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Define Your Style with Colors & Neutrals

2024 Style Series
April 4, 2024
2024 DFMD Style Series

Whether you love to wear a little color or a lot, it’s wise to think about the role color plays in our wardrobe and how to use it to our best advantage. Especially as we try to define our personal styles, we want to make sure that we are choosing colors that align with our style goals. So let’s talk today about how to define your style with colors and neutrals that really speak your lingo.

Note: We’re continuing our Define Your Style…Refine Your Wardrobe style series. If you’re new to the series, I suggest you start HERE. And you can always find the full series in the top menu of the blog. Also be sure you’ve at least begun to Define Your Personal Style and have read my Tips for How to Express Your Personal Style.

Define Your Style with Colors & Neutrals

I believe it’s smart to work with a limited color palette in your personal wardrobe. That way you can truly curate a closet of clothes and outerwear that mix and match beautifully, multiplying the uses you get out of the pieces you’ve invested in. And since the second phase of our current style series, Define Your Style...Refine Your Wardrobe, does imply a more slimmed down closet, I’ll be building a case for that kind of self-imposed limitation here. But if you prefer to accumulate the full rainbow of colors in your closet, that’s perfectly fine.

reversible tank
wide leg linen pants // reversible tank in indigo/white // cropped linen jacket in simply green // sun shower brooch // earrings (c/o) // tote no longer available (alternative) // sandals // as seen in this original blog post

Let’s Think About What Colors Communicate

At any rate, before we talk about narrowing down our color palette, let’s educate ourselves on what colors communicate and, more specifically, what they say about us when we wear them.

A few things we probably know instinctively.

  • Red, especially worn in the workplace, can communicate that you are decisive, assertive, driven, and focused on the goals.
  • Worn in social situations, red sometimes comes across as daring, sexy, determined, bold and confident.
  • Blue may make others feel like you are trustworthy, solid and easy to work with.
  • Wearing blue may also signal to others that you are an emotionally sensitive person, especially in circumstances where that is needed. Blue can have a calming effect on other people.
  • Green might convey growth, youthfulness, good health, vibrance and a fresh take on life.
  • Depending on the shade of green you’re wearing, it could also communicate an earthiness or an attachment to the outdoors. Or a more vibrant green can generate excitement and joy.
  • Yellow might spark joy in those who see you wearing it.
  • Orange can actually evoke trust (as can other warm colors), but it can also spark appetite for food, energize and warm.
  • Black generally implies power, decisiveness, authority, even intelligence (think black robes worn by judges and graduates).
  • But black can also indicate danger, wrong-doing (think black and white stripes worn by referees) and strength (think black belt in karate).
All Neutrals Spring Outfit
Southampton pants in rattan // Johnny collar sweater (c/o) // jacquard mac coat (c/o) // quilted tote // earrings // necklace (not available – similar option and here in silver) // sunglasses // similar shoe option // as seen in this original blog post

But colors by themselves do not send the entire message, of course. And color associations are also cultural and regional, as well as determined by personal experience. So while it’s smart to consider these color associations, they don’t have to be the deciding factor when we’re determining the colors of our wardrobes.

I would simply suggest that if you are in a profession where you do need to be seen in a certain way by your clients, students, customers, patients, employees, etc., you may want to take a deeper dive into color associations. Not only do you not want to send mixed messages with your color choices, but you actually might enjoy using color to your advantage.

Cassius Slingback Pumps
cropped jeans // vest tank // jacket (more economical option) // slingback // as seen in this original blog post

How Do Colors Make You Feel?

For the rest of us, especially at this stage in life, I think it’s more important (and fun!) to consider how colors make us feel when we wear them. Getting dressed for our day actually sets us up to interact with those around us with more confidence and grace. And when we wear colors that make us feel what we want to feel, we can approach life with even more gumption.

