It’s a question that’s as old as The Vivienne Files – if you’re starting a capsule wardrobe from scratch, how do you start?
What an ambitious question! But after thinking about it for three years, I’m going to give it a try – a step by step approach to rebuilding your wardrobe from the ground up.
Before you buy any garments at all, you’ve got to make a couple of decisions. One thing you’ll have to work out for yourself – which silhouettes suit you best. I’m really not qualified to answer this question for every woman, but I encourage you to address this question on your own; you know better than anybody else in the world what shapes and sizes of garments suit you best…
But the next question – truly critical – is to choose a color scheme. My personal preference is to work with a palette of five colors – two neutrals, two accent colors, and some variation of white/ecru/cream that functions well as a blouse or tee shirt. You don’t for a heartbeat have to follow these guidelines, but you DO have to make a decision in order to narrow down your options. Shopping willy nilly for clothes without a plan and a color scheme will not result in an efficient and beautiful wardrobe, unless you’re really lucky.
Moving forward, I’m going to work with six color schemes, based on the dark neutrals of navy, black, grey, caramel brown, chocolate brown, and khaki. I’ve tried to include six widely popular neutral colors, and a variety of accent schemes – brights, pastels, and muted colors. This is what I’m envisioning:
What do you think?
PS – You can find the latest Pantone Color Planner and other documents in the Planning Documents section of the website.
This is going to be fun to follow!
I agree Karen. This will be a fun series.
Looking forward to this Janice!
JoBea 718 says
Madame Là-bas says
How to choose? How to choose? I can hardly wait!
Anyone looking for some help in figuring out their silhouette could check out Imogen Lamport at http://www.insideoutstyleblog.com/ Her posts and videos are packed with information and ideas.
Another vote for Imogene's site. She has a lot of information on dressing for body type (just go to the tabs at the top of her site). It's age appropriate too.
I am also looking forward to this series. I recently had my colors done and I am a Bright Winter, which is a far cry from all of the muted colors I had been wearing. My wardrobe really is going to have to be rebuilt from the ground up.
Pam @ over50feeling40 says
This is always so helpful. Thanks, Janice!
Love this. Just discovered the blog and its been so helpful. 55 nd with too many clothes, I've always been good with shape but need to distil the colours/textures. The first circle reflects a significant part of my wardrobe, and also I really like it, so it will make a good starting point. Looking forward to the series.
Excited to see what comes of this. For my coloration I love the one with red and french blue, but may pretend that your choice of taupe is gray instead. As a winter I tend to gravitate towards the red/blue/white/black/gray combo.
I love what you do, Janice! Thank you.
I think I understand this. But different seasons have me longing for different accent colors. Now its summer and I'm thinking turquoise and pink (for example), but in the winter I would want maybe dark blue and wine red. This little problem have already manifested itself in my wardrobe since I bought an olive spring jacket (before I started to read this blog, now I don't think olive is my color anymore) and then a pair of lovely turquoise shorts. And now I cant wear the jacket with the shorts because those colors really don't go together. I could create accent colors shifting between season. But it would still be a problem with the clothes that you would want to keep more then one season as illustrated in the example before. And it would yield for a much bigger wardrobe.
Anyone have the same problem? Solutions?
On a side note; I have analyzed why i bought that color for the jacket, I needed a spring jacket, black i to boring for spring, white is to fragile for my life. Blue is great, but I already have a lot of blue, and often wear jeans so it would be better with a different color. Olive is neutral but still kind of fun so it makes a lot of sense for a jacket.
Ok, this turned out rather long and I'm still not sure its clear enough what I mean.
the happy forgiver says
I wear olive/khaki and turquoise together often, but I am a toned autumn so those are two of my recommended colors. I like them together, but I think you have to repeat at least one of them a little bit to make them pull together as an outfit, otherwise they can look a little too haphazard. You might try a necklace with turquoise colors, or earings that show. That brings the better color for you, turquoise, up next to your face which should help modify the khaki.
And Janice, this is going to be a lot of fun! Several of these use some of my favorite neutrals and accent colors.
Ah cool tips, thanks for the reply, I will try it out.
Perfect timing – I have been rereading past posts to build my wardrobe. I'm going to enjoy this.
hostess of the humble bungalow says
This sounds like a fun series…I will be following your every word!
Oh my, you must have been reading my mind. I was just thinking about this today and there is your post. I'm a Navy & Tan (khaki) girl due to my coloring. I use green and peach as my accents in summer.
I always enjoy the combinations. They challenge me to put some zing in my wardrobe.
Ooh, this looks like fun!
So excited for this series. I'm not starting from scratch but when approached as a thought experiment it can also be very helpful. The idea of a blank slate helping to distill a wardrobe plan is such a lovely idea, Janice.
Kay dancingbrushpainting.blogspot.com says
Brilliant! Now I just have to decide on the colors…
Can't wait to see what's next! Picking a color scheme is hard for me. I wear a lot of black but I also like navy, brown, khaki and olive! LOL!
