How to Build a Wardrobe of the Right Neutral Basics For You


A while back I created my outfit formula to help you think about the different elements you need in an outfit.  There is no single formula that works for everyone (such as a dark , a light, colour and a print which I’ve seen claimed as the ultimate outfit formula that works for everyone) as this is way too simplified and doesn’t take into consideration your unique beauty and features.   It doesn’t take into consideration your colouring and contrast, your texture, sheen or pattern and what harmonises with you).

What there are instead are guidelines you can think about, relating back to your body, your hair and skin texture, your skin pattern or evenness, your body proportions and shape plus of course, not missing out your personality (the most important part).

Instead of looking for a one size fits all formula (and we all know in clothing that one-size-fits-all really means one size fits a few people who are a similar size and all look kind of like each other),  this formula is a recommendation of the elements of a good outfit.

The formula you need to create fabulous outfits every day - click here to see the formula in action


Let’s Talk About Basics – What Are They and What Do You Need in Your Wardrobe?

Basics are the garments that you wear as the base of your outfit.  They are frequently things like a pair of trousers or jeans, a plain skirt in a neutral colour, a jacket in a neutral or even a simple and plain top.

Wardrobe basics are the glue that binds your outfit together. 

If you just have a wardrobe of heroes (or statement pieces) you’ll find it really tricky to get dressed (unless you’re one of those super creative and eclectic types who and mix everything and make it look amazing, not like you got dressed in the dark).

But build a wardrobe of only basics and you’ll be bored out of your brain and feel that your look is dull and uninspiring.  This is why they are a part, but not the whole of your wardrobe.

Tips for Buying Basics

Buy them in your best neutrals – what are your best neutrals?  If you’ve had a personal colour analysis (such as the one you get in my 7 Steps to Style program) you’ll get a palette of great colours, inside this will be a range of great neutrals.  From that, pick your best ones.  These will be signature colours (so may be the same as your skin, hair or eye colour).  Read up here on how to find the right undertone neutrals for you.

Also, look for non-dull basics (I wrote about them here), to stop them from being too boring.

How to Build Your Wardrobe Basics for Your Ideal WardrobeBest Dark Neutral

Depending on how light or dark your colouring is naturally – if you have dark hair – this is going to be your best neutral and one to buy lots of garments in such as:

  • Trousers
  • Top
  • Cardigan
  • Jacket
  • Skirt
  • Dress
  • Shorts/cropped pants
  • Shoes

This will give your wardrobe a versatile starting point.

How to Build Your Wardrobe Basics for Your Ideal Wardrobe


Above is an example of the proportional difference of dark basics as compared to light basics for someone who has dark hair (imagine dark hair that is greying – this would be ideal).

If you have light hair, you’ll want to invest in some basics in your best dark neutral, but you’ll find that your version of dark is not as dark as someone who had dark hair.

What’s your best dark neutral if you have light hair?  It may be a darker version of your hair (particularly if you have grey or light brown hair), but more likely it’s a darker version of your eye colour – so blue eyes – think a mid-navy, green eyes think an olive-khaki, brown eyes – brown.    Rather than get one of everything in your best dark neutral, instead go more for bottoms in your best dark neutrals (as they are further away from your face):

  • Skirt
  • Pants
  • Shorts/cropped pants
  • Top

And if you work in a business environment, add a jacket to this list as you need to ensure that you have some dark to give you more credibility and power (which dark colours do for you).

Why did I include a top in your best dark neutral?  Well so you can create a column of colour in it with your darker bottoms, but still, have your ideal value with your light jacket over the top (being the larger proportion close to your face and so harmonious with your overall ideal value).

Best Light Neutral

What’s your best light neutral?  For a blonde or silver foxette it will be something relating to your hair colour, for a red-head it will be a caramel or tan, for a brunette you’ll be looking for either a light beige (that flatters your skin colour) or a greyed version of your eye colour (so green-grey for green eyes, blue-grey for blue eyes etc.), this is why white is my new black – when I had dark brown hair it looked black and so black was my go-to-dark-neutral.  Now that I’m a light platinum blonde – white is more reflective of my ideal value and tones well with my hair colour.

Your best light neutral may not be really light – it may be medium light or even medium in value (that is how dark or light it is), depending on your ideal value.    Here (below) is an example of the proportional difference in how much of your light neutral and dark neutral you’d need if you had overall light hair (and this set is for someone who is a silver foxette with just a little of her darker hair left, or who has dark eyes).

How to Build Your Wardrobe Basics for Your Ideal Wardrobe

If you’re overall ideal value is light then build your wardrobe basics from this best light neutral:

  • Top
  • Trousers
  • Jacket
  • Cardigan
  • Shorts/Cropped Pants
  • Skirt
  • Dress
  • Shoes

If a white is your best light neutral – do pick the right one – remember that you want to choose a white that tones with the whites of your eyes .  Too bright a white will wash you out, to yellow-white (if you’re cool) will make you look ill.  Just like with white paint colours for walls, there are many whites in clothing stores and choosing a good white will make you glow.

