Have you ever felt that some people just get it right when it comes to clothes and working out which colours work well together?
When you think of colour you may not necessarily think of Sir Isaac Newton and in fairness you wouldn’t be alone. But it took one of the greatest scientists of all time to invent the rainbow colour wheel back in 1666.
The basic idea of the colour wheel is that there are;
3 primary colours from which all other colours are derived (red, blue and yellow).
3 secondary colours – formed by mixing primary colours (green, orange and purple);
and 6 tertiary colours – formed by mixing primary and secondary colours (yellow-orange, red-orange, red-purple, blue-purple, blue-green and yellow-green).
This may seem rather simple but having this basic knowledge will help you in deciding which colours work in harmony together and more importantly how to maximise your wardrobe by mixing up colours and items that you wouldn’t normally wear together.
My wardrobe historically contained plenty of safe colours. By safe colours I mean neutrals – black, white, grey with the odd splash of colour.
It wasn’t that I didn’t understand colour. I worked in a creative industry so had an insight into how colours worked well together. I just don’t think I was confident enough in applying that same knowledge to my wardrobe. I played it safe.
As time goes by I seem to get bolder and more sure of my look and style, I mean if I’m not going to clash colours in my 40s then when am I going to do it?
Whilst I truly believe you should wear what you like and feel good in, I also think ‘knowledge is power’ and it’s good to know the science behind colour harmonies.
There are so many things to say about colour but I’m going to keep it simple (you may have already fallen asleep).
1: Monochromatic Colour
Monochromatic shades are those of a single colour in various gradients. This is probably one of the easiest looks to pull together. Whilst most people will feel safer working with Neutral colours, bolder hues, like cobalt blue or burnt orange, also work like a charm. For some this may feel too loud, too bright but rest assured that it will look amazing and can be broken up with neutral colours if needed.
2: Achromatic Colours
Black, White and Grey are all known as achromatic colours. They have lightness but no hue or saturation. There is much debate as to whether Black and White are even colours (I’m not going into that discussion here). However neutral colours are always a safe bet. There is a reason ‘all black’ looks are go-to’s for many people.
3: Complementary Colours
As they say opposites attract and never has that been more true than with the colour wheel. Colours that are directly opposite each other work really well together. Complementary colours are essentially high-contrast and will draw maximum attention.
Don’t forget that you can also always use a bright colour and pair it with a neutral if you don’t fancy going quite so bold.
4: Analogous Colours
When two or three shades are side by side on the colour wheel, they are known as analogous colours, like red, orange and yellow, for example. These work well together because naturally, they blend into one another. The blessing is this Colour Scheme is automatically harmonious. In other words, it’s nearly impossible for the colours to clash. Whilst the examples given may look bright remember you can create the same look with hues and tints (using a pastel palette instead of a brights palette).
5: Triadic Colours
A triadic colour theme uses colours that are evenly spaced around the wheel. This colour theme is likely to be very vibrant and will have impact even if you use pale or tinted versions of your hues.
In order to use a triadic harmony successfully, you should try to make sure that the colours are carefully balanced. Ideally you would let one colour dominate and use the other two for accent. But in all fairness go ahead and have fun and go with what looks and feels right.
6: Split-Complementary Colours
The split-complementary colour theme is pretty straightforward and in addition to a base colour, it also uses the two colours adjacent to its complement. This use of colour has the same strong visual contrast as the complementary colour theme, but has less tension. The split-complimentary colour theme is apparently a good choice for those that are not too sure about colour as it’s difficult to get wrong (apparently).
My final thoughts are that you should ultimately do what feels right for you. Wear colours that make you feel happy and confident. I haven’t gone into tints, hues or skin tones as that would have been an essay and a half but these will also all be factors when choosing colours to wear.
Having looked back at a lot of my photos I’ve realised that I tend to wear a combination of two key colours and mix it with a safe achromatic colour. I am going to try and mix this up a little in future and use some of the combinations above. If nothing else it will give me more ways in which to wear my existing wardrobe and feel like I have new outfits.
If you do decide to give some of the colour options above a go please let me know how you get on. I would love to see. Either leave me comment on here or better still send me a pic on instagram.
Love Chet x
PS All photos are linked to the source from which they were taken.