Dr. V. O. says
This looks fantastic…I've been hoping for a systematic, step by step, way to think about retooling my wardrobe — this is so logical and comprehensive, it's perfect. I'm a navy/black neutral basics gal. Can't wait for the next steps! BTW, I say this every year: you should write a book. ;)
How do you make these color wheels? I thought it might be fun to play with my own color combo. Thanks in advance!!
I'm "starting from scratch" on my Sping/Summer wardrobe and have a question on step 1. I have a pair of navy heavy cotton trousers that I wear with flats, and a pair of lightweight black wool dress trousers that I wear with heels – I could wear either of these pants every day if necessary. When looking at your color wheels, you don't have both navy & black as the two neutrals -it's one lighter and one darker., Do you have any suggestions? I don't want to part with either of these pants until they fall apart. Thanks
Simple! Have two capsules, one with the black pants, one with the navy pants. You can share your accent colors between the two capsules.
I second the question of Anonymous before: I too would have Navy and Black as my neutrals, but both are dark. So what to do in this case? Go for it (very dark, I tried) or looking for a lighter neutral to make it work? Since, f.e., blue or black shoes does not matter so much, also with trousers….
Kelly O'Connor says
Oh my, I had no idea my wardrobe was in such a state! Apparently it is an absolute mess! In general, my colors are black as a neutral, navy as a neutral and gray as a neutral with red and purple as accents. (My thinking at the time is everything other than the red and purple can be worn with everything else – I love navy and black together.). I really don't have any bridge items other than scarves, as I had a difficult time wearing prints (I'm overly endowed and the prints become overwhelming). Over the years, when I buy a couple pieces in the color of the moment, I typically have purchased a twin set and a scarf. I typically buy neutral shoes – black, navy, and white for summer, and neutrals for jewelry – gold and silver. I have a good watch and sunglasses (both neutrals) that I wear with everything. Please help – where do I go from here?
Janice Riggs says
I don't think your wardrobe sounds at all like it's a mess – you have clearly chosen neutrals, preferred accent colors, and a system for buying colors of the moment. That's all really logical, and I suspect it works really well for you.
While my suggestions work really well for some people, they AREN'T the only way to build a wardrobe, and they certainly shouldn't shake you from your current approach if you're happy, and you feel comfortable in what you're wearing. There are as many different ways to compose a wardrobe as there are women – do you own thing, and do it with confidence and pride!
I have tried the backwards hanger strategy, the hang what's worn and washed to one side of the cupboard or turning everything inside out until it's been worn and approved but my OCD kicks in and I tidy the cupboard again. As Peter Walsh, the declutter guru, said your space defines your stuff and you can not fit five cubic metres of stuff into three cubic metres of space…though we surely do try, don't we?
I love the idea of the Project 333 (or 444 or 888 whatever the number I should choose) challenge but I would traumatise myself with the counting so the plan is to have two/three tops for each bottom…choosing between a plain, an in-between and a statement piece…and whittling my clothes down so I can move the hangers on the rail without first having to move hangers OFF the rail…lol.
I do know my best light and dark neutrals, accent colours as well as all the others in the swatch that suit my cool winter colouring but I have been doing the 'willy nilly' shop with the colour swatch in hand since I saw the consultant a few years ago and my cupboard is groaning with the weight of it all. All the right colours, all the right cut and style, all of the colours of my swatch but…sigh…it is time to refine it again now I have had my fun…decisions decisions…
Much as it suits me, and it really isn't my best neutral, I will retire my black to house and yard work and maybe as a very formal item to rescue me till I can get the item in my chosen colour.
I have decided on black-navy and charcoal as my dark neutral neutrals and brilliant white but I have opted to have two categories rather than two colours for accent…icy colours and jewel colours…yes yes as I said…cheating. These colours are not always on trend but it will slow the creep of excess and the threat of the cupboard exploding. And…I can alway dust off the trusty sewing machine. I also heard if you can matching your handbag and shoes to your hair colour creates an instant ensemble so I am on the prowl for pewter…not quite on trend either but I can have fun looking…can't I. How excitement…
I'm finding all your information really valuable, but I have a question regarding choosing your accent colors. How do you choose which ones go together?
Janice Riggs says
Trial and error, looking to a pre-existing object like a scarf or work of art, reusing a scheme that I've used before – there's no real single way to find accent colors. I think looking to art, or nature, seems to be my most reliable method!
I have no idea how I found this wonderful blog, but I've been coming back to it for weeks now as work up to following your Starting From Scratch plan! Today, I finally figured out my color palette, based mostly on the colors I most enjoy wearing (and also on what I already have a lot of).
For neutrals, I'm using black, grays, and white. For accent colors, I'm mostly sticking with royal blue and aqua/turquoise! I do have a few amazing red pieces in my closet that I wear a lot, so I'm keeping a special red section for fun. I'm going to be making pictures for my own blog, and I'll try to link them here so anyone interested can check it out!
I have found this blog to be awesome, but am struggling with a second neutral. For so long I have done black as it is "the must have colour" in the wardrobe but it has never sat well with me and always felt uncomfortable with me. I am loving the navy in the shops and taking the opportunity to stock up while it is plentiful and trending. At the moment I am thinking about cream as my second neutral (I like the softness compared to pure white). How do I work the cream and white that I have in my wardrobe at present? Does it matter that they are different tones of the same base? How can I combine these?
