. Also, clothes that you will never wear together, like two different tops (unless you plan to layer them) don’t have to go together colourwise. I tend to wear neutral bottoms/boots/outerwear and colourful tops/cardigans and scarfs. This way it is easy to make different outfits without colours clashing. Of course, some people will find this limiting and boring too, but it works for me.
    If someone wants to see several colours worn together in the same outfit, I think Angie from Youlookfab is a great example:

  2. Peter

    I think the best compromise is not to actuallly pare down one’s wardrobe necessarily, but to choose a palette of outfits that are most flattering, say: dark blues, dark reds, and grays (whatever works for you). You can photograph yourself in the outfits (I have!) so you know how they go together and look. That way, when you don’t want to have to think and/or coordinate, you can drag them out.

    But to eliminate all other colors permanently (by, say, dumping everything else you own) is BORING. It’s like a painter only painting in three or four colors. In theory, it sounds easy, but in practice, I think it’s simply too practical, and just plain NO FUN.

    • Barbra

      I’ve had more fun with my wardrobe since I decided to limit it to shades of only three colors, feel more like myself and enjoy the final results more, too.

    • Rachel

      piet mondrian did this. he’s famous for his paintings.

  3. Patti @ NotDeadYet Style

    I am here to echo Peter! I think it’s wise to choose our best colors and work with those (why torture myself trying to look good in mustard, when there’s burgundy?) but I wouldn’t pick an arbitrary number of colors and eliminate the rest. But if that works for others, that’s cool – Angelina Jolie looks pretty fab in her very color-limited wardrobe (oh wait — that’s Angelina Jolie!) : >

  4. Pam @over50feeling40

    I agree with you…it is a lifestyle choice…I attempt to buy mostly separate which will go together and stretch my wardrobe…but I just cannot stay in neutral only territory…too many fun options! Good topic!

    Sally, I would love and welcome your opinion on the topic I am discussing today on my blog. I feel like it is important and really want to know what other bloggers think about it! Thanks!

  5. April

    My closet wound up color-edited, but not really on purpose. It’s black, grey, white, pinky-purple, emerald-teal, and blue. Most shades in the yellow-orange area of the color wheel (including tan & brown) make me look like I’ve got jaundice, so avoiding them is a no-brainer.

    What surprised me was that one day I looked in my closet and all of my green items were pretty much the same shade of green and all of my purple items were could be grouped into 2-3 shades of purple.

    My advice would be that if you’re drawn to the same colors over and over again, just go with it. If that’s not your style, it’ll probably make you nuts to try it.

    • sarah

      April, I think we must have the same skin tone… i am finding this is my color scheme and now that i have discovered it am looking specifically for those shades when i shop. talk about simplifying a complicated process, knowing something is beautiful but not my color makes it so much easier to pass up when shopping! Just found you last week and love your blog Sally BTW…

    • Molly

      I wanted to say something similar, so I’ll piggy-back onto your answer. I’m 31, and just this year I’ve been finding that only certain outfits and items feel like “me”, while others are very flattering but just don’t touch some sort of deeper style I’m discovering in myself. I thrift a lot, which cuts down my choices but also makes me much more willing to try out new silhouettes or give pieces away. As I continue with this process, some colors and styles are sticking around and others are revealing themselves to not be quite “right”, and I probably won’t buy them again. In the end, I expect to have a more limited color palette, but it won’t feel limiting because it’ll be right for me.

      One more note: It’s not always the colors you expect! I own a lot of black–doesn’t everybody?–but I’m realizing that I don’t feel my best in it as a neutral; I like earthy browns (mushroom, cognac) and olive green in modern shapes and sharp cuts. I now have a no-new-black rule that only the odd, super interesting shape will get past. I think my emerging wardrobe won’t have nearly as much black as most people’s, and that’s okay.

  6. Cynthia

    I don’t bother with minimalism, because I don’t want to and currently don’t need to. I am quite sure that I could have fun with a wardrobe that was made entirely of black, cream, and black-and-cream patterns. It wouldn’t even be a lazy choice particularly. Depending on how many items I had, it could be very creative. But there’s really no reason to. I like colors, and I have a certain amount of closet space that I don’t have to share. For me, well-edited mainly means keeping myself from buying items that don’t harmonize well with the rest of what I have.

  7. Mel

    Omg! There:s plenty of time for that when l’m dead! For now l revel in my crammed closet of colorfuk tops, shoes; scarves, jewelry.

    Of course I’d love a pared down closet
    bud to give up color to get it…or all that lovely variety? Nope!!!!!

  8. Nanne

    My idea of a perfect wardrobe is a well-edited but not too paired-down wardrobe. Don’t know if that’s possible, but I’m working on it! I try to have a basic wardrobe in neutral colors, and then add different tops, scarves, skirts and dresses in my favourite colors.

  9. Ashe @ Dramatis Personae

    Okay, for a quick reply, I want to reference a few posts I wrote on the topic (even though I feel kind of like an ass for doing it– PLS FORGIVE ME). This is because I DO have a “limited” color palette. But in reality, I don’t feel limited at all, and two of my best girl friends actually started doing it too. It’s helped all of us shop more easily and more honestly with ourselves, because we’re the types to buy brown shoes because we don’t own them–not because we’d wear them.

    I hope that Reader A finds them useful! In fact, it’s on my “to write” list to do a follow up on building a solid wardrobe within the palette.

    Developing a Wardrobe Palette
    Part 2
    Part 3
    Part 4
    A Refined Wardrobe: 1 Year Later

    Basically– I think it works for some and not for others. I never feel deprived from wearing color and my color selections are vast. I did it to keep myself from buying items I’d never wear because they were colors I simply wouldn’t wear… and I think a lot of fashion-loving women have that problem! Now I have two big handfuls of colors I *DO* wear, that I know mix and match with each other, and knowledge that I can experiment with accent colors occasionally…

    • Sal

      Ashe, please. You’re AWESOME for including these resources! Thank you for stopping by to contribute them!

