Spring Cleaning Your Wardrobe? How Paint Swatches Can Help

May 12, 2015 Updated: May 12, 2015    

We can all recite the mantra of closet-cleaning by now: Toss unrepairable items, give away or sell wearable items that don’t fit your style, and only keep the clothes that will do the most for you. 

Simple, right? But how do we define what fits or does not fit one’s style? The hardest part about weeding your wardrobe is defining your parameters.

Take some time to plan your attack before diving in. It will save you time in the long run—not just for this season, but for all following ones.

Color is one area that can benefit from a little foresight. Using paint swatches from the hardware store, you can easily create a color palette that will help you decide what to keep and what to toss—as well as what to buy in the future.

In the following step-by-step guide, we’re going to create a range of neutrals, subdued colors, and accent colors which will form the basic palette of your wardrobe. Not only will it suit your tastes, it will have enough flexibility to take you through each season, not to mention the fact that it’s almost impossible to go wrong dressing with a limited palette.

 

From your selections, edit down the swatches to 12: four neutrals (bottom left), subtle colors (top), and brights  (bottom right). (Petr Svab/Epoch Times)
From your selections, edit down the swatches to 12: four neutrals (bottom left), subtle colors (top), and brights (bottom right). (Petr Svab/Epoch Times)

A Little Field Trip

1. Visit a hardware store that has a paint department. Locate the wall of paint swatches.

2. Grab whatever colors you love best. Don’t think about what you think you look good in, what clothes you have already, and don’t edit yet.

3. Lay them out where you can see them all. Are they mostly neutrals like cream, navy, and black? Or did you grab a whole bunch of loud purples and greens?

4. Now ask yourself whether you can build an entire wardrobe around these colors. If you are missing neutrals, grab some neutrals you like; if you are missing accent colors, pick a few you could see yourself wearing. (To our Manhattan readers unaccustomed to wearing anything but black: we can accept otherwise tame shades such as tan and olive as accent colors. That’s the beauty of this exercise—”neutral” and “accent” mean different things to different people.)

5. Look again at your range of colors. Make sure you have a range of light, medium, and dark colors so that you’ll have contrast in your outfits. Replace swatches as necessary with the aim of whittling down the selection to four neutrals, four subdued colors, and four bright/accent colors.

An example of some pairings possible from a limited palette. Imagine that each of the colors is a top, bottom, or accessory. (Petr Svab/Epoch Times)
An example of some pairings possible from a limited palette. Imagine that each of the colors is a top, bottom, or accessory. (Petr Svab/Epoch Times)

6. Imagine each of these colors as a top, a bottom, or an accessory. How often would you be able to wear that? For me, bright orange would work great as a scarf or belt—horrid as pants, and only passable as a top. However, some colors you deem accent could work beautifully as a dress, a coat, or other garment with a lot of surface area.

Back Home

When you’re pretty confident that your color selections reflect your style and play nicely with each other, take your 12 swatches home. Time to compare them to your current wardrobe.

Do the clothes you have reflect the colors you love? Why or why not?

What colors do you dislike, but find yourself wearing? Is there a similar color in your palette that can replace it? For example, a friend of mine despises black but wears it because it’s easy to coordinate. For her, I’d suggest “near-blacks” like charcoal gray or deep aubergine—dark enough to go with just about anything, but not so somber.

From the limited palette you could form a variety of fall-appropriate outfits in such colors as these. (Petr Svab/Epoch Times)
From the limited palette you could form a variety of fall-appropriate outfits in such colors as these. (Petr Svab/Epoch Times)

 

You could also make spring- and summer-appropriate outfits in such colors as these. (Petr Svab/Epoch Times)
You could also make spring- and summer-appropriate outfits in such colors as these. (Petr Svab/Epoch Times)

Do you have items in colors that lie way beyond the range of your palette? Keep them for now, with an eye toward finding a version of it that works with other items. Maybe that neon green could be more useful as a necklace than as a top. (If you’re adventurous, dye otherwise good items colors you would wear. Rit makes a great range of dyes that you could use at home.)

Going forward, keep a photo of your swatches easily accessible on your phone; when you’re shopping, let them be your guide. Though your palette is restricted to 12 shades, you can own any variety of items in those colors, yielding virtually endless harmonious outfit combinations.

Your palette isn’t meant to be restricting, however. Once you have all your basic building blocks, part of the fun is occasionally straying from it.