Also do I need second neutral that is not white or cream? If so could you suggest a light neutral that is warm toned. I find many of the "stone" kind of colours seem to be more grey based.
Janice Riggs says
Navy and cream are great neutrals to work with! For an additional color, consider burgundy, khaki, chocolate brown, or camel. Burgundy isn't warm, but it's gorgeous (it can always work as a great accent color – especially for leather goods), but the other 3 colors will work well with navy and cream, and are suitable for both casual and dressy garments.
Stone is indeed the grey-ish version of khaki! I like stone a lot, but it could never be considered warm…
Séverine Lietard says
I just found you blog and find the topic really valuable!! I never thought of my wardrobe that way… Regarding the colors, can you please advise which colors match the best depending on the type of hair color and skin?
I have brown hair and fair skin…
Janice Riggs says
Oh, I don't have any special expertise in that; I'd suggest that you wear colors you love, colors in which you receive compliments… Maybe ask your dearest friend for advice!
I think that women's coloring varies so much that there are no rules, and that no two people will have exactly the same preferences and "best" colors.
Maybe buy a couple of tee shirts in colors that you're considering, and see how you feel when you wear them. Do you get comments? Do you feel pretty? Do you have energy? Do you smile when you see yourself in the mirror? Do you want to buy more in that colors? A bit of experimentation might be the best way to learn for certain what you most like…
Wow. So very helpful. Could you do me next? Ha-ha. Thanks for the advice!
I have no idea where to begin..,I prefer black, navy and grey for neutrals but its the colours that I get stuck on. I love blue's which go well with my neutrals, but I also love green. Not khaki green but more of a teal green. The kind of green which would not work with any of the capsule colour suggestions I have seen around. I am a redhead and that kind of green really suits me. I know I can wear khaki and I do, sometimes, but only with other plainer neutrals like black or white. My preference is for bright teal or peacock green/blue's which I can't work out how to make part of a cohesive, workable capsule. Any ideas? I like other colours like red too. The problem is that I have no clothes. I have a few pairs of pants and a few jackets in neutrals. I have no tops (except a few worn out tshirts and layering tops that I wear AS tops) I have always found tops very hard to buy as I like things to be fitted but not too much so. If I could get the colour selection for a capsule worked out, it would make it so much easier to not get confused and give up before I've picked anything. If I was sure of the colours, I could even take the time to sew some things. Sewing takes me a lot of time so I want to be sure of the colour before I start. At the moment, I stick with neutrals but then I have too many neutrals (of the few items I actually have).
Janice, I so love your color-theme posts and I keep coming back to this one and thinking things over. I wonder if you limit your color palette for your wardrobe as a whole? In particular, I'm trying to decide if it's possible to narrow down my entire wardrobe, but would need more than five colors, I think.
I could really do a lot of beautiful things with a "beachy" black-tan-cream-mossy green-slate blue.
But I also really love gray-brown-burgundy-navy-white – sort of like the beachy theme, but winter colored.
I'm starting to wonder if my pops of pink/red are like some of your capsules where someone can be drawn to them but they don't play well and need to be passed along, and considering donating. Or would you do a capsule for each season?
Janice Riggs says
You can change up your colors every season, if it makes you happy. Actually, your happiness is probably the only real guiding system you need! For many of us, nothing more than black and white, with the (very) occasional dash of color is sufficient, while you might want more. Just listen to your heart – if something doesn't resonate, get rid of it. If it's really love, keep!
Just found this and have only read choosing your colour scheme. I look forward to reading more I know it will be so helpful. It is a great map for choosing clothes. I don’t wear dresses or skirts, should I leave them out or replace them with something else in the same colour.
I’m very casual stay at home Mom?
After months of first seeing this series (and discovering your blog!) I think I’ve finally settled on a palette.
It’s been hard, because I always feel like I need different colors according to my mood, and I needed to get rid of some lingering, outdated convictions about my preferences: I begrudgingly let go of red and green, which have been my favorite colors for ages, and introduced warm pink, which seemed way to “girly” but ultimately makes me feel more like myself.
I’ve had to increase the number to 6, though, because that will allow me to play more with the afore-mentioned moods.
Hi, basically a newbie here but have spent the last few weeks reading every single post on this site and wanted to say how inspirational and helpful this site is. I have the opposite problem to many here – I am essentially starting from scratch. I hate to shop (really really hate it) and my job was 24/7 on call (IT) and had to wear an employer provided uniform. Seriously, for 15 years I had no life and no personal wardrobe. When retirement arrived (and not a moment too soon) I had a major wardrobe malfunction.
This first step, to select a limited color palette, was one of those ‘d’oh’ moments for me. No, I didn’t have to just run into a store and buy anything that fit (hate shopping, remember). I could live with my limited items for a month or two, and put some thought into what kind of a reasonable quality wardrobe would suit me, my body, my coloring and my lifestyle.
Janice, you are a real treasure. You and your fashion insights have been a true inspiration.