If you’re overall ideal value is dark, then just get a smaller selection of basics in your best light neutral:

  • Top
  • Skirt
  • Shorts

Don’t overdo too many items in your wardrobe in the neutral that is less related to your ideal value as you want more of your outfit to be in your best value that relates to your hair colour rather than the neutral that is good for a smaller percentage of your outfit.

How to Build Your Wardrobe Basics for Your Ideal Wardrobe

Here is an example (above) of some basics in dark and light neutrals that would suit a cool undertone brunette who has medium-high to high-value contrast, using their hair colour (dark brown) and then a skin colour (rose beige) as their base neutrals.

Your Best Neutrals May Change Over Time

Your best neutrals may change over time – as your colouring changes (or if you make a radical change to your hair colour – as I did).  When I was a dark brunette my best dark neutrals were black, dark brown and deep navy.  Now that I’m a platinum blonde they are medium navy and medium greys.    My best light neutrals were white and a light blue-grey as a brunette. Now as a platinum blonde they are white, and silver-grey.

How to get the right neutral basics for your wardrobe - which neutral to choose? it's based on your hair colourYou are not limited to just choosing one of your best dark or light neutrals for your basics, when you work within a colour palette, these neutrals will have the same undertone and should be able to work together.

Your Value Contrast

Your value contrast will indicate just how light and dark your best dark and light neutrals should be.

how to choose neutrals to base your wardrobe around - finding the right basics for your colouring


For example, here (above) the dark navy suits someone with very dark hair, their ideal light neutral may be the rose beige (if their skin is only medium-light) or it may be the white (if they have very light skin).   The medium-dark navy would be better for someone with medium-dark brown hair and then again, depending on how dark their skin-tone is – they will choose either the medium-light rose beige or the light white that is more related to the value of their skin colouring.

High-Value Contrast (aka light and dark – think Snow White)

For those with high-value contrast, you will want a combination of light and dark neutrals – a greater proportion in your ideal value (hair colour value).   Or if Medium-High value contrast – then medium-dark with light or medium-light with dark.

Medium Value Contrast (aka light with medium or medium with dark or medium light with medium dark) 

Someone who is medium value contrast with an overall light value will have more light and medium to medium-dark neutrals (not really dark neutrals), whilst someone who has deep and dark hair who is medium value contrast will need more of those deep and dark colours and fewer medium-light to medium value neutrals as their best combination of light and dark neutrals).

Low-Value Contrast (light with light, medium with medium or dark with dark)

If you have low-value contrast – then you’ll have a larger selection of neutrals in a similar value – rather than light and dark neutrals, you’ll just need neutrals in your best signature neutral as contrast wears you (rather than you wearing the outfit).

Get the Basics Covered

Now that you’ve got more of a plan of which neutrals are the ones you should go towards, it’s good to think about getting a range of items in those colours, as these are the backdrop to the colours and patterns that you’ll be adding into your outfits in the form of your Interest pieces and Statement/Hero items.

You can see why a simple formula doesn’t exist – and that there is no one-size-fits-all outfit rule that is going to make everyone look fabulous.

 Now read part 2 : Choosing your interest pieces and adding statements to make your outfits fabulous

More Tips on Finding the Best Neutrals for Your Basics

What Are Your Wardrobe Staples?

What’s Your Best Neutral – Blonde Hair

What’s Your Best Neutral – Red Hair

What’s Your Best Neutral – Grey Hair

What’s Your Best Neutral – Brunette



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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  • Imogen, you’ve done it again…genius!! How do you find so many different ways to explain the same concept? Repetition is what it takes for us mere mortals to finally get it!!! After all I have learned from you I am still making mistakes purchasing items in in the wrong value and slightly off colors.
    My brain has been focusing on color rather than the complete formula…..but, no more, thanks to this article.

    You are the best, most generous heart, knowledgeable brain and lovable person ever ?Thank you for all you do, know and share,
    Faithful fan,

    Ha, I still color my hair but I can’t wait until the day I stop and become a Foxette!

  • I have slightly coppery light golden brown hair (very confusing colour, it can look anything from a neutral light brown to a bright copper), ivory skin and greengrey eyes. I have decided to focus on medium to light browns as most of my basics, together with some olives. As a lightest neutral I’ve got ivory (color of my eyes’ whites) and chocolate brown as a darkest neutral, which I will honestly only wear as a bottom or when I have to look professional, a vibe camel doesn’t give all the time.

  • You have not covered the issue of pure white hair. I used to have light brown hair, but now it is pure white. My eyes are hazel.
    What do you recommend as best neutrals?

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