      • Ashe @ Dramatis Personae


        I love this kind of convo, because colors are SO personal for people. I'm really envious of gals like you who embrace all colors! I just can't do it. I still look at my brown & mint cowboy boots with a sense of longing, because I can't part with them but I just.don't.wear.those.colors. :/

    • Mila

      This was exactly what I was going to say. I recently started consciously trying to have a signature color pallet a) because I like the idea of having my own special colors that people think of as me, b) it makes shopping easier, I know just what I am looking for, and I don’t come home with something and think “why the heck did I buy this?” and c) it is fun to have all my clothes go together and I think I end up being more creative about mixing and matching my clothes since I know that they all look nice together. Also, I have been pretty broad with what I define as my “limited colors”: all blue/greens-green/blues, from palest aqua to deepest teal, all yellowy greens, from spring green to olive, all orangey reds, from coral to rust, and with a fair smattering of true reds. And of course neutrals. And the occasional surprise accent color, like I am looking for a mustard belt (so pretty with teal!). And also, I have tons of prints in these color combos, so it isn’t like I am only doing staid, classic pieces.

      And I am not really interested in fewer clothes, just in fewer clothes that I don’t really like or wear or feel vibrant in (like navy blue, which I seemed to have a lot of, just never made me feel special or lovely, I just would throw it on because it was unchallenging and inoffensive, and didn’t really clash with anything else, but I didn’t actually love it.

      • Ashe @ Dramatis Personae

        Ah, Mila! The way you feel about navy I feel about brown. Like I needed to own it, but really didn’t feel comfortable or inspired in it–whereas navy is the total opposite for me! I do limit my neutrals though, only so I don’t buy brown or khaki because I feel I “need to,” when I really hate wearing them…. just give me gray slacks and we’ll call it a day!

        (Also our palettes sound REALLY similar!)

        • Mila

          Yeah, I wasn’t trying knock navy – it is a beautiful color that looks spectacular on so many people. But when I wear it I just don’t get that “happy feeling”.

          • Ashe @ Dramatis Persoane

            Oh, I don’t think you were at all! I was just trying to reiterate your point that even within neutrals that there are some we just gotta cut out if they don’t make us feel great!

  10. WendyK

    I have a very visceral reaction to color, and it’s very important to my mood and outlook, so I could never live with just neutrals.

    I have simplified my shopping in a similar way, but rather than having a few colors, I have a few color ranges that I know flatter my coloring, which offers me more versatility, I think. These color ranges can be worn with neutrals, of course, but the items within a range work well together, too, so I don’t have to rely heavily on neutrals.

    For example, shades of blue-green are very flattering for me, so I have a range of items from turquoise to soft robin’s egg blue to teal to a deep blue-green that’s almost navy. If I layer one of the light to medium shades of blue green with one of the darker shades, it almost always works and makes a nice analogous color combination along with a neutral (plus it looks great with dark blue denim).

    I also have a “warm red to brown” range that incorporates everything from warm shell pinks to corals, to rust, to mahogany to rich chocolate brown. Again, many of those items work well together when I pick a light to medium shade and then combine with a darker shade, or if I layer light/medium/dark shades.

    I also have a “violet” range. I can’t wear pure purple well, but both reddish violet/plum, aubergine, and blue violets look great on me, and I like the way most of them combine together, sort of like a bowl of berries.

    I have a tailored jacket and handbag that works with each of my 3 color ranges (NOT all neutrals), and I’m working on acquiring a statement necklace that complements each range, too.

    If I want to expand beyond my color comfort zone, I’m most likely to do so with a print shirt or scarf–I just make sure the print includes at least one of my colors in the mix, so it can mix with all the things I have in that color or color range.

    Another thing I’ve learned is to get an accessory like a bag or belt in a color that is on the opposite side of the color wheel from one of my target color ranges. For example, I have a nice mustard colored bag and belt that looks great with my blue greens and my violets (and my reddish browns and neutrals, too, for that matter). I can’t wear mustard near my face, but as an accessory it really livens things up.

    As far as how it affects my shopping, it definitely helps me focus. I’m almost certain to pass on an item if the color doesn’t work with my color ranges, and it’s easier to make a list of items I need within each color range and stick to it. I also have confidence purchasing a more expensive item, like a coat or jacket, in a great color if I know I have a whole range of items to wear with it. I have a plum colored coat and an deep teal coat, for example. It’s still a work in progress, though, and I’m gradually replacing quantity with quality as I’ve gotten used to my color range system and the combination possibilities it offers.

  11. Helena

    I love this answer – it’s just what I needed to hear.

    I have an odd and gripping compulsion to constantly pare down my closet. I’m lucky that my younger sister lives close and she gets the (usually very gently used) cast-offs. There’s a thrill for me in paring down.

    But, I like my colors. I’m a statement-necklace girl and, try as I might, I can’t let go of my wide array of beaded lovelies.

    My thought would be to stay organized. My necklaces, for instance, are hung on the wall in a place of pride so they don’t look completely overwhelming and I can see (and wear) what I have. My closet is organized by “genre” and then by color within each genre.

    Anyhow, thank you for the validation for those of us who can’t go minimalist!

  12. Eliza

    I have a pretty small wardrobe now, but not nearly as small I’ve had in the past. In terms of working with a smaller wardrobe, I’ve noticed that the more an item feels like “me”, the more versitile it is, because it almost always works with everything else I love. The “neutral” pieces often are actually the pieces that give me the most headaches, because they always feel a little bit off kilter from the rest the clothing I own. I can style a red tartan circle skirt every which way, but give me a grey pencil skirt and I’m stumped.

    When I want to bring my closet size down, I do it by picking out around 20 of my absolute favorite pieces and wearing them as a capsule wardrobe for a season. Doing this helps me see how my core likes work together and shows me the spots where I actually NEED those few neutral pieces to bridge a gap. I find if I start by trying to build a base of “classic pieces” and then layer my loved things on top, I end up keeping a lot of black dresses and white button downs that I don’t really need or want. But if I go with my gut first, and then use classics to fill in the blanks, I end up with a very functional and personal collection of clothes.

  13. Liz in VA

    I have a small wardrobe as well, and I do gravitate toward neutral basics with shots of my favorite colors–peacock blue, plum, green. What makes my wardrobe “uniform” is really the silhouettes–all of my clothes are lean, trim, and unembellished. I can’t stand the feeling of ruffles, lace, or anything flapping or swishing, and I am very minimalist with my accessories–I think it’s a sensory thing. The problem with a “uniform” is that it can make one (me, for example) really lazy. It almost takes more effort to keep a fresh look when you’re wearing the same basic look all the time. I’m in my 40s now, and am looking to go the opposite way–expand and grow my wardrobe to include more color and variety!

  14. PollyD

    Life is too short to give up color! I tend to keep my pants and skirts neutral, which means gray moreso than black, and gray really does tend to go with almost everything. I think the point about keeping similar saturation levels is a good one. I also think that more colors go together than most people realize (thanks for the color-mixing posts, Sally!). For example – navy and green, gray and brown, olive and purple, olive and orange, navy and orange, teal and gray, teal and (some) olive, there’s really no end to it. I think if one does want to maintain a smaller wardrobe, one needs to be more adventurous with color pairing.

