Updating My Personal Colour Palette | Colour Draping

colour palette in front of clothes in my closet

In 2021, I wrote a series of posts about Personal Style, sharing the things I had been learning about defining your style, curating your closet to the size that is right for you, choosing pieces that work well for your body type and creating a personal colour palette. While I had discovered a lot of good things in the post about colour, I also wrote:

“After looking into it and taking a self quiz, I discovered that I am either a Soft Summer or a Soft Autumn. I can’t decide which, so I chose to put myself right in between both! …. I think that I fall a bit more towards the Soft Autumn palette, because as I looked back through my favourite outfits on my blog, I realized that some of my colour choices need to be a little bit warmed up.”

Well, we all make mistakes, and that was one of mine! I spent that entire post creating a warm toned personal colour palette for myself, completely missing the fact that I actually lean more cool toned. While I can wear some warmer colours well, my best colours have a cool undertone.

So, how did I figure out that I had this completely backwards? Back in the spring my mom and sister and I spent an afternoon colour draping in order to find which colours are our personal best. In this method, you drape different tones and shades and study in the mirror to see how they effect your complexion etc. We followed this excellent guideline. 

colour draping with orange and pink fabric

The first step is to determine whether you are cool or warm, and immediately after draping the orange and fuchsia fabrics, we could see that all three of us have a cool undertone. You should be able to tell when you drape these two colours. The orange fabric made me look sallow and brought out all of the dark spots in my skin, while the pink, though not a good shade for me, looked much better. It’s hard to see the difference in the photos I took, unfortunately, but you can sort of see that my skin looks brighter in the pink, and a bit more dull in the orange. Some people may have a very dramatic difference, while for others it may be not as clear. Through draping different shades of each colour ranging from dark to light, and muted to clear, we were able to pinpoint which shades worked the best for each of us.

I see colour analysis as a gradient, with your best colours on one side. These colours enhance your beauty and make you look vibrant and alive without any extra work. The colours that are “OK” are in the middle. They don’t make you shine quite as much as your best colours, and you might need to compensate with styling, but they don’t make you look sickly either. And then on the other side are your worst colours which will make you look like you’re ready to roll into a coffin.

And so, this is how I figured out that my best colours, with a few exceptions, are ones that look like they have been desaturated, or smokey, but not earthy. A lot of my best colours align with the Soft Summer colour seasons palette: muted shades that have grey added to them. In comparison, Autumn features warm shades that are muted with the addition of brown. There were some surprising results, and going through the draping process revealed my bias towards colours I like, but that aren’t actually my best colours. Thus, my personal colour palette has changed a bit from my previous post…

switching the colours in my old personal palette to choose better ones

In the palette I created back in 2021, I chose these colours:

  • Brown
  • Cream
  • Tan / Camel
  • Navy / Blue
  • Cinnamon
  • Black
  • Olive
  • Peach
  • Ochre

I got this wrong! The colours I should have chosen are:

  • Brown
  • Pearl / Mushroom
  • Taupe
  • Navy / Blue
  • Black
  • Sage
  • Dusty rose

Some of those original colours still work great, but the warmer shades are better converted to cool ones.

swatches of neutral tones in my personal colour palette

  • For neutrals, my best choices are pink beige, mushroom or taupe shades, and I should stay away from yellow beiges and tans. Interestingly, I should have been able to figure this out years ago, because my winter coat isn’t a true camel colour, but actually has a pink brown undertone. How did I not see that?
  • A surprise was that brown is actually not a bad colour for me! (Which is good because I really like brown!) While warm browns aren’t my best choices, they fall into that middle “OK” category.
  • As for my “white”, I look best in off whites, with a bit of a pink or grey undertone, rather than bright white, cream or ivory which make me look ill.

swatches of blue and green in my personal colour palette

  • Navy is a good colour even though it is dark. Blue is, unsurprisingly, one of my best colours.
  • Dusty rose, mauve, blush and lavender are also good colours for me. I’m excited to add pink to my wardrobe, but don’t really have plans to add lavender, since it doesn’t go with much else and I am not drawn to shades of purple.

swatches of shades of pink in my personal colour palette

And then here is where I chose to “break the rules”.