White Trousers Dressier Look
Pleated Straight-Leg Sneaker-Grazer Pants // Shadow Berry Print Embroidered Collar Blouse // Merino Cashmere Silk Lace Stitch V Neck Sweater in blossom pink // Pearl Detail Nappa Kitten Sandal in ivory (sized up 1/2 size to 10 because they don’t carry a 9.5) // necklace // bracelet // earrings (use code KAY15 at Gingiberi for 15% off sitewide: )

My personal color palette definitely includes colors and neutrals that make me feel certain ways when I wear them. When I wear red I feel bold. When I wear black I feel a little more solid, more like me. When I wear blue I feel calm and serene. I’ve enjoyed adding lavender to my wardrobe these past months, and it makes me feel very feminine, quite lovely really. The shades of pink that I choose to wear generally make me feel happy, joyful and a little playful. And I like to wear white and beige and light grey when I want to kind of blend in and feel a little less “noisy.”

Rayon, linen, cotton, spandex
graphic tee // Lauren Conrad unlined blazer // earrings // shoulder bag (more economical option at Kohl’s) // as seen in this original blog post

Think about the colors you’ve been wearing lately. How have they made you feel when you wore them? Spend some time on this. I had to really think through these a bit. But I think it’s an exercise worth doing. And that leads to our next topic…

What Colors Best Communicate Your Style?

Remember in the blog post How to Define Your Personal Style we learned to define our style with three style angles. Consider those three style angles you selected now. Mine are classic, elevated and effortless. What are yours?

Lauren Conrad wide-leg cropped pants
 short sleeve t-shirt // Lauren Conrad Super High Rise Wide Leg Crop Pants // Nike Waffle Debut sneakers // Lauren Conrad Short Trench Coat // earrings // as seen in this original blog post

Now the next question to ask yourself is simply do the colors in my wardrobe help or hinder in communicating those three style angles? I don’t think we can expect the colors we wear to carry the burden alone, but they can certainly help or hinder.

For instance, if your style angles were edgy, urban and modern then pink might not be one of your best choices. Or if you did want to wear pink you may need to offset it with lots of black or grey. And maybe you wouldn’t want to add bright green to your wardrobe, but army green could work really nicely for you. See my reasoning?

pintucked linen-stretch slim-leg pants // navy palm tank // lightweight white double-breasted jacket // mixed-pattern square scarf // linen slides // bucket bag // earrings (c/o) // bracelet (c/o)
pintucked linen-stretch slim-leg pants // navy palm tank // lightweight white double-breasted jacket // mixed-pattern square scarf // linen slides // bucket bag // earrings (c/o) // bracelet (c/o) // as seen in this original blog post

So maybe we could choose most any colors to convey our personal style, but we need to know how to work with them or even combine them to achieve the desired effects. Would you agree?

red tulip Slub Crew Neck Swing Vest // necklace (use code KAY15 for 15% off) // earrings (use code KAY15 for 15% off) // as seen in this original blog post

So yeah, I don’t think we need to rule colors out here necessarily when it comes to choosing shades that communicate our style. But we definitely need to think through how we’ll need to manipulate a color to speak our style when we’re thinking about bringing it into our wardrobe.

Which Colors Look Best On You?

The next question we generally need to ask when we’re choosing colors for our wardrobe is simply what looks good on me. You may want to have your colors analyzed by a professional. You could use a service like House of Colour if they have a representative in your area. It looks like a lot has changed in color analysis since I had mine done about 40 years ago. Ha! And if nothing else, I think having a professional help you determine your best colors gives you a little more confidence in selecting the ones you’ll wear.

My Favorite Talbots New Arrivals for April 2024
smocked blouse (TTS; wearing a M) // high waist relaxed jeans (TTS; wearing an 8) // quilted tote // slingback flats (TTS) // earrings // as seen in this original blog post

At the time, I was analyzed as a summer who could also wear winter colors, both of those being cool tones, some deeper and others softer. I do still think those are the best colors for me. But I also understand that sometimes our best colors can change a bit as we age.

white lined linen pants // tank top (more economical option) // blazer (more economical option) // slingback pumps // tote no longer available // necklace // earrings // link bracelet // hinge bangle // As seen in this original blog post