    I feel like I should pare down every once in a while, but then I figure eh, I’m not bankrupting myself, my apartment is not full of bins of clothes with no place to go, and it’s fun to play dress-up with myself.

  15. Anne @ Modern Mrs Darcy

    I’m more than a little happy to see you smack down the color-limited wardrobe!

    I read a Linda Dano (I think) book years ago advocating a wardrobe of just 2 or 3 colors, and the idea appealed to me: simple, easy, minimalist. But in practice it is soooo not fun, and yet I felt a little guilty for “complicating” things by having a color-happy wardrobe.

    Now, I’ll just say a cheerful “whatever” while I grab my tangerine sweater from my closet. (Or fuchsia. Or eggplant. Or lemon yellow!)

  16. Eudoxia

    I agree with April’s “My advice would be that if you’re drawn to the same colors over and over again, just go with it. If that’s not your style, it’ll probably make you nuts to try it.”

    I find myself drawn to teal, dark pink, and dark purple, and many of my clothes are either neutrals or incorporate these colours. Although I don’t limit myself to *only* buying those colours, it’s a useful test when looking at something new to see if it goes with that palette – e.g. a bright orange top that I bought has the same intensity of colour saturation (a good point that Sigrid made!) as them and so works well. I do have a few clothes that don’t fit into this, so it’s not a rigid rule, but I find it is generally helpful.

  17. Kjlangford

    Since I travel full time my full wardrobe is in a storage unit, a good winter/summer mix at my in-laws’ home, and then a seasonal wardrobe that I keep with me as I travel. For this sort of lifestyle, particularly in the cold months, the neutrals and a color palette work for me, though I have scarves, accessories and the occasional graphic tee that go outside of those colors. I think I’m more open to color and variations on this in warmer months because it’s easier to carry around a large group of sundresses and sandals, but my suitcase can only hold a limited number of sweaters, coats, and boots. Lately though I’ve found that I’m drawn to blacks, slate grey, creams, and camel… I literally want to dress head to toe in one of those colors with maybe a purple belt or shoe or a teal statement necklace (those are my two non neutrals in my suitcase at the momtent, teal and purple, that’s it!) add in leopard print and stripes and I’ve described the current wardrobe I’m traveling with at the moment. And i love that, i feel like all my outfits ar sophisticated, chic, and rich. It makes me wonder if when I stop travelling I’ll lean more to this side of things or maybe I’ll be desperate for more options.

    As I write this it occurs to me that I’m much more drawn to this smaller wardrobe for my winter clothes… I’ve always lived in states with as short winter (Georgia, Texas) so developing a large winter wardrobe is not really practical. And now when I’m travelling for 3-4 months at a time, generally I’m in warm weather climates for at least two thirds of that time… So maybe that’s how we can have both? Maybe one season we use a diverse wardrobe, and the other we pare down? Or maybe our items that are “all season” (layering tanks and cardigans, belts and shoes, basic dresses, etc) are limitless in terms of color, but our seasonal pieces (heavy sweaters and wool coats for winter, shorts and other “summer only” items for warm months) are in the palette. Or maybe you have one palette for summer and another for winter. For me, I love seeing all the color that you, Sal, and other style bloggers use, but lately I’ve felt the most like myself when I’m in my own, currently limited by winter, color palette. (though again, it’s funny to realize how much more colorful I get the warmer it is). This is also a fun way to gather enough pieces to do head to toe monochromatic looks, which I’m loving right now and I think give a lot of personality even though they’re only using one color.

  18. Mailee

    I definitely have that “creative minimalist” thing going and have a VERY pared down wardrobe; I think it’s totally true that it really comes down to your mindset and what kinds of clothes make you happy. For me, the (de?)construction of clothing and interesting details are a lot more meaningful than color (I know, I’m a minority opinion on here but I still love this site and all you color-lovers out there!), and I’m drawn consistently to blacks, greys and whites with a few colors dropped in once in a while depending on how I’m feeling.

    Just go with what makes you happy. If you have a lot of pieces you love, then there’s nothing wrong with having a bunch of colors and clothes! But if you wardrobe feels overwhelming, then some editing I think ought to be done…but don’t remove the colors that you have an affinity for! I think the “well-edited wardrobe” really just means a wardrobe tailored to YOU and YOUR style, not necessarily one leached of color and quantity. And Sally’s totally right: if you wear a lot of colors, then certain colors can be just as versatile as neutrals.

  19. Anna D.

    I don’t have a particularly color-limited wardrobe (I wear colors ranging from citron and acid green to fuchsia and purple and cobalt and teal and red – mostly jewel tones, but that’s about what flatters me rather than an intent to limit colors), but I like the concept, and I think it would make life a lot easier in the morning when I’m trying to throw an outfit together before work. I agree with those who say that it’s probably not necessary to limit yourself to only three colors, though, as long as most things go with most other things you own (that’s easier with only three colors, but not impossible with more). Sometimes I find myself with sort of 2 tracks in my wardrobe – the black/gray/jewel tone track, and the more weathered/casual track (khakis, denim, browns, cosier stuff). I try to make sure new items fit at least one track.

    I also think accessories can play a huge role here – it seems to me that a wardrobe with limited colors could still allow for accessories of all kinds of different colors. Maybe that runs counter to the editing idea, but it usually seems easier (in terms of space and coordination) to have, say, lots of different-colored belts, scarves, or necklaces than clothes in all shades of the rainbow.

    I also think color-editing may work better in some settings than others. If you have a job that requires wearing suits every day, for instance, having a limited color palette might make coordinating everything easier, and allow you to spend more money on fewer, more quality pieces (which I find more important when I’m buying things like suits, because poorly-made suits can be so depressing, than, say, a of-the-moment sweater or something).

    I’m a little surprised, though, Sally, by your reaction to the coworker with a limited wardrobe. I don’t think creativity has to be defined only by doing interesting things with color, and having an edited, largely neutral wardrobe is a form of personal expression. I don’t know, I don’t mean this as any kind of attack, but I was a bit perturbed at such a negative reaction (maybe because although I’m not that edited, I lean in that direction, and worry about people’s reactions to me?). (That said, maybe there’s a reaction here against the tyranny of the idea of the edited wardrobe, that I don’t quite get because I don’t follow a lot of mainstream fashion?)

