Should You Limit Yourself to a Small Palette of Colours?


Should yo ulimit yourself to a small palette of colours in your closet?

Do think limiting yourself to a small palette of colours in your wardrobe is resctrictive? Or do these boundaries actually create a more freeing opportunity to create a cohesive and functioning wardrobe with less colours?  This is the topic of discussion for Jill Chivers of Shop Your Wardrobe and me in this video.


Should You Limit Your Palette of Colours?

This is an interesting topic. I do believe in limiting ourselves to a rainbow of colours in a palette that suits us as I notice just how much when I see people wearing the colours that harmonise and flatter them how much more vibrant, efficient, alive and effective they look vs, when I see people wearing colours that are unflattering to their complexion, I feel nauseated (truly I do, I feel it in my stomach).  This has come from years of really noticing colour, seeing colour and its affect on skin.

But when I’m talking limited, I mean around 50 000 of the 16 000 000 identified colours (that’s what you get in one of my personal colour analysis‘, though your swatch only contains 50 of that 50 000 colours, but it’s your guide to find those 50 000 colours that will make you glow from within).  Not 3 or 4 colours (and varitations of them). Now this question Jill and I disucss relates back to whether or not you prefer a smaller or larger wardrobe.

Do you prefer more “uniform” dressing or a more “free style” of dressing (think about this and read up this post on Options and Procedures here which may help you decide).  We mention this video (in this video) about the idea of “uniform dressing”.

This video covers the concept of limiting choices being freeing for some, but not for all, which is also why I wrote this post on “before you throw it all out for a capsule wardrobe” as I’ve heard of people in tears, really regretting their decision afterwards as they discover that they are not suited to a minimalist lifestyle or wardrobe.

So tell us, do you prefer to limit your colour choices?  If so, have you had your colours done or is it something you do yourself?  If so, what kind of number of colours do you limit yourself to?  Why do you choose those colours?


Further Reading:

U is for Uniform

How to build your style from ground zero

10 Rules to transform your personal style

How to use your colour swatch to find the 50000 colours you can wear

Jill’s thoughts on colour combining – part 1 and part 2

Discover the colours and styles that suit you with 7 steps to 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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  • I’m in the middle, and my colors depend a lot on what I can buy. I may want to stick to a narrower section, bit if it’s not available, I compromise.

    • I stick to my range of colours that suit – but that leaves me a choice of about 50000 colours! Do you limit yourself to just a few of your available colours – as Jill does with her yellow, orange, turquoise and green wardrobe – or do you go for the whole rainbow in the tones that suit you?

  • I’ve not had my colours done my your method Imogen, so I have a Muted palette from another organisation. I ignore the one or two colours I really dislike and then wear a range of neutral, deep and accent colours from those. Every so often I have an exploration into a new colour (or revisited) colour. So at the moment I’m trying various shades of very dark green as a base instead of navy or brown. Last year I tried a few leather accessories in cognac brown to add some life to my brown pieces. I suspect I have a few more colours than Jill, but less than Imogen. And I have some absolute favourites. My favourite colours morph with the seasons. In Autumn I really enjoy the browns and burnt oranges, then nearer to Christmas more soft red with charcoal or navy, then in spring more warm pink with a taupe or olive and then in summer a change in clothing styles with more skirts and coloured linen jackets. Morphing through the seasons helps them feel fresh!

  • I enjoy our little chats…with you and Jill! Now that I’m 70 with lots of experience behind me, I only wear black pants and every shade of brown jacket or coat I can find ! White and red are my accents. I’m happy with these limits!

  • I have had a personal palette done years ago which is based on what you would call signature colors and a small number of accent colors. This gives me the whole rainbow in at least one shade or tint. I have basic black and very deep cool brown (colors found in my hair), off whites and silver grey (now becoming more dominant in my hair!), a cooler pale peach and dusty rose from my skin tones, 3 hues of green from my eyes, cobalt blue and royal purple, and reds ranging from cranberry to hot pink. This gives me 12 distinct colors (13 if you count red and pink as one each).

    It can be challenging to find styles that suit both my body shape and my palette, but I love having a full range of colors to turn to. The effect of each against one or two of my neutral colors is so different and fun to play with. I love the concept of a capsule wardrobe, especially for traveling, and moving forward into retirement, I am going to focus on a smaller number of pieces than currently fill my closet, but I will definitely continue to utilize my full range of color options, even if mostly in beauty bundles to add color to neutrals.

  • I think Jill has a high colour contrast, maybe that’s why she loves to wear all the colours of the rainbow. As a low colour contrast, I have two warderobe capsules: one red/pink/brown based, the other grey/blue based. And I am happy!

  • As always, love seeing you and Jill.

    I’ve had a PCA based on the SciART system ( Within my Bright Spring palette, I lean towards pink/coral/orange and green/turquoise. Blue/purple also plays a role. Neutrals are dark chocolate, navy, deep green, deep purple and some black …when I can’t find the piece of clothing I want in one of the my preferred colours:-)

    I find limiting the colours in this way gives me lots of choice and helps things work together. These days I can literally get dressed in 5 minutes if I have to and everything works…one of the great blessings of knowing your colours. I use a ‘uniform’ for the same reason – it’s easy and it works. I don’t feel restricted at all as I use scarves and jewellery to add pattern and zip to a basic foundation.