Primarily you want to consider your skin tone and undertones, your hair color and your eye color. If you don’t want to have your colors professionally analyzed, I suggest you simply ask a trusted friend or two to help you decide which colors help you look your best. The best colors for you will light up your eyes, make your skin look healthy and simply put you in a favorable light. The colors you may want to stay away from are those that generally make you look less healthy and vibrant. Most of us do our best to stick with either warm or cool shades.

chic, modern style hack
short shirt (TTS) // pullover sweater (TTS) // tote // jeans (TTS) // sandals (similar, more economical) (TTS) // earrings // as seen in this original blog post

Another way to help you determine the best colors for your wardrobe is simply to reflect on the colors you’re wearing when people compliment you on your appearance. Because I’ve not worn it before this year, I’ve been a little surprised by how many compliments I get when I wear lavender. Maybe there are colors you’ve written off before that would actually look beautiful on you.

Spring Wardrobe Essential: Cotton Pullover Sweater

I also think we have to take into consideration the colors we’re just naturally drawn to, the ones that we enjoy wearing. In my experience, those may not always be the colors you are told to wear by an analyst. But if they make you happy, you may look your best in them simply because they resonate with you personally. In those cases, I simply try to find the best tone of that color to work with my coloring.

Select Your Signature Colors

I suggest you select your signature colors before choosing your neutrals. We’ll get to those next. But your signature colors are the colors that you believe will best tell your story for this season. 

Wear Your Favorite Spring Color with White
Belfast English Peacoat in white triple fleece // Bella Italian Sweatpant in white triple fleece // Joedy Boyfriend Button-Up Shirt in wide white and blue stripe superfine cotton // as seen in this original blog post

These are the colors that:

  • you naturally prefer and reach for.
  • you enjoy wearing.
  • you get compliments in.
  • you love.
  • make you feel like you.
  • make you happy.
  • fit your lifestyle
  • help you stay inside your personal style angles and express them well.

I suggest narrowing down your signature colors to 3-6. These colors can change with the seasons or with the trends. It’s really up to you. For instance, you may want to have one set of signature colors for spring and summer and another set for fall and winter. They also can change year to year. You’re not stuck with these forever.

Silk Slip Skirt
slip skirt in burgundy // cashmere sweater in burgundy // necklace // bracelet // earrings and pumps no longer available // as seen in this original blog post

I have decided that my signature colors for this spring and summer will be pink, green, red, lavender and blue. There will be little to no yellow, orange or burgundy in my wardrobe. And I think this is the first time in a while that I’ve had as many as five colors. Usually I stick with four. To me, the fewer the colors, the tighter the wardrobe and the easier it is to get dressed each day. A tighter color palette also makes it much easier to pack for vacations.

high waist relaxed jeans
short sleeve jean jacket (TTS; wearing M) // ribbed racerback tank (TTS; wearing M) // high waist relaxed jeans (TTS; wearing an 8) // sneakers // earrings // as seen in this original blog post

So in essence, I’m suggesting you don’t try to wear or allow into your closet ALL the colors a color analyst might tell you that you can wear. In my experience, it’s great to know ALL the colors I CAN wear beautifully, but having that many colors in my wardrobe is overwhelming. So I encourage you to select from that wider group just 3-5 that you will purposefully include in your wardrobe for a couple of seasons. These will be your signature colors for that time period.

Select your neutrals

Once you’ve selected your signature colors you’re ready to choose your neutrals. Think about which neutrals – black, grey, brown, camel, navy, burgundy or olive – work best with the signature colors you’ve selected. (By the way, blue denim is a gimme. You do not have to include it in your signature colors or your neutrals.)