    • Sal

      Anna, I honestly just related that anecdote to give background on my own experiences and potential prejudices against the neutral-reliant, edited wardrobe. I’m biased! And, as I mentioned, my guess is that this particular gal’s demeanor and personality played into my experience of her dressing choices.

      • Karli

        Saying “I’m biased” in some cases sounds like the equivalent of someone saying “No offense” before saying something offensive and still thinking it’s okay. I hear you saying that you thought she was more worthy of your attention on days when she dressed how you thought she should dress. I’m really disappointed by this.

        • Sal

          Well, Karli, here’s the thing. I work very hard to be as non-judgmental and unbiased as possible, but I’m still human. I have experiences that color my views and when that happens, I feel it’s best to admit it. In this post, I’ve pointed out that a person with whom I had a difficult working relationship affected how I see certain dressing patterns. I never said that anyone who dresses that way is wrong or bad or boring or anything negative. I said nothing about anyone being “worthy” of my attention because I don’t think of the world in those terms. But, since I was asked by a reader for input about limiting her wardrobe to neutrals and a few colors, and since I had an experience that biased my response, I admitted to that bias in the interest of being honest with her. I’m not a faultless person, I dislike some things, and I have prejudices – just as you and everyone else in the world does. And I consider it ethical to own up to that when I can.

    • Barbra

      Anna, I had the same reaction. My wardrobe uses even fewer colors than the aforementioned coworker, and I get weekly compliments from different people about how they love my signature style and creativity. There are so many textures, fabrics and cuts of clothing. Knowing how to use them appropriately can take the place of having to be splashed in color. (And in my opinion, limiting colors while playing with textures, etc. looks much more sophisticated and refined as well.) Color is only one aspect that creates interest in an outfit.

  20. Sara

    Very interesting. I tend to be drawn to the same colors over and over without trying, so much of my clothing works together for that reason I suppose. Sometimes I have to tell myself that I don’t need every olive, blush or plum item in the world.

    Anyway, I think I am identifying with the goal of your reader; which is to have her wardrobe interact nicely together, yes?

    I used to feel that I had that problem putting things together as well, and wished for one of those closets that felt like an actual wardrobe of items that went together. Then finally dawned on me that I was buying pieces I liked and not outfits. I’m still not a fan of buying complete outfits (reminds me too much of children’s clothes where the top & matching pants come on one hanger) but I try to keep what I already own in mind when I am shopping now. If I can’t think of several items to wear with something I usually put it back.

    Also, Audi’s post series on breaking out of a wardrobe rut helped tremendously by teaching me that I needed some items that could tie things in together, like multi-colored scarves and such, and the posts where you explain why you paired things together reinforce that.

    That was sort of a lightbulb moment for me so to speak, because I hadn’t put my finger on why some of my outfits seemed cohesive and some seemed disjointed.

  21. Deborah Lawton

    I don’t think that having a “mimimalist” wardrobe means living with bland colors in only boringly basic styles. I have a limited wardrobe that is colorful–but only in the few colors that I am drawn to. What makes my closet minimalist is that I keep all my basics (suits, pants, skirts) in 3 “main” colors that coordinate with ALL the other colors in my wardrobe. I have black/gray/navy basics. My tops, sweaters, jackets, scarves are mostly pink/burgandy/purple/gray/black. BUT, I also have pieces that are turquoise, baby blue, watermelon red, kelly green, teal, emerald, and white; these all play nicely with all the other colors in the closet.

    Notice I didn’t use the term “neutral colors” for the basics. Instead, I said “main”. “Neutral” is a term that conjures up “boring”. I think if you decide to make brillant orange one of the main colors in your wardrobe, then everything in your closet should be able to be worn with that shade of orange (or lime green, or fuschia, or whatever color you choose). Thats what defines a “minimalist” wardrobe to me.

    I think the suggestion of wearing only an edited wardrobe for a month is a good one. I had to live with a very tiny wardrobe for several months. It taught me a lot about my relationship with clothes.

  22. Heather

    Well-edited doesn’t always have to be minimalist. I edited down my wardrobe when I moved to a place with a tiny closet (inspired by Ashe’s articles above, which were awesome!) but I would never describe my style as minimalist. I stuck to a neutrals and three colors palette, but it from getting boring by focusing on accessories for personality. A couple colors can go a long way with a big selection of scarves, tights and belts!

  23. Doro

    I secretly long for a really small, well-edited wardrobe where everything goes with everything else, so Zombie Morning Self can pull anything on with closed eyes and still look fabulous. But I also secretly long to live in a very stylish uncluttered minimalist home. Both seem to require larger amounts of effort and money 🙂

    Freshly getting out of a style rut and trying to be realistic, I envision a wardrobe for myself where each item goes with many others – color-wise and proportion/cut-wise – and items worn near my face are ideally a color that suits me. I do get a lot of possible combinations this way. When you look at it in terms of restriction though, yes, I actually do limit myself to (mostly) summer colors (and I don’t like pink, yellow, or light blue, which really narrows it down) and there are only clothes that flatter an hourglass/pear figure. Daily outfit photo evidence shows that most often, I feel best wearing “unexciting” combinations made of two or three neutral shades and one color (e.g. today: dark blue jeans, pastel green blouse, dark brown sweater).

    Um. I think it all comes down to simply wearing what makes YOU feel good, doesn’t it? 🙂

  24. paisleyapron

    Just like April mentioned in her comment, I ended up with a color-edited wardrobe by happenstance. I find myself drawn to cooler colors, blues and teals and grey in the warmer months and the warmer colors like reds and browns and creams in the cooler months. It happened completely by accident that my winter wardrobe ended up being a certain palette and my summer wardrobe another. When I noticed it, I jumped on it and it has yielded a great deal of freedom. I’m careful now to thrift and make clothing that “fits” in the general palette. It helps that the colors I am drawn to all look good with my skin tone. Am I limiting myself? I don’t think so…I’ve been able to avoid closet orphans and that awful feeling that I have no shoes to match an outfit.

