Friday, July 28, 2017

How Do I Choose My Favorite Colors?

This sounds like a silly question - we've all known our favorite colors since we were children, haven't we?

Well, in a nutshell, no. I get emails every day from people who still struggle to choose their neutrals, or to find a signature accent color, or some other variation on these themes that boils down to the issue of knowing what we most like.

Recently, one of you commented that you found peridot green as an accent when you kept seeing that color when you meditated! I personally found this to be utterly brilliant, and about as fail-safe a way to choose a signature as humanly possible. But what if you don't meditate?

I'm suggesting that you start looking for opportunities to make choices - all KINDS of choices - important ones maybe, but trivial ones DEFINITELY. Listen to your gut. Trust your instincts. Learn what a good, happy, comfortable decision feels like, and learn about the opposite too.

Also, try to hear all of the voices that you've heard throughout your life, telling you about colors, and styles, and things you should and shouldn't wear, and do, and like, and eat, and listen to, and and and... Accept that those people were doing the very best that they could for you, but that they still might have had opinions that don't resonated with you. That's fine; you can choose your own colors now.

My family all looks very much alike - similar coloring, eye-color, hair-color, hair-texture, etc. Except me... My poor parents had no clue what to do with brown eyes and curly hair, and so I often felt like a over-cooked imitation of my beautiful mother and sister. It wasn't deliberate - they just dressed me in all of their very best colors, and - frankly, I didn't much care. I was a nerd, and a tomboy, and I was fine. When I left home for college, I started to sort things out on my own; it took a few iterations to get it right!

It's never too late to listen to your inner voices...

First up - you can wear anybody's birthstone. Find a famous person born in that month and wear it in her honor...

Choosing your favorite birthstone

rings - Lafonn

This is an imaginary exercise; realistically I don't know anybody who would willingly wear the same pair of white pants seven days in a row!

Which color will you choose for your pants?

pants – L.L.Bean

This exercise was so key for me - I discovered the beautiful blue/purple periwinkle... When I tell you about my recent break with my shopping fast, you will better appreciate how BIG a deal this was for me!

Which colors will you choose for your tee shirts?

tee shirt – L.L. Bean

Because your toes are so far from your face, you can choose a color that gives you pleasure, rather than one that flatters your coloring:

Which color will you choose for a pedicure?

Nail Lacquer – Butter London

In the real world, if someone gives you a very expensive gift, do make sure that you can exchange it! But in our mental experiment, pretend that you have to keep the one that THEY choose for you...

Which color will you choose in an Hermes scarf?

scarf – Hermès Flouets et Badines

Are you one of those people who always shares their ice cream and NEVER gets their favorite flavor? Goodness, get OVER THAT! It's very kind of you, but it's your turn now...

What ice cream will you choose?
No IDEA who's list this is - please let me know and I'll happily give credit!

I firmly believe that everybody that wears a scarf should have a solid-color accent scarf; which is best for you?

What color scarf will you choose?

scarf – Nordstrom

If you finally choose to treat yourself to a Longchamp bag, which color will it be? (and don't some of these colors look an AWFUL lot alike, or have I lose my eye for color?)

What color backpack will you choose?

backpack – Longchamp

This is far from an exhaustive list of flowers, but what was I to do, eh? My favorites have always been lilacs and violets... hmm...

What flowers will you choose?

flower pictures from

Even in cold weather, you might need flip flops for the shower in the gym, right?

What color flip flops will you choose?
sandals - OlaKai

We use these to carry laundry! Absurdly handy...

What color tote bag will you choose?

Canvas Totes – Lands’ End

Would you opt for a neutral, or dare to choose a bright accent?

choose your favorite color of loafers

flats – UGG

Once you start looking for ways to make color choices, you can find them everywhere! Learn to listen to that authentic person inside who knows what she likes...


PS - If you are looking for other color inspiration, check out the latest Pantone Color Planner and other documents in the Planning Documents section of the website.

How Do I Choose My Favorite Colors?
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  1. I am one of Those people. The problem is that I love all colors, but only in certain contexts. Love that Periwinkle Sky, but I also want the Peony Longchamps bag and the Green Tea ice cream and I've been craving some yellow. Your columns about adding a few things in a color as an accent have been very helpful for my goal of not looking like a bag lady.

    I've had more trouble with neutrals because they are the backbone of it all. I have been trying to switch from black to navy but I noticed that the clothes I actually pick from my closet and wear everyday are either black or stone while my navy skirt and cardigan just hang there unworn. So, I'm probably due for a rethink on this. It's like my subconscious is picking for me.

  2. Janice,
    I learned years ago that the colors I am drawn to are also the ones that look best with my personal coloring. I went through a black phase, because it was easy to find, and it is ubiquitous in the fashion world, but alas, I looked like death warmed over in it, so I have learned to listen to my instincts instead !