Spring Wardrobe Essential: Neutral Tote
white jeans (TTS; wearing 8 Misses) // cotton sweater (TTS; wearing Misses M) // trench coat (TTS; wearing medium) // nude slingbacks (TTS) // neutral tote // double necklace // earrings // as seen in this original blog post

Here are a few other considerations when choosing neutrals:

  • If black looks too stark on you, consider going with grey. It’s softer on aging skin.
  • If you spend a lot of time in blue jeans, you might want navy to be one of your neutrals.
  • You might want to decide whether you’ll mostly wear white or off white. That may influence your choice of your neutrals.
  • Your neutrals will generally be the colors you’ll want to have for your wardrobe essentials, such as t-shirts, dress slacks, trench coat, etc. So they need to “play nicely” with the colors in your closet.
Theo Perfect Tee
Wexford Wide Leg Linen Pant in cement Italian performance linen // Eileen Relaxed Button-Up Shirt in white classic linen // Theo Perfect Tee in white heritage jersey // loafers // as seen in this original blog post

I suggest choosing only two to three neutrals (besides white or off white) if possible. During the spring and summer I will be wearing black, beige or oatmeal and white. I do love grey, camel and navy, but, while I may wear some of those neutrals I already own, I won’t be adding new items in those colors to my wardrobe this spring or summer.

Elevated Jeans and Sweater Outfit for Spring
heather linen rolled-neck pullover // trench // similar Frame jeans (more economical option) // retro trainers (and here) // handbag (more economical option) // earrings // bracelet 1 // bracelet 2 // as seen in this original blog post

You might want to get on a graphics website like Canva and create your own color palette. You could download it onto your phone to have when shopping. Or you could create an album with swatches or even use crayons to create a very simple palette chart on an index card.

You may notice from my color palettes above that I’m wearing more colors this spring and summer, whereas I wore more neutrals in the fall and winter. That doesn’t necessarily mean I’ll wear color more days, mind you. Haha! I still love my neutrals. But I’ve simply filled my spring and summer closet with a wider variety of colors and fewer neutrals. At any rate you can see from my color palette for this past fall and winter and the palette for the upcoming months that your colors can change. This can be a fluid thing and only you get to set the rules. Enjoy!

Throw in some accent colors if you desire.

You’re not actually limited to the neutrals and signature colors you’ve chosen. But these will simply make up the bulk of your wardrobe. If you still want to wear the other colors in the rainbow, just use them as accents – maybe in jewelry, shoes, scarves, handbags. You’ll want to choose accent colors that compliment or contrast with your signature colors and work with your neutrals.

lightweight white jacket and scarf
pintucked linen-stretch slim-leg pants // navy palm tank // lightweight white double-breasted jacket // mixed-pattern square scarf // linen slides // bucket bag // earrings (c/o) // bracelet (c/o) // as seen in this original blog post

What are Your Colors?

I’d love to hear if you have decided on the colors of your wardrobe. Are you joining me in narrowing down your wardrobe so that it works for you better? Let me know. And share with us if you’ve decided on your neutrals and signature colors. And of course, let me know if you have any questions.

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Thanks so much for dropping in. I hope you enjoyed this post in our Define Your Style…Refine Your Wardrobe 2024 style series. You can find the other posts in the series HERE or in the top menu under the heading 2024 STYLE SERIES.

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Blessed for My Day

A number of years ago I went through a difficult time when I felt deeply rejected, forgotten, pushed aside. It caused me to feel angry and hurt. For a while those feelings turned into bitterness. And I nursed that bitterness, and it grew. Bitterness is a dangerous root that grows under the surface of many people’s lives. We may not see it at first, but soon the fruits of that deeply held emotion show. And that fruit is poisonous and not pretty.

Bitterness defiles us. It makes us less than we are meant to be. But it also defiles others. It can poison our families, friendships and other circles. Finally, bitterness warps our perspective. As in the case of Esau, it can lead us to throw away what is precious and devalue what is good. Praise the Lord, I quickly learned that I didn’t want bitterness to take over the garden of my life and, with much work and the help of the Holy Spirit, I rooted it out. You can, too, if you have been allowing bitterness to grow. Trust me, life is so much better when we root out the bitterness and allow good things to grow in our lives instead.

See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled; that there be no immoral or godless person like Esau, who sold his own birthright for a single meal. ~ Hebrews 12:15-16

xoxo, Kay
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13 thoughts on “Define Your Style with Colors & Neutrals

  1. Hunter green, moss green, chartreuse green, lavender water, ruby ice (vey light blue) and navy; all colors in my eyes. I’m considering nude, navy and olive and black for my neutrals. My three angles are bohemian, natural, sporty.
    Does this make any sense? Will it work together?
    Thank you for this post, I needed it!