  25. Miss T

    I was re-reading Orwell’s “1984” a few weeks ago, and something in there hit me: “Orthodoxy is unconsciousness”. While I think it’s perfectly fine to have personal “rules” for dressing, and it’s even perfectly fine to adhere to societally imposed rules for dressing, I am leery of anything that takes the fun and spontaneity out of adorning myself. Certainly, there is a certain satisfaction that comes from setting up a system, adhering to it, and making it work. But the trade-off for me would be that sort of “unconsciousness” that is required to make that system work. Once set up, it would be difficult for me to question it, because there will be a sense of failure (or a sort of uncomfortable dissonance, anyway) when my self-imposed rules are transgressed. I get far more satisfaction from the discovery and wearing of something unique, unusual, unexpected, and yes, rule-breaking; I’d rather be acutely self-aware of my clothing choices, even if it means feeling awkward occasionally, rather than submit to unconscious rule-following in my clothing choices.

    • Sal

      Miss T, I have the same hesitations. I love rules, but the trade-off is that breaking them eats me up inside. If I were to create a system like this, I’d go nuts when I broke my own rules! Of course, not everyone feels that way, but it’s part of my own reason for sticking to “large and varied.”

    • Mar

      I agree; but rule-breaking, unique, and unusual in my opinion does not mean one needs to have thousands things in the wardrobe. Having seen some of my friends’ closets, I wonder if at least some people have large wardrobes not because they have every color and cut under the sun represented, but because they have twenty (or some other high number) replicates of essentially the same thing. Twenty pairs of similarly cut jeans, twenty black cardigans, twenty pairs of black conservative boots.

  26. Trystan (the CorpGoth)

    I’ll never be a minimalist (my wardrobe is huge!), but I’m pretty selective about what colors I wear. I know what Iike, what works works on me, & I ruthlessly stick to that. Whenever I’ve tried other colors, the garments sit in my closet worn once & never again.

    So 75% of my wardrobe is black, the rest is shades of burgundy / purple / red / pink, with touches of grey & white, & prints that include any of those colors. It feels pretty flashy to me bec. the colors can be very rich & I use a lot of accessories & textures.

  27. Elizabeth

    This is a great topic. l fondly remember private school, where I wore a blue kilt and a white blouse and blue tights every day for 5 years: I loved it. Then I started working, earned a little money, and bought all kinds of clothing at shops like Zara and Club Monaco, and tried to wear everything. I started to get frazzled by it, honestly.

    Now, going on 20 years later, I still try to create my “work uniforms” to simplify my life. Here’s what I ‘ve got going on this winter, for work:
    4 skirts, 4 cardigans, 5 knit tops, 5 blouses, 2 slacks, 1 dress. (a bunch of other 2nd hand or old ugly dresses that I keep for some reason but never wear and will probably dump, now that we’ve moved house.) 2 coats. 2 pairs of boots. Yay!! Dressed!

    Then the weekends I do the old jeans and tunic thing.

    Probably I am a boring dresser, by many standards, but I am ok with sort of boring so long as I am never frumpy.

    But, this year during Boxing Week I will add a few new items such as knit tops and skirts, and 1-2 dresses.

  28. Hannah K

    One way to have a color- and pattern-ful, boredom-avoiding, but small wardrobe is to
    (a) keep it semi-dressy (so that you don’t have to have “separate” clothes for looking nice at an office or restaurant or whatever) and
    (b) skip the separates and wear mostly or only dresses.
    That way you don’t have to worry about matching pieces to each other–you can go crazy with patterns and different colors, so long as you have a set of “support” accessories (shoes/boots, and, if you live somewhere cold, the underlayers–long-sleeved undershirt, tights, silk long underwear–and/or overlayers–blazer, sweater, or shawl–you need to make it work temperaturewise) that cover your color range. I have a complete black set, a complete brown set, a set of purple underlayers, a set of teal underlayers, and some other assorted blazers. But really I think two complete sets in any colors of your choice (grey and olive? navy and white? black and purple?) could pretty much cover someone who wanted to be more minimal.

    Deborah, your point about “main” colors is well made. I have a magenta pencil skirt that has always made me think–what if magenta were my main “neutral”? It would be amazing!!

    • Sal

      Hannah, this is brilliant. I think you’re spot-on – at least from my perspective, the prospect of a smaller, tighter wardrobe that remained fairly dressy and focused on dresses is much more appealing. Of course, it depends on your own lifestyle and needs – doubt this would work for anyone working an outdoor job, or who has lots of young children to care for – but it’s an intriguing idea for some office workers, at least.

      • tiny junco

        Yes, this is the whole point – ANY wonderful wardrobe, big or small, varied or curated, is going to be comprised of pieces that
        *** appeal to the wearer ***

        Sal, i find it hard to believe that you’d be thrilled with a large, varied closet full of muddy neutrals (but in all different colors!), bulky fabrics in boxy shapes, polyester pantsuits, tube tops, used NFL knickers…..well i think you get the point 🙂

        Any great wardrobe and working closet will focus on the colors, shapes, items, fabrics that most appeal to the wearer and which work for her lifestyle. Generally speaking there are ways to accomplish this with more clothes and also with fewer clothes. This is a good thing, as this allows for flexibility to accommodate practical considerations.

        I am blown away by the number of brilliant smaller wardrobe ideas in these comments! I’ve been a ‘small closet’ lady for decades, so i’m speaking from experience. Yowza!!! Great thread! steph

    • Trystan (the CorpGoth)

      I’m starting to lean towards some of this — but with knit dresses! It makes assembling an outfit very easy, yet I can get a variety of “dressy casual” looks out of it (which is a good fit for my lifestyle & the general California casual attitude I’m surrounded by).

      There are so many beautiful knits out there now — Sal’s insomnia pick last night had some jersey dresses that could easily be dressed up or down, for example. If they’d had my size, I’d have snapped one or two up!

  29. Susan, the one in Berkeley

    Another way to curate a pulled-together wardrobe while retaining lots of color is to concentrate on tone. Try to accumulate a pool of jewel toned items that can be worn together and another group of pastels. I’ve been focusing on under-tones, something I learned about in college art classes. Its fun to put together an outfit of cool under-tones without an item of blue clothing at all.

    Basically clothing is an extension of personality. You won’t be happy with a varied wardrobe is you are basically a minimalist at heart. Go with who you are.

  30. Courtney

    I have a smallish wardrobe with lots of color, and the key for me was not sticking with a few colors, but sticking with one color scheme. I have pale skin and copperish hair, so autumn colors look good on me. The great thing is, autumn colors look great with each other too! Red/orange sweater with teal shirt? Yes. Coral/orange cardigan with dove grey dress and eggplant purple heels? Yes. I can have a smaller, colorful wardrobe because all the colors play nicely with each other!

    I know the color season system has it’s flaws, but using it to pick a palette to work from has worked great for me.