  3. Like the first poster, I love all colors in certain context. Because I like to wear seasonal colors in their season, my solution has been to swap my wardrobe around every 3 months and it's worked brilliantly for me. (It's kind of my own version of the 333 Project, except I usually have a few more than 33 things in the lot at any one time, and I never include outwear, shoes or accessories in the "count" haha)

    In doing today's exercise, I find I am attracted to Red more than other colors, but mainly because my favorite version of the soft, ballet pink (with the peachy undertone) is not an option in most cases and I prefer a dusty amethyst purple to a bright, clear purple.

    The exercise was fun. Is this something you might consider doing in series?

  4. When I was a child, I always said my favorite color was rainbow! This is still mostly true and shows up in the way I dress. I've let go of orange and yellow because they don't work with my coloring, but everything else is fair game! The thing is, I like very specific shades of colors (and they seem to be the ones that are hardest to find!) I like jewel tones and wildflower colors, and I don't like beach/nautical colors or colors that feel diluted to me.
    - Kaci

  5. Very informative, keep posting such good articles, it really helps to know about things.

  6. Thank you for writing for Us, the Colorphiles, those who love color. :) In trying to narrow down my accent colors, I found it was easiest for me to let go of the logical side and let my emotional side do the choosing. There are certain colors and color combinations that make me smile (literally) and sooth my spirit (I know that sounds very new age, but it's true). So, I'm picking those colors and only those colors. Last week when I did my laundry and all my clothes were in a jumble, I noticed how much I loved the mix of colors and neutrals and how happy it made me. Now my challenge will be to break the rule that I shouldn't wear "summer colors" in the winter. So I will look for a peony pink flannel shirt and wear it with dark navy wash jeans and be very happy.

  7. I find I get attached to a particular colour; I've received compliments in it, I feel good in it. I start buying items in that colour, feeling very organized and coordinated. A few years later the love fades. The colour becomes tiresome to me but meanwhile I have all these items. I do think this happens with brights more than neutrals like black or navy.

    1. One thing to do when that happens is to dye the clothes a different colour. Blues can easily be turned to greens or purples, etc. If all else fails, turn them black!

  8. Dear Janice.

    I enjoyed this post as I enjoy each of your posts. I am sorry, but I would like to make a correction. The top right hand flower is not photo of peonies. Those are pansies.

    1. Thank you! I love pansies and peonies equally and noticed that right away

  9. This is a great exercise and reminded me that somewhere along time, you had an intention of writing a book. This is a perfect outline for one of its chapters.

  10. A good exercise. When i was a child, my mother gave me a lot of chocolate brown - my eyes are dark, dark brown - and i happily went off to college with all that brown, mixd with orange and yellow and green. And, i found that i never wore much of it. i would something off, then take it off. As i started to purchase my own clothes, they were all (ALL) black and white. For many years, they stayed black, white and red, ok throw in a little navy and light blue. And then at"a certain age" i started moving to gray instead of black. Today, i am squarly gray and pinks for the winter and in the summer add some aqua. (Just can't get away from water colors in the summer.) I am really comfortable with it, and have learned to never impulse buy outside of my "lines". When i do it, i end up just looking at whatever it is hanging in the closet. Somewhere in our hearts we really do know what suits us best.

  11. A really fun (as well as really useful) post!

    Now a confession: I recently bought two of the LLBean tee shirts, one a crew neck, the other a v-neck, in periwinkle sky. (The color that you aptly call "the beautiful blue/purple periwinkle.")

    Why this is a confession: I'm currently wearing black only. So I bought the tee shirts not because I plan to wear them any time soon, but just because I love the color. And if and when my moratorium on color ends, I will gladly start wearing them.

  12. For me, it took a couple of years to figure out my wardrobe colors. I too like all colors, but I discovered that I like to wear just a few of them. For example, I first thought that dark chocolate brown would be a great neutral for me, while black felt too boring and common to be fun. Turned out, I just didn't wear my dark brown clothes nearly as much as black. I liked how dark brown looked in my closet, but on my body it always felt a little off somehow. After I realized that- no more new dark brown items, though I do intend to wear out the brown clothes I still have.

    Same with colors: I only like to wear a few, and have thus been able to build a handful of accessory/accent capsules for different seasons. Baby pink, bright red, orange, peridot green, aqua/mint, purple. That's still quite a few colors, but it is way more manageable than the rainbow I started with. No jewel tones, no muted or dusty colors. Again, some of my favorite colors like yellow and medium blue just were not fun to wear.

    Not sure how this works: flattery matters, but it's not the only factor. For example, medium blues are flattering, but I just don't enjoy wearing the color. On the other hand, baby pink is just ok and not super flattering, but wearing it makes me so happy I wear it all the time. Maybe one day I'll figure this out...

    Sara K.

