“If you force me to pick one color, it’d be black… It covers up the things inside of me that I don’t want to be known. Well, for the same reason, black is the color I hate, too…”
You might need some supplies for this journey. You see, we’re about to embark on a colour adventure. We’re going to cast ourselves adrift from the safety of the colour rules and regulations that govern the curvy and plus size fashion world. For our little jaunt we’re going to banish the phrase, “dark, solid colours”. Instead we’ll float past a dazzling kaleidoscope of tones, then paddle on through the ocean of colour mixing possibilities, before we plunge headlong into the waterfall of wearing whatever makes you happy. Scared? Excited? Me too! So, grab your vice of choice – fluffy kitten/chocolate/hard liquor (I’m taking all three by the way) – and let’s set sail.
Actually, there’s something I need to tell you before we get going. You see …*whispers*… I used to wear black. Not just a little bit of black you understand, but a WHOLE WORLD of black. From my thick black tights to my little black miniskirts and oversize black men’s shirts to my black denim jackets and black Dr Martins, black was where it was at. The irony of my chosen look at the time was that I was studying colour! Yet, as a plus size art and design student I felt the need to both conform and to cloak myself in anonymity – I used black as my armour.
Unfortunately, black and those equally reliable “dark, solid colours” are often still purported to be the only colours that curvy women should wear, ensuring that their look is ‘slimming’ and ‘flattering’. Now don’t get me wrong, if black is your thang and it makes you really happy to wear it then go for it, but if you are hiding yourself ‘neath colourless shrouds for fear that people will notice you, that colour will make you look huge, or you wear the same basic colour because you simply don’t know where to start with wearing and mixing colours then don’t worry – the colour cavalry is here!
As those of you who read my blog know, I am totally over the whole black phase of my youth. In fact my current wardrobe is a riot of colour and prints. Wearing colour makes me feel more confident and it’s fun to put together unexpected tones or patterns. Wearing colour is empowering as a curvy woman and I get amazing compliments and comments on my clothes. Quite simply, wearing colour makes me happy.
For those of you wrestling your way out of the monochrome wilderness, you may wonder where on earth you should start. Well, as is always best, let’s start at the very beginning …
THE BASIC COLOUR WHEEL
This is your most basic tool in the colour confidence tool kit for learning what colours go with what. The first circular colour diagram was designed by Sir Isaac Newton in 1666, and what’s fabulous about this little tool is that it enables you to easily pick colours that will work together. How it works is really simple, there are traditionally colour combinations that work together which are found at fixed points on the wheel – these are known as colour harmonies or colour chords. Let’s look at some of the most common.
Colours that appear opposite each other on the wheel will always go together, but, be warned, they are pretty punchy! These colour combos are not for the fainthearted, but they will give you amazingly vibrant results. For most sewing and fashion purposes it’s usually better to let one of the colours dominate and then have smaller accents of the other (unless you are, of course, a colour crazed goddess in which case, go for it!).
These lush tones always sit next to each other on the colour wheel. You can pick any three neighbouring segments and will always create a lovely harmonious palette with your choices. These selections are easy on the eye and easy to wear, a perfect starting place if you are a little colour phobic.
These colours are spaced in equal thirds on the wheel. This is again a vibrant combination where it is better to have one dominant hue with the other two as accents. These striking colour ways are often found on prints, pick out one of the tones for matching accessories and you’re all done.
A variation on the complementary colour palette this picks two colours adjacent your main colour complement. A much softer result than using two straight complementary tones, this combination is almost impossible to get wrong – so perfect for those just dipping their toes in the colour possibility lake.
The colour wheel is immensely useful for starting considering colour mixing in your clothes and your sewing. Start by picking a colour you really love – for me that would be pure scarlet (yes, that says a lot about me I’m sure. Feel free to surmise what you will from the statement … it’s probably right!)
So, if we look at scarlet with each of those colour rules we can see that I have a number of options regarding other colours that will work brilliantly with it.
It really is that simple. You can add black or white to any of the tones on the wheel by moving further towards the edge or add white a make paler tints (found towards the centre) but the premise of the wheel still works. This is why teal always looks so beautiful with purple, or pale pink and mint green are a marriage made in heaven. However, in case the colour science approach doesn’t float your boat, why not turn to the world around us for inspiration?
INSPIRED BY NATURE
Snap photos on your phone of colours that you see everyday and love. Look at the context that they are in and the other tones that work alongside them. If you are short on time or photoshop skills you can find plenty of inspiration online. One of my favourite sites is Design Seeds.
Here you’ll find beautiful photography and accompanying colour palettes.
I could spend hours on here drooling at all the delicious colour combinations. Better still, you can input the colour that you love and see what other colours work well with it. So, if we go back to our scarlet again I could choose from one of these lovely palettes …
Now we’ve covered the basics of colour strategy I’m hoping you feel a little more confident in making colour choices that work for you. Perhaps you can do some more work with your favourite hues to see what colours accent and complement them. Make a Pinterest board or save photo swatches on your computer. Keep a good reference of the colourways that appeal to you and then take a deep breath. It’s time to start using them!
PUTTING IN INTO PRACTICE
So, how do you start to build these colours into your sewing and your wardrobe? First, I would suggest a really good organise to see exactly what you have at the moment. This means sorting your wardrobe into colour sections, going through your shoes and accessories and then doing the same with your fabric stash. You’ll probably be surprised to see what you have in the mix and where your subconscious colour palette lies. I go through phases with colours but over half my wardrobe and fabric stash is in the pink to scarlet spectrum, although it seems I have quite a thing for blue too.
Armed with your new colour knowledge and what you already have, start mixing and matching across and around the colour wheel. Try a bright yellow belt with that cobalt blue dress, an orange cardigan with a scarlet skirt … try on existing garments and drape your fabric stash across you until you find combinations that feel right for you. Make a list of accessories that would add an extra colour pop to several of your outfits and shop with a sense of purpose to fill these wardrobe colour gaps. Shoes are always a wonderful way of adding colour to an ensemble.
When addressing your fabric stash in particular, think of trims that could add an extra colour “pop” on your finished items, how about some contrast binding on your sleeveless tank, or a ribbon braid at the bottom of your skirt, why not add a contrast colour collar to that little shirtdress … once you start mixing and matching colours you become more and more unafraid. What’s more you’ll start to feel and look more confident
In part 2 of Curvy Colour Confidence we’ll venture into the murky water of prints, making pattern work for you and how to tackle clashing colours.
In the meantime I’ll leave you with some photos of my fellow Curvy Sewing Collective editors rocking their individual colour personalities.
Embrace the rainbow!