    • Velma

      Yes. I’m an autumn, too. Teal, olive, coppery browns, mulberry, warm reds and corals, and some bright green in the summer–that is just about enough color for me, played against plenty of chocolate, fawn, and denim.

  31. Mkhombe

    Wow! My sister’s wardrobe looks like the colour wheel on an acid trip, but it totally works for her. My own wardrobe is “well-edited” but that was more accidental than planned. I agree with Sal that this whole capsule-wardrobe idea is a bit played out and overrated though.

    However, if you’re curious, all the colours in my wardrobe have the same tone (?) – if they were in grayscale they would be the same shade of grey – so I find it easy to mix & match and colour-block. I also have a limited silhouette and that’s another way of making sure everything “goes” together.

    When it comes to cost, I’m not buying (heh) the idea that the items need to be top-quality. My clothes come from the same department stores that my sister shops at and they hold up quite well. Two to three years of wear is enough for me because then I get to go out and find a replacement item in a more modern cut. Much more fun than sticking to one “chanel jacket” or “burberry trench” for twenty years!

  32. Ericka

    I love the idea of a well edited wardrobe but I tend to be a more is more person. I have a similar approach to food—would I rather have 1 superior dish or tastes of several great ones? Always the latter. Same for clothes; I like variety.

  33. Sonja

    Hm, I think it is true what some other people commented: If you have to force yourself to limit your wardrobe, then maybe it’s not what works for you.
    But for me, learning something about wardrobe capsules and colour-coordinated wardrobes and figuring out my preferences has been very valuable and has helped me on my journey towards my own personal style.
    I have identified a palette that consists of five different basics and seven non-neutral colours, which could actually be condensed to even less: purple in different shades, dark magenta, red, yellow and teal-emerald. Those are my main colours, but not the only colours I own. But since I noticed that I like those most, I tend to buy more of those and less of others, as now I find them more difficult to combine. The main combination I wear is black + purple + emerald. If I had to, I think I could create a functional wardrobe capsule that would take me through weeks or even months with just these three colours. But I don’t have to, so I go on playing and trying things out.
    On the other hand, I do not think at all that a minimalist, fiercely edited wardrobe has to be boring, even if it consists mainly of neutrals. I think that women wearing lots of neutrals often look very sleek and elegant, which I find admirable. But it is true, it’s easier to achieve this look if you can invest in expensive, high quality pieces.
    Oh, and I was now thinking about a woman I know who has a distinct hippie-style with few colours, I think mainly brown, green and purple. She often wears the same colour from head to toe, but combines different shades. All her clothes are similar style-wise, her looks are very bold and express her personality. I think this example shows that there are also very different ways of colour-coordinating and editing, so maybe A just has to find a way that appeals to her!

  34. tiny junco

    First, Sal, as you said it’s a personal thing. Some people like the small, curated closet and others like to change outfits 5 times daily (like my dear friend N.). I love my small curated closet and the big, lotta variety thing drives me nuts. So i don’t do it – big deal. To each their own, i say! Your advice to ‘practice’ before committing is excellent, as you can’t really know how you’ll like any system until you give it a whirl.

    IF you are interested in a smaller “everything goes with everything else” closet, my first and most important piece of advice is learn as much about color theory as you possibly can! The more you know the fewer mistakes you’ll make and the more creative you’ll be in your purchases and outfit combinations. However, in practice i’ve found that learning about temperature, saturation, and tint/shade/tone will make choosing compatible colors a snap. Colors which ‘go’ in all three areas will work together no problem.

    in fact, i recently did a post on just this idea here:

    another tactic that works is to ONLY choose colors that REALLY flatter your physical form. First, you always look your greatest :), but it also automatically limits your palette to compatible colors.

    Angie just posted a really helpful article on her You Look Fab blog about ‘virtual neutrals’:
    required reading for closet minimalists!

    Lastly, i don’t know where in the world people got the idea that a small closet needs to consist of mostly neutrals. You just need colors that work together (and work with You!). Angie is a fantastic example of a lady with a small wardrobe who includes lots of colors – and intense colors at that! My own closet has many neutrals but the colors i do have tend to be very ‘colorful’ – deep violet, screaming chartreuse, neon lime…..yum!

    Here’s some blogs which focus on smaller wardrobes – they all have great information and are just fun to read as well!

    Best of luck to Reader A. Smaller closets unite!! heehee, steph

  35. Mar

    I have a small wardrobe (I wonder though if one person’s small is another persons large – are we talking about 20 items total, 30, 40, 50? 100?), and I am working on the “well-edited” part. I will need to relocate to overseas for two years and can only bring a limited amount of clothes with me, so I will have to pair down even more. I don’t really believe one has to go color-limited. Just like Sal said, if I had to pick one skirt and live with it, it wouldn’t be of neutral color – and out of my current set of 5-6 skirts, only one is neutral (ironically the one I for sure won’t bring to overseas). Also, in the current fashion of color-blocking, I think you can creatively combine pretty much anything with anything, especially if you can use accessories to unify the outfit. I agree with Hannah K above that the small wardrobe has been possible for me because I don’t have separate “weekend” and “office” clothes, but they are all more or less of the same “dressiness”. And I wear dresses probably 50% of the time at least, which cuts down on the number of separates. In terms of quality, I have found myself going two separate routes. For something like say a classic cardigan in a color I know I’ll love for years to come, I tend to buy as high quality as I can afford, since I’ll probably wear it often and don’t want it to start looking frumpy. For something that I think might be more of a current whim, I tend to go for “fast fashion” or thrifting since I suspect I’ll get tired of the trend after wearing it a bunch of times, after which I’ll just donate. Or I will buy a brand that is still not too expensive on sale, but that I’ll know I can re-sell it easily and recover some of my money. My point with the last example is that not every small wardrobe represents a boring scenario where the owner bought well thought out fancy stuff and then wears it to the ground – it can also be a scenario where the owner donates/consigns/sells clothes on a very regular basis, amounting to a loose “one in, one out” policy. That is more closer to my own situation. It allows my style to evolve and change constantly, but gives me a relatively lean closet.

  36. Jess

    I try and keep a small wardrobe, simply because it’s easier for me, living in a dorm, and it’s less complicated. (I tend to get the “Holy fish and chips I have ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to wear!” when I have too many clothes) Plus I have a strange thing for neutrals. I just love wearing them. Don’t get me started on grey. My mom says I own too much, and I agree. She also says it’s a dull color, but I think it’s rather comforting and cozy. Anyway.