    1. Sounds great. So very different from mine, but extremely interesting and lovely choices. Thanks for sharing! 💕

  2. Kay, I am really enjoying the Define Your Style, Refine Your Wardrobe series. I have been working on my wardrobe for the past 3-4 years, and your blogs and videos have been a great help.
    For Spring and Summer, my neutrals are navy, tan, and white, and my signature colors are cobalt, turquoise, hot pink, and red. Like you, those colors change a little for Fall and Winter.

    Thanks again for all your helpful information?


    1. Wonderful. Those sound like great choices. I love hearing about these because we’re all so unique.

  3. Thanks, Kay, for your tips. I just add a thing or two here and there now and it does make a difference. The other day our youngest daughter complimented me on my shirt and I knew she‘d seen that shirt before, but on that day I actually tucked it into my jeans instead of letting it flop out. In addition I have lost some weight so I do try to every now and then be intentional in my choices.
    Thanks for the comments on bitterness. We are full-time missionaries and the ministry disappointments often lead me to be bitter. I am working with the help of the Holy Spirit to uproot it!! Unfortunately our oldest son deals with bitterness and it affects the entire family. He has even broken off contact with us. It is a horrible sin.
    God bless you!

    1. You are not alone – we are having the same issue with our son, who is very opposed to our faith,, and it is extremely painful, as I don’t need to tell you. I “pray without ceasing,” as I am sure you do as well!

  4. I have so much trouble following directions because I’m a very visual learner. When you started this series, I went to and downloaded my picture for a free analysis. I printed out a copy of the colors and carry it with me when shopping. My next goal is to compare it to my existing wardrobe to prune out unflattering items (I need an excuse for motivation). The color analysis was so much fun that I did it for my sister and daughters. It’s been a big help to curb my “gotta buy because it’s a deal” attitude!

  5. Hi Kay thank you so much for all your tips , really helpful. I love that you have covered ‘Colour’ for part of our ‘Define your Style’ snd how you have shown us just how important it is . Me personally I for years used to wear so much Black , it was just easy , but I got my colours done last year and I’m a ‘Soft Summer ‘ since then I have grown out the blonde and ket my natural grey come through in my hair and I love it , it is similar to your colour sort of a platinum colour which is what I tried for years to find , Ha! God knew best ! I love wearing navy and blues of different hues , I read if you are tired and wear a gorgeous Baby Blue and ir makes you look so well , and its right I always get compliments wearing this colour(like the blue you wear and look fantastic with) and like you for the first time in my life I have started wearing Lavender and Pink ( Thank you Kay) and realise these as well as Berry and Plums and Teals plus a Soft Green are ‘My’ colours, in summer I an pairing them with my neutrals of Navy, Dove Grey, Ivory, Taupe. In winter my neutrals are Navy, Charcoal and a Mid Grey, , Cassis( a rich Blackcurrant colour I love) and Claret (my best Red). And my Style is ‘Soft Classic/Feminine/Vintage so all these colours suit my wardrobe so well. Thank you so much Kay for this Series , your Inspiration is Phenomenal. . Since retiring last year i had lost my way with my Style and Identity , until I discovered ‘You’ . Many Many Blessings uou do such good work , I hate it when people think its just clothes and fashion , it is not ! Like you say it is about being and presenting your ‘Best Self’ to everyone and it is important . Thank you once again Lovely , Graceful and Beautiful Lady you are a Blessing . And your daily Devotionals are Phenomenal too 💖💞

  6. Kay,

    This is such a fun post! I love all the detail you put in the post about color associations, how color makes us feel personally, how to select your best colors and neutrals, etc. You put a lot of great information here.

