Colour or Style – Which Comes First When Shopping for Clothes?


Colour or style which comes first when shopping?


Jill Chivers of Shop Your Wardrobe discuss the eternal question of which comes first when you’re shopping for clothes … colour or style?


Why Colour is the most Important Factor when Choosing Garments

We both agree that colour the most important factor when choosing a new garment.  We discuss why colour is more important than style when choosing a garment.

Should you already have clothes in your wardrobe that aren’t great colours, but you love the style, what to do?  You don’t have to throw the baby out with the bathwater (as my mother used to say).

Instead, you can dye a garment to improve the colour.  Get tips on overdying garments here in this post.

Colour is the element that makes us look:

  • vibrant
  • alive
  • healthy

and it communicates a psychological message (you can read up on the psychology of colours here) to understand what the colours you’re wearing communicate.

Not only that, the right colours will create a face focus (the wrong ones a body focus), and as I always say to my clients:

The style of clothes need to work with our bodies (body shape, proportions, variations) and also our personality (and if we want to stick with rules or break them).

But if you choose a garment in a colour that really doesn’t flatter your complexion, one that washes you out, makes you look ill, or just drains you of life, then it doesn’t matter how great the style is, the colour is wearing you and detracting from your ability to shine.

Yes, sticking to a colour palette can make finding clothes harder when shopping, as colour trends come and go quickly and not all colours are available at any one time.  But sticking to a palette that suits you will, over time, give you a remarkable wardrobe that flatters you, that is easy to mix and match and create multiple and varied outfits from fewer garments.

With the myriad of clothes available, and the overwhelm many women feel when they first enter a store and wonder “what should I look at first?” colour alone will help you to dismiss so many items that just won’t flatter you.  It helps to sort the good from the trees.

So tell me …

When you shop, what do you look for first?  Colour or style?  How does each element impact on your shopping decisions?  I’d love to know your thoughts!

7 steps to colour and style


I'm not sure if it's for you but how would you feel if you learned all about the colours and styles of clothing that suit your individual personality, shape and style? Just imagine what it would be like when you can open your wardrobe and pull together fabulous outfits that make you look and feel amazing every day? If you'd like to stop wasting money on the wrong clothes and accessories plus join an amazing bunch of very special women also on their style journey - then my 7 Steps to Style program is right for you. Find out more here.

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  • Colour first, always, which is not easy when you have a classic style and are determined to avoid black. So, it usually takes me all of 30 seconds to scan an entire store full of drab black clothes, to the puzzlement of the sales assistant. Of course the issue is that different colours are fashionable at different times, so I may need to wait years to find something in my “can’t resist ” teal or garnet red. That’s why I most often shop online, in the kind of places that offer multiple colours in the one design ( Boden is my current favourite).

  • I always look for the colour, then touch the garment for the feel of the fabric. As a petite, I have to alter everything, so style only comes third…

  • I find it frustrating how often I go into a shop, look along the racks for anything approaching ‘my’ colours and see mainly black, plus very strong other colours such as strong blue or red.

  • As a petite, I find that often stores only stock one or two colors of a particular style, when there are quite a few others available in another shop, or on-line!

  • I have a slightly warm undertone, and a medium high-contrast, I find it very difficult to find work appropriate suiting, the blacks and greys drain the life out of me, and the navy, mushroom, taupe, chocolate options I would like are much harder to find. Many beige/camels are too light and sometimes too warm for me (I’m a brunette). But I do agree, colour is the way to go. I don’t buy online much as I have terrible trouble with fit, but I’ve had some fun thrifting and sewing my own things.

  • I find colour to be the most important factor when I choose what to wear. My favorites are colours with a warm undertone.
    The shops here are now filled with darker shades for winter, making it a difficult season to shop if those are not your best colours. I tend to do a very limited amount of shopping this time of year and what I do shop is mostly basics.

  • I think store owners may think I am slightly insane in a store, Imogen! I am better with online shopping than in brick and mortar stores. I look for “something different” if I am looking and not just restocking a basic and will also walk out if I think the price is ridiculous. I get confused in stores easily (partly because if there are fluorescent lights, everything shakes). I get very annoyed (even though my sewing skills are pretty strong for alterations)with straight up and down shirts for women and a general lack of interesting colour or originality in design. My opinion is that actual stores are only carrying mundane items and if you want something special, you’re better off looking online.

  • I agree that shopping in my pallete first makes the whole process easier. Of course I am keeping flattering styles in mind as I go. By staying in my pallete, everything works together, thus putting an end to the nothing to wear drama. I might consider a dress that is not in my palette , since it will still work with my neutral accessories. Neutrals may not be eye candy, but they certainly are workhorses. Having neutrals in light, medium and dark values are essential, in my opinion.

      • I have many neutrals in my palette. I am more interested in the value (light, medium or dark) than the actual color, per se. I pick the ones that I think are the best for me, but I will always “audition” a color, whether it is neutral or not. Neutrals, like colors, can vary from dye lot to dye lot, and some are more readily available than others. So, when I find a great one, I might buy two! Having a palette is a framework, not a restrictive code.

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