    All of that being said, I do have color in my wardrobe. I love mint green, so I have a couple of shirts in mint green that I’ll wear with jeans or a black pencil skirt with a gray cardigan over and it looks wonderful. I have a paprika-red cardigan that strangely enough, seems to go with everything. I have many teal and gold accents, and I have a wonderful purple raincoat.
    Don’t buy shades of colors you don’t love just for the sake of having color, I think, is the first thing to keep in mind with a small colorful wardrobe. Even me with my intense neutral-love doesn’t buy dark brown or very much navy, because I don’t like them and I would have a hard time wearing them.

    Also, when buying color for a small wardrobe, not only does the color matter, but the item as well, I’ve found. Like, is it a skirt? Shirt? Pants? Tights? I have a yellow shirt that I pair with gray or black things all the time, and I’m able to get a lot of use out of it. But I know that if it weren’t a shirt, but rather, say, a cardigan, I would wear it less because it would go with less of my shirts and dresses. Does that make sense? If not…sorry…I guess? 🙂 Cheers!

  37. LinB

    Wow. You really hit a nerve with this topic. My own wardrobe is more of the salvaged-flotsam-and-jetsam-of-life than anything planned. But since I know what colors I like and what colors make me look like Death on toast, most every piece can be worn together. I mostly wear solid slacks, trousers and skirts with printed tunics and blouses. I sew a lot of my clothing, buying 8-10 yards of a solid that I like, and make a capsule wardrobe, knowing that every piece will coordinate. Don’t look for more than two or three years at most for any one piece (except for winter coats, which get worn so seldom they seem never to wear out). I own nothing for daily use that must be dry-cleaned: woolens and silks get thrown into the washer with all the rest, and then they get to air-dry.

    • Sonja

      Oh, now that I’m learning to sew a bit, I love the idea of buying a good amount of fabric in the same colour and make several coordinating pieces, that’s genius!

  38. Megan Mae

    My wardrobe is comprised of Red and Blues in winter and Greens and Reds primarily in summer. Granted this doesn’t mean I give up other colors, but I tend towards the most flattering shades and it just happens most go with each other. Sometimes I get something that may be limited to going with a 1/4 of my closet, but I still consider my closet well edited.

  39. rb

    I’m a mostly-neutral wearer and have a fairly well edited closet. For instance, for bottoms I wear mostly black and grey skirts and pants, and black or denim on the weekends. I have navy neutrals that I tend to wear in warmer months, mainly because I like to wear black tights in cold weather. I often do the column of color thing where my top matches my skirt or pants and I wear something contrasting as a “third piece” – jacket, cardigan or duster. My third pieces are probably 2/3 neutral, 1/3 color. But not bright colors.

    I do add personality and color through shoes, jewelry and scarves. I stick to a couple of colors that I know flatter me. I like plum and orchid in the purple family, rose and burgundy in the red family, and teal and other bluish greens in the blue/green families. No oranges or yellows for me.

    And in fact, Sal, my favorite outfits of yours tend to be your neutral-based ones.

    • Sal

      Ahh, but that is likely because you prefer neutrals overall and not necessarily because they are objectively more flattering or better on me! All down to taste.

      • Claira

        I don’t know how something can be ‘objectively’ flattering, to be honest – everyone finds things flattering depending on their taste and this influences how they view others. What you perceive objectively as flattering on *you* may not be what I see.

        • Sal

          This is exactly my point. And a huge part of the reason why I don’t think there’s a “right” answer to flattering colors or styles. rb may prefer me in neutrals, I generally prefer myself in colors. It’s just a matter of taste.

  40. lisa

    “Small” is relative and people’s ideas of the versatile pieces they want in their capsule wardrobes can vary wildly. By “normal” people’s standards, I have a big wardrobe. By fashion blogger standards, it’s probably a moderate to small wardrobe.

    I have a coworker who only wears black, grey and red. Personally, I like having options. Also, I’ve found the key to making sure my own wardrobe is well-edited (but in no ways capsule!) is to buy similar pieces that I know will work for me, but with different colours, patterns or details:

    -Slim-cut dark wash jeans
    -Flat shoes (boots, ballet flats, oxfords, sneakers)
    -Knee-length dresses and skirts
    -Classic button-up cardigans with long fitted sleeves
    -Statement necklaces
    -Stud earrings
    -Silk blouses

    Then I mix and match to create different looks.

  41. CC

    There is a minimalist closet challenge called “333 wardrobe” – 33 items worn for 3 months. Yes, each accessory or pair of shoes is an item.
    I made my list of 33 items for summer, decided it was ridiculous, but I was happy when I added more shoes & accessories to get to 40. What I did really liked about the process was seeing what I thought I couldn’t live without for 3 months. I do keep a relatively small closet, and my colors go together since I figured out I look best in “winter” deep saturated colors. I didn’t understand accessories for many years, so I had a minimalist number of those until very recently!
    I wasn’t doing the challenge “for real”, but I put those 40 things in my closet and hid the others. If I needed a missing item, I would get it from storage. It was educational.
    I made a 50 item list for winter – and I hid the clothing items that didn’t make the list. And my sandals. But I have all my other shoes & accessories out – I think I finally have enough of those.

  42. Eleanorjane

    Facinating comments and ideas from all…

    I’m about to move overseas so will have exactly 37kg (about 70 pounds) including the weight of the suitcases to pack my life into. Scary!

    I know I’ll be including plenty of colour and as many pieces of clothing (and shoes!) as I can. How can I leave my lovely shoes?!

  43. b.

    I’ve enjoyed reading all these comments. Generally agree that a smaller, color-restricted closet works for some people and not for others. Sal, you are so good about permission-giving in so many ways on this blog–all our bodies are beautiful as they are, we don’t all have to aim for “long, lean, and hourglass-shaped” when dressing, etc. Same message applies to wardrobes, I think–do what makes you happy and healthy.

    I happen to enjoy fewer clothes in mostly neutral tones. Partly this is because I feel good in them. But you know what? There are control issues going on there, too. When I have a clean, organized, limited closet I feel calmer and more powerful. Same feeling I get when I declutter. Or buy a thousand doohickies for organization at The Container Store. If I can master my stuff, I can master my life! Sometimes this is great…sometimes it’s a little insane.

    I’m not speaking for others, just for myself.