    I had my colors analyzed professionally and can honestly say that was the best thing I have ever done in regard to streamlining my wardrobe. I discovered I am an Autumn, and a Deep one at that, meaning the most saturated colors in that palette look best on me. I can pull of a few Spring colors, also, but not many. I love color and do not restrict it in my wardrobe. I just make sure every color I own is flattering for me. My signature colors stay the same year round – teal, coral (apricot and rust orange as well), sage green, rosewood pink (a brown pink), brick red, royal purple. I would say my best color, though, is teal. It is very well represented in my wardrobe. 🙂

    My style angles are classic, feminine, polished. I can achieve this through combining my neutrals (cream, camel, chocolate, warm grays, marine navy) with my colors. I often wear more than one neutral and more than one color at a time. I just make sure some are dominant and some are secondary, so it looks complimentary not overwhelming. I guess the secondary colors would fall into what you called accent colors. Items like earrings, a handbag, a scarf, shoes.

    I admit I have been using your outfit ideas and formulas to find new ways to combine my own items in my wardrobe. I have been having a lot of fun with it.

    By the way, the lavender/wisteria purple on you is PERFECTION. I’d add it in heaps into your wardrobe! The cherry blossom pinks and those mid-baby blues also look fantastic on you. Makes sense, since you said you are a Summer.

    Thanks for this fun post!

  7. The devotional hit home. I once had bitterness too. I thought I was a Christian but I was only religious. It wasn’t until I was truly born again that I was able to let go of bitterness. Those relationships are healed now. Thank God. As far as colors I am an autumn and I look best in warm colors. I can tell how my face is more vibrant in certain colors like warm greens and orange even without makeup. The wrong colors make my skin dull. In the fall it’s easier to wear my colors. I will still wear colors that are not the best on me like navy which I like in spring and summer. I will wear it with my best neutral. Black looks better on me with gold jewelry. The only colors I stay away from completely is cobalt or royal blue and purple. They do nothing for me. I will wear warm shades of purple like lilac in the spring. My spring and summer neutrals are ecru, off white, olive green and navy. In the fall it’s camel, brown and olive green. In the winter it’s off white, camel, brown and black. I wear black year round but I like it in winter the best.

  8. Dear Kay,
    Just want to say how much your content has helped me get dressed for my day! I have limited my color palette as you suggested and what a difference it makes! I used to have lots of clothes of all my favorite colors and patterns and nothing to wear! You taught me to buy the basics-tank, tee, jacket etc in my signature neutrals (navy , gray and ivory)and wow! So many more outfits can be created! Before I never wanted to “waste money” on “boring basics” but that is exactly what I needed. Please keep up the good work you do. It really helps!

  9. I’m loving this series. In 2020 when the world was doing jigsaw puzzles and making sourdough starter, I started purging my closet. I have a nice size closet; all 300 hangers fit just fine and I liked my clothes, but it was just too much stuff. I’ve purged a bit each season and now I’m down to 80 items plus a small capsule (10-12 pieces) for LBD’s and two suits.

    ~My style personality is Classic + Effortless + Minimalist (with the occasional Artsy outfit).
    ~My essential basic neutrals are black, navy, ivory/stone plus white (spring-summer) and gray (fall-winter).
    ~My signature/accent colors are pinks (ranging from blush to deep rose to wine red) and turquoise (ranging from aqua to bright with teal in the fall-winter).
    ~My dressier outfit formula is a color column with a high contrast top layer, but on occasion I go with a low contrast top layer for almost a monochrome look.
    ~My usual OOTD (groceries, appointments, shopping, coffee or wine with friends) is most always jeans or pants with a shirt and a cardigan … for example, light wash fray hem jeans with a white shirt and a blush pink cardigan. Or black jeans with a white t-shirt and a magenta cardigan.

    Thank you for your posts and for this series. I had come a long way in understanding my style, but your posts are a great check to keep me true to my own authentic self. So glad I found you.

  10. I used your suggestion of keeping to a core selection of colors to make it easy to get dressed since I read it last year, and it’s been the best advice (besides buying quality items – which I wear more often). It helped me get ready for my cruise to Iceland last year and when traveling in general. My colors are the same as last year but similar to yours: pinks, corals, blue, and purple. This year I’ve added green after getting many compliments while wearing a green sweater from Talbots I bought last year. Great advice! Thank you!