  13. What a fun post! Thank you!

    I have got new hair (after chemo) and a new hair color (that I won't be dyeing), so I'm rethinking what colors I want to wear. :)

    I used to wear a dusty summer palette, but I think my skin is more peachy now. It's an interesting shift.

    Thanks again! As one commenter said, a series of these would be fun.

  14. Oh dear, oh dear. There is absolutely NO coherence in my choices. For some, I want them all. Others, nothing speaks to me (looking at you Longchamps bags). I keep a pretty tight wardrobe right now when I am working - black, navy, beige and grey bottoms. Some of them as part of a suit. The tops all coordinate with at least three of the bottoms. Throw in a few cardigans and that's it. A bit boring to be sure, but highly functional for me. But will I keep them all once I retire? I honestly don't know. I suspect the suits will go, over time, and not be replaced. But what are my colors? I don't know. I suspect I will end up with the modified Vivienne selection - trading off red for pink and black for grey.
    Thank you Janice, you've given me much to ponder.

  15. What a fun post. I found myself dithering a little, but my choices always ended up black/grey, blue/aqua, and pink/red. And that's reflected in my closet, too. And in my garden flowers. And my house decor. I hope I'm not in a rut!

  16. Interesting! I found myself picking the azul shoes immediately, even though I have blue shoes and I have found that in theory they should work with my wardrobe, but in practice I have a hard time actually putting them with my outfits. On the other hand I easily wear my red shoes (although there weren't any in the Ugg grouping above). - nancyo

  17. I found myself searching for olive green as the pant color I would voluntarily wear all week. I didn't realize that was my go to color until you posed the question here. Though I confess I would happily wear white pants or shorts most hot summer days (and even a few cold, snowy winter days). Seeing colors presented this way was fun and eye opening!

  18. This is a great post. You've shown us that color assortments are everywhere! I find that I tend to wear different colors in summer and in winter - not because of any "rule," but because I'm drawn to different colors at those times. It might have to do with the difference in daylight (or lack thereof). I've banished brown and orange (except for game day) and most yellow, and I find myself wearing lots of blue these days. But in summer, it would definitely be the white pants.

  19. Love, love this post. I think I have been very lucky having had a very strong sense of what colours were best for me from an early age. I started sewing my own clothes in the very early 60's and I made my first dress when I was about 13 - even then I was attracted to what were regarded as very sombre colours for a young girl, and particularly brown.

    Brown, blue and green have been my staples throughout my life - apart from some years when I lost my way and thought I should 'follow fashion' and wore colours which looked terrible on me such as black and burgundy! Luckily I have been very disciplined for a long time now and stick to those childhood choices.

    I find navy, and particularly brown very versatile - I have recently been given a watch with a coral pink strap which I would probably not have chosen but it looks lovely with brown so am looking for perhaps a scarf to pick up this colour.

    I am thinking of 'going gray' in the next year or so, and realise that I may have to change things, however, so am already thinking about what changes I will have to make and trying not to accumulate any more clothes until then....

    Thank you for your always entertaining and so useful posts.

  20. I enjoyed this post; I pay attention to what friends with keen aesthetic senses like on me. They respond (and so do strangers) I wear a strong, clear pink, with a little purple in it, a colour I call "freesia". I would not have bought much of it in the past, but I seem to come alive in it, and it's wonderful with black, navy and charcoal, my neutrals. I don't listen that much to what my DH says as he thinks I look great in anything, and I know beiges and yellowed colours wash me out. (Love is blind?) Also, a woman often has a physical reaction to a colour. In primaries, I feel screechy; they actually give me a headache. You can •feel• colour.

  21. I agree with many of the comments above. I've always preferred turquoise/aqua and muted shades of green or blue. As I've gotten older and getting grey in my blondish hair, my colors are the same but a little more subdued as my eye color has also gotten lighter! I discovered light grey to be flattering and now I'm using it as an accent color near my face. Thank you for this wonderful post. I LOVE my Longchamp bag and the LL Bean totes have been a staple for many years and used for many things and always as a beach bag. I would add my high recommendation for both items. Janice Collins, Washington DC.

  22. I love this exercise! I always thought I preferred green over blue (even though I love both), but I chose the blues every time.

  23. You are amazing as usual. I've just known your blog for a short time but it's so impressive. Keep posting, I'll always be your fan!

  24. This is a great exercise and reminded me that somewhere along time, you had an intention of writing a book. This is a perfect outline for one of its and green have been my staples throughout my life
    Thank you for this wonderful post

  25. This is a great post.The problem is that I love all colors, but only in certain contexts. Love that Periwinkle Sky, but I also want the Peony Longchamps bag and the Green Tea ice cream and I've been craving some yellow.

  26. Love, love this post. Thank you for your always entertaining and so useful posts.

  27. I am thinking of 'going gray' in the next year.Thanks for interesting post.
    Hope keep sharing more