First off, let’s pick a piece of art that I personally really admire. The admire part is critical – you need to love the colors, the subject, and the style of the art in question, or there’s no point in analyzing it in any detail. If you’re looking for a piece of art to serve as an inspiration or a leitmotif for your wardrobe, it must be something with real “staying power” in your heart.
This painting would never work for me for my wardrobe – all the wrong colors. But otherwise, I’m a big fan. I can’t pinpoint what it is that I love about Pre-Raphaelite painting, but I am always drawn to it; in a room full of paintings, this is what would call me to come and sit for a while…
So your first step is to really LIVE with the painting for a few days. Make it the background on your computer. Tape a print of it on your closet door. Really make certain that you want to commit to this entire aesthetic package.When you’re sure, you need to first distill the colors from this gorgeous goody. There are a few ways to do this. First off, you can put it into a “pixelator”, which helps to obscure the details of the image and help you focus on the main color fields.
Lunapic.com has a few tools to help you work with images. It’s free, and it’s really cool… You can change the pixel size to find a point where you can clearly limit yourself to a range of colors.
Dante Gabriel Rossetti, after Lunapic.com size 15 pixel size
Another tool is the Color Palette Generator at CSS Drive. (click here) This tool gives you at least 50 colors from which you can choose palettes. This is pixel analysis at a really micro-level; in our example, they caught the blush in Beatrice’s face, in the bottom right… But you can add and remove colors from your palette as much as you want, until you get a family of colors that you love.
by Dante Gabriel Rosetti, with palette suggested by cssdrive.com/imagepalette/
Another option is just to squint at your image, or run it through a “blur” tool. Lunapic has one of those too. Sometimes blurring works better than pixelating…
by Dante Gabriel Rosetti, blurred at lunapic.com
After spending some time looking at your image through a variety of different filters and editors, you might be ready to choose your colors. Here’s where you have return to the world of clothing and accessories and make a few choices.
- How many neutrals will you have?
- What will they be?
- How many accents, and which?
- What color will you use for leather goods?
- Silver jewelry or gold, or both?
- Do you have a light neutral for shirts and blouses? Maybe you don’t need one…
- What will the proportions be for each color? Lots of neutrals? Lots of accents?
This painting was relatively straightforward – the bronze/brown and dark navy are clearly the dominant colors, and both are excellent, readily available neutral colors. I’m already thinking of beautiful, burnished cognac leather accessories…
And there are three pretty standout accent colors that catch my eye – the brighter blue between the gold stripes, the red of the angel wings, and the white of the unfinished sundial in her hands. Marigold orange is another possibility…
So, after all that fun, this is what I chose. I REALLY like wardrobes that have a lot of neutrals, with a small proportion of accent colors – I’m a big fan of the solid column of neutral, or the suit-like effect of a matching cardigan and pair of jeans. Your choices may certainly vary!
Now that your colors are chosen, the harder work of pinpointing any style, mood or graphic details you want to keep in mind while building a wardrobe around your image. My approach to this is to just toss every observation I make onto the table, and let them all help expand and illuminate whatever core theme I choose.
This painting is redolent with symbolism – the lost love, her passage to heaven, the brevity of her life, Dante’s faith that she lives on… I have NO IDEA how any of that translates into clothing and accessories, but we don’t have to throw the thoughts away just because we can’t act on them this minute (or ever).
The clarity of the images registered with me immediately, and the contrast of the stripes to the stylized stars. These are ideas that CAN be represented in a patterned fabric, or a long gold bar earring, or a star ring…
The fabric of the angel’s gown is a great thing to keep in mind when considering the possibilities of an evening fabric; imagine gold brocade trousers (with a star pattern?) worn with a deep navy sweater.
Gold jewelry seems like the easy choice; a brushed, soft gold that echoes the nearest bands radiating from the head of Jesus, or an ornate gold that would pick up the mood of the angel gown. Rubies, sapphires, a lone pearl…
Build your own “style reference point”, if you want to, in order to keep all of these ideas in mind. You can always add to it!
So this is kind of what I do; I don’t always write everything down, because I’m sitting for an entire day working with one image, and all of my inspirations and concepts are uppermost in my mind. But if you want to work with an idea like this for your wardrobe (or a room in your home?), having an actual document that collected all of your whims, insights, wild hairs, brilliant observations and key choices would be only sensible.
Tomorrow, I’m going to sally forth and find some clothes!