  • Black is not a bad colour, although it’s a bit too intense for head to toe, but I can wear it without looking completely washed out. I have lots of pieces that I really like in black (including my glasses!), however, like I spoke of in that original post two years ago, I treat black as an accent colour, not as a neutral. I don’t pair very many other colours with black because the contrast is too great for me.

wearing black with neutrals compared with other colour

The black paired with tan is softer than black paired with colour. 

  • Grey is one of the best colours for a cool undertone, and it is a good colour on me… but I don’t like grey! I have had some pieces over the years, but I’ve slowly gotten rid of almost all of the grey pieces I have in my closet. This is an example of using the colour analysis as a jumping off point, but then personalizing it to your own taste. If you don’t like a colour, just because it “looks good on you” doesn’t mean you have to wear it.
  • As for my beloved mustard yellow and ochre, I’ve decided to steer clear of it for tops and pieces that are near my face. I still love mustard yellow, but I just don’t love it on me, so I’ll keep it for accessories, such as bags or tights.

patchwork bag with wooden handles

  • Regarding those warm browns, cinnamons and beiges…I am not eliminating them from my closet, because I love them too much! However, I have moved many of them to pieces that aren’t close to my face. That is the biggest part of colour analysis: you can wear any colour as a skirt or shoes, but not every colour looks the best as a blouse or scarf.
  • And, as for my post in 2021 about “warming things up” I do still think this works well for me with accessories, such as my cognac purse and shoes. They keep my cool coloured outfits from becoming too dark and contrasted, like they would if I was to pair them with black accessories. I think what I was unknowingly getting at from that observation, was to create outfits that are more muted, not necessarily warm. One of my favourite colour combinations is blue paired with brown, and when I think about it, that is a more muted and soft colour choice than black and blue is.

brown vs black paired with blue

Pairing blue with brown vs. pairing it with black. The brown is a softer effect.

So, should you try colour draping yourself? Absolutely yes!

When you know which colours are your personal best, it is so much easier to put together your wardrobe and your outfits. An example my sister gave, in regards to wearing black, is that black washes her out so she always feels that she has to compensate with makeup. How much easier it is to wear a colour that makes you look amazing, even if you don’t wear any makeup or go to great lengths with your accessories!

Finding my best colours has been so helpful for me to realize why I gravitate to wearing certain things in my wardrobe, and why other outfits feel a little “off”. I love warm colours such as mustard, cinnamon, olive and camel, however, when I wore those colours they didn’t look as good as I had hoped they would. I know a couple of ladies who look amazing in mustard yellow, however, when I wear it I look a little peaky and you notice the clothing, but not me. It just never worked as well on me, and didn’t make as much of an impact as it does on those ladies.

Even if you are hesitant to drape your colours like I used to be, because you don’t want to “limit yourself”, knowing which colours are your best is an incredibly helpful tool as you shop and choose outfits. (And, remember, if you know the rules, you can creatively break them!) Finding your colours doesn’t limit you to only a part of the swatch book, but helps guide you to finding pieces that make you look great without even trying. I’ve personally started wearing a lot more blue in the past few months and have been more intentional about shopping for pieces that are good for my colouring while skipping the sections that aren’t. I’ve also changed my sewing plans for certain fabrics, because I realized that I wouldn’t like them as dresses and they would work much better as skirts. Thus, I’ve saved myself a lot of frustration of going to the effort of sewing something new, only to not like how it turned out.

two fabrics with warm orange undertones

I made both of these fabrics into skirts instead of dresses, once I realized they were too warm toned.

Finding your best colours also doesn’t mean you have to clear everything out and start over. From this point on, as you shop or sew, focus on your new personal colour palette and those older pieces will either slowly wear out or rotate out as you find new pieces. Of course, if you really love a colour and it makes you feel great when you wear it, then wear it with confidence!

But, in conclusion, yes I highly recommend trying out colour draping and creating a personal colour palette for your closet! And if you don’t get it right the first time, don’t worry…in a few years you’ll probably figure it out! Just kidding (I hope)!

Have you ever “gotten your colours done” before, or draped your own? Do you have a personal colour palette for your wardrobe? How do you include colours you love which aren’t your personal best?