  • I have painted myself into a corner. By carefully building capsules and only buying from my self diagnosed Summer colour palette, I am the proud owner of a complete wardrobe of blue clothes! Both my contrast levels are medium (so blue and two neutrals) and I like uniforms. Everything is working for me right now. There will be more colours in the future when I find the right shades of pink and orchid to complement my beloved blues.

  • It’s so fun watching you and Jill talk. You’re so friendly and open together.

    Like Jill, I feel liberated by having some limitations. I also try to keep my wardrobe small-ish, so I can wear things out before they go out of style, and limiting myself to a few favorite colors helps.

    Besides that, some seasons it feels like only two colors are available ANYWHERE, and if those colors don’t suit you, you’re out of luck.

  • On my style journey, I’ve found that I am happier with less choices. I have a summer color palette. I wear my neutrals, of course, (chocolate, grey, navy, white) and my colors of choice are teal and peacock blue, which are the colors of my eyes, and plum, which contrasts nicely with my eyes. I also wear dusty rose, which is the color of my lips. I make my own jewelry and make pieces that draw these colors together in endless combinations. When I find fabric with combinations of these colors, I buy a bit and make a scarf to help draw garments together. I do wear other shades of these colors (mint and lighter plum… mauve, really) and I have a few pieces in a very blue-tinted red because, well, some days red expresses how I feel, but not often. 🙂

  • Thank you for the time and effort you both put forth creating these videos. It’s such a slow learning process for those of us that “hang on ” your every words.

    i have a limited number of colors in my wardrobe because I am still struggling with finding a wearable solution to your evaluation for me in Seven Steps: medium value contrast; color contrast, two colors plus a neutral in the Spicy pallet.

    At 5’3″ this seems so overwhelming. Tunic tops are way too long for most women, colored tops create a horizontal line. A column of color always works but certainly not something I would wear in a rainbow color. Colored jewelry and scarves help but does that mean we are limited to neutrals for the majority of an ensemble?

    Please, please, Imogen do a post for those of us trying to bring more color into our lives and wardrobes. You are the solution for all things color.

    A faithful fan,

  • It’s interesting that Imogen has a more varied color palette because if asked, I’d have said hers was very limited. It isn’t strictly true, I know, but it seems to me that you always wear blue, and usually a bright royal blue. Frequently with white, sometimes with black, but those two don’t count as colors to me. I have wondered before how you don’t become bored with so much blue so I guess that means I like more colors, myself.

    I do sometimes choose clothing that isn’t in one of my best colors because it seems like every season someone somewhere decides that every new garment made will be available in only 4 certain colors. Frequently, especially in fall and winter, none of those colors are great for me. I don’t look good in any of the colors usually available for fall so I’ll settle for something olive green and try to stretch my summer clothes through our very short fall into winter where I can at least find some grays and maybe burgundy.

    • Yes I wear lots of blue – but from pale sky blue through turqouise to cobalt blues and navy. I also wear pinks, reds, purples and greens, only colours I really avoid are yellow and orange (which makes me look ill). I wear browns, and greys and a little black in my neutrals. I won’t buy clothes in unflattering colours as i’ve learned that it’s a complete waste of money as I never feel good in them. So the clothes I have are in the colours that have been available over the past few years in styles that I like. Sometimes it’s hard to find everything you want, so I just wait it out til the colour I like and flatters me comes around (which it eventually does)

  • I think I’m more with Jill. My closet is mostly blue and pink, with bits of red/burgundy and purple. I recently began flirting with green, teal and turqouise… And black, for me, is a colour. Waiting for my Dramatic swatch to arrive, will start experimenting with more colours when it arrives.

  • I like a wide variety of colours to choose from. I love colour…it makes me feel vibrant and alive. I love the way wardrobes look when people narrow their colour choices down to a handful of shades; it’s very put-together and smart. But I know it’s not for me. Sometimes I feel like wearing classic combinations like red pants, a blue and white stripe top, and nautical accessories. But sometimes I also need to wear a brightly patterned kimono over a colourful blouse. Sometimes I need to wear soft grey with delicate peach and cream; every now and then I simply must wear something black and put on my darkest purple lipstick. I don’t like to limit myself. Looking at my closet, though, you can see a bit of a pattern in all the chaos; almost all my colours are from a light spring/light summer palette, and all of my neutrals are the shades which best flatter a cool-toned blue-eyed blonde. There’s a harmony to it.