  44. alice

    Editing my closet is probably one of my favorite things to do. Sometimes if I’m stuck in line, I’ll start mentally going through my closet and judge its status, usually in terms of condition (is it getting ratty looking?) and how often I’ve been wearing it. The fun part about editing is finding replacements. While I would love to have super high quality designer items (not that the two necessarily equate), I simply can’t afford them at this time in my life. So I make do with the best I can afford and buy very few things. It’s worked out for me and I always feel myself when I step out into the world. My colors are jewel tone blues, deep purples, black and gray. Where I love bright color is on my feet and on my nails. Red shoes and red nail polish are my weaknesses…

  45. Mila

    I thought of an example of how limiting my colors a bit (aqua shades, orangey reds and corals, yellowy greens) has made my wardrobe more creative. Five years ago, pre-editing, when I went to buy winter coats, I bought a black one and a tan one, since I knew they would go with pretty much everything in my all-over-the-map wardrobe. This year, I bought a cranberry red coat and a cream coat with a ditsy print of turquoise/lime green/taupe. Both pretty wild coats, much more interesting than my previous coats, but I could buy them with confidence because they go with absolutely everything I own). I love them a hundred times more than my old coats, to the point where I was a little sad when the weather stayed warm so long and I couldn’t wear them!

  46. bohoprep

    What I decided to do – no colors allowed in my closet that do not flatter me, only colors that make me look amazing are allowed in my closet.
    What I observed – everything works together! Getting dressed is a pleasure. No more standing in the closing trying to find something to wear.
    Why I think this works – the colors that look best on you will look best with each other.

  47. Amanda

    After years of feeling awkward and clownish wearing bright colors, I finally decided to ignore the people telling me “You look great in red! You should wear jewel tones more often!” Now my closet is almost entirely black, gray, and brown and I feel so much more myself (as someone said earlier). I don’t know if any of those colors do my skin tone any favors but I like them, I feel comfortable in them, and I like knowing that I can get dressed in the dark if there’s an earthquake and still look sophisticated.:p

    I can totally understand how other people would want large, varied wardrobes and I enjoy seeing people expressing their creativity through color but I feel so much lighter and more confident now that I’ve edited my closet down to neutrals (with an occasional purple scarf).

    Also, having a well-edited wardrobe does cause me to pause before making impulse purchases. A shirt has to have an interesting detail to it or be made of a delicious-feeling fabric for me to make a purchase since I have enough black and gray tops already. Not shopping or spending as much means I can hold out for the pricier items I have my eye on (Prairie Underground hoodie, you will be mine someday!) which I wouldn’t have even considered in the past.

    • Elizabeth

      Hi Amanda! what you said about feeling “lighter and more confident” really resonated with me. I feel exactly the same way now that I have fewer clothing-related decisions to make every day and am fairly pleased with the reduced contents of my closet. Otherwise, with a larger number of items, I tend to just feel burdened and bewildered.

  48. AJ

    I’m Reader A, and I’d like to thank everybody for their comments!

    The reason I asked the question was because my body shape was changing to a degree that I was going to need to end up replacing or altering everything I owned, and I wondered if this was a sign that I should make more deliberate choices with my clothes. In the end, I decided not to because I didn’t think I could make a deliberate choice to eliminate specific colors…but it sort of happened accidentally. While I certainly don’t tell myself I can’t buy a dress if it’s cobalt blue or red, the majority of my wardrobe is now in teal, purple, and fuschia/magenta/berry pink, plus grays and blacks.

    (As an aside, I used to hate pink and I’m not sure how this change came about).

    Like I said, it’s not deliberate, which means I also have an orange dress I love, and an olive green sweater, and that’s…it, actually, that’s not in the cool jewel tone family, but my body changes have only just recently stabalized, so I haven’t done much shopping. Who knows how that might transform.

    • Katharine

      On a totally other note, body changes are a perfect opportunity to completely reinvent your style.

      In my twenties, I discovered Chic Simple (remember Chic Simple) and decided that at last I was going to dress like a grownup! I reduced my wardrobe to a very limited selection of Classic Basics, the best I could afford, in blacks and browns. I looked boring. I felt boring. I discovered that I hated button-up shirts and they didn’t suit me.

      Then I lost a whole lot of weight very suddenly. There were Issues involved, and I didn’t want to reinvest in expensive clothes, but nothing I owned fit me. So I started buying thrift and consignment, and experimented with different looks — including a lot of patterns and colours, because they’re generally easy to find used.

      And I learned that I really don’t enjoy having a lot of patterns and colours in my wardrobe. Sure, they’re fun to wear that day, but they didn’t feel like me — and more, a lot of them would only play well with a few certain other pieces. It didn’t make me happy.

      Well, they were thrifted and consignment, so it didn’t hurt too much to let them go… I felt a little weird, at first, returning to my pretentious high-school roots of All Black, All the Time, but the truth is I’m just happier there. I extended things a bit into greys, creams and whites, and a couple of shots of my favourite shades (cobalt, the right colour of red, and acid greens, mostly) and there I am.

      I don’t feel that my wardrobe of neutrals is boring (and the people who compliment my clothes seem to agree) and having that kind of preference lets me focus, instead, on getting interesting pieces, with strange designs or unusual fabrics. But it’s not a “rule” and it’s not “confining”; in many ways, it’s more freeing, because I’m not blinded by the wild cornucupia of CHOICE that is presented for my consuming pleasure.

      • Stacey

        I’m with Katherine in terms of feeling more free and not plagued with an abundance of choices. I too have a wardrobe of neutrals, primarily black, charcoal, some light grays, browns, few cremes and navy. I’m really into achieving a perfectly small curated wardrobe and I’m finally there after experimenting with different colors and styles the past 2 years. To see pieces in my wardrobe that I barely wear really irritates me. Sure I have a few pieces reserved for weddings and fancier occasions that only get a few wears per year but for my lifestyle, 2-3 pieces is more than enough. Not only has my pared down wardrobe revealed my signature style but I feel totally put together all the time. I love every single piece I own, I know EVERYTHING that is in my wardrobe and packing for a vacation, no matter where I’m going takes me less than 10 minutes.

  49. TG

    I’ve been paring down my wardrobe to mostly neutrals with little bits of color. I do this to avoid staring into my closet thinking I have nothing to wear only to end up wasting too much time. I just adore a small, thoughtful wardrobe. I personally want to build my existing wardrobe with pieces that will last a very long time. I sort of miss the days when you would save for something special, something that you loved such as a dress and everyone expected you to wear that dress at parties because you looked lovely in that dress. And when that dress got old, you wore it casually and then eventually it turned into rags for the house. I guess times have changed and clothing is less expensive. Like everyone has mentioned, it’s all about personal taste.