  • Brilliant post as always. I had a small observation, which kind of has me thrown. I am Indian, med-dark and work as a makeup artist. This gives me access to observe closely many variations of skin tone and eye colors. I have noticed that most fair skinned Indians are closer to a peachy golden and darker skinned asians have warm undertones (some red/pink starts showing up as they go darker or suprisingly older), with a lot of cool tones in their hair (dark brown, black), eyes (brown, chocolate brown, black and grey rims) and lips (shades of mauve, brown and pink). In my experience using mauves, chocolate browns, taupes as well as jewel tones work well, with respect to makeup. And most jewel tones are considered cool, right?
    I think it is hard to relegate women of color, to either the warm or the cool palette which is the basis of the absolute color system. I think there has to be a mix in there somewhere, which takes both cool and warm tones into account and focuses on intensity of skin color, brightness etc.
    Taking my own example, even though I am warm and med/dark I look my best in royal blues, bright yellows, dark chocolate browns, lavender, dull pinks and whites. Except the yellows and blues, almost everything else is part of my natural coloring. Apart from these colors I tend to gravitate towards warmer colors in general.
    Is this something that you have come across? Especially around women of color? I am very curious to know.

    • In my experience of Indian skins (which wouldn’t be nearly as extensive as yours) is that they tend to be warm. There are darker and lighter Indian skin tones but they still remain on the warmer spectrum. Just some are more golden and obviously warm, while those darker ones are still warm, just not as warm.

      • Thanks for the response Imogen. Thanks for the info on jewel tones being warm as well. I think my question is, if there are a lot of cool tones happening on someone (eyes, hair and lips) along with warm skin, should we be taking that into consideration and adding cool colors to their palette of colors? especially with respect to clothes? (I can tell from experience that, it defenitely works for eye colors and sometimes even lipsticks. But not so much for blushes)

        • Keep it all consistent – warm with warm and cool with cool. There are warm and cool versions of lots of colours like burgundy lipsticks and the like – it’s just learning to distinguish them. you may find taking a colour analysis course helps you to understand this more. There are many who only see a very small percentage of colours as being warm, when in fact there are lots – it’s just because they are not really warm – people think they are cool.

  • Jill is so alive, and she brings you alive too Imogen. I can sense the difference when she is there. She wakes up all around her like a colourful bird singing. I just love her vibrancy. I agree heartily with her comments on feeling freed with a smaller choice of well selected colours. That’s just bliss, freedom, peace, happiness and joy. If they work and work well together, then work it! If you get bored with them (likely not too soon, if they are working well) then add some more or subtract, but a handful working well is better than a rainbow of choice for me. I would feel overwhelmed with so much to choose from. Each to their own and a nod to you if you can handle it, or feel bored easily and need it, but a smaller choice is great. I don’t go so far as to say a capsule wardrobe as I did one of those and found it boring with a capital B in days. So… as with all things… let your inner compass decide.

  • Help! I’m so confused ….I am 68 and I think my coloring has changed..have had my colors done 4 times! 2 times spring..2 times winter..clear colors, nothing muted..have bright blue eyes..sometimes I look shallow ..and can’t get the right hair color to save my life! Natural dark brown(I think) been blonde, brunette , red…going gray.. About 80%… But not ready for that yet! My wardrobe is mixed…get compliments when I wear coral, but red was good in younger days…high contrast with white…softer with winter white and cream….help! What do I do with hair color and make up? So I end up wearing a lot if black..
    Help! Help! Help!

  • Hi Imogen, I know this is an older post but I’m putting a response anyhow. I am colour obsessed, an amateur artist, there are very few colours I dislike although I do have favourites. I talk about colour, notice colour, think about colour all of the time. Having said that I’ve discovered that I prefer to wear and own a limited palette, not to mention a limited number of garments. I think that is for a few reasons. One is that I have only recently discovered or realised that my colouring is very warm. I’ve not had a pca but I believe I am purely warm, not neutral-warm and probably a spring. I love earthy autumn colours and wore them for awhile but realise I look better in clear warm colours. Earthy is a bit overwhelming and heavy on me. I really noticed this when I tried the makeup that is suggested for the Autumn type palettes. Now that I am enjoying and feeling gorgeous in warm colours I find I really want the very warm ones on the orange side of the colour wheel. So while I realise there are warm blues, purples and greens, I look amazing in coral, orange and coral-red and find that’s all I want to wear! Perhaps the novelty will eventually wear off.

    I also have a very casual lifestyle, no need for work clothes, no formal events, small town lifestyle where many people here just live in yoga pants. I have a jeans uniform with a classic and simple style, good quality tees, sweaters or blouses with a pair of jeans-not ripped or faded- and minimal accessories. I can’t stand wearing clutter though I do love a nice scarf. Essentially this is a uniform and I’m very happy with it. Perhaps because I am a painter I don’t feel the need to express myself creatively in clothing. I like not having to put much thought into getting dressed beyond deciding if I want to wear the tomato red sweater or the coral one with stripes. I own about four pairs of jeans and twenty tops spanning the seasons, a few cardigans and about five scarves. I love neutrals but am still just learning to select the right camel and grey, trying to find navy that’s not too dark and I love cream or ivory. I could easily have mostly those colours with a few coloured pieces to enjoy once in awhile. What is available to me definitely does have an impact on what I own. At the moment I am trying and not succeeding at finding a good quality long sleeved tee shirt with a scoop neck in ivory or cream. I’d probably buy three if I could find them.

    • Sometimes the basics can be the hardest to find! I think good quality light colour tees are often really tricky to find as they can too easily be too thin and see through.

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