Friday, March 2, 2012

Textile Friday: Color Me A Wardrobe

            Today we're starting the first of a three part series designed to help you, our customer.  The first question most people invariably ask when presented with the concept of why build a wardrobe in a world of cheap, easy clothing, is "Why should you or I bother to take the time and effort to put together a wardrobe in the first place?" The easy answer is that building a wardrobe will save you time, money, and help you get ahead in life.
          The average American buys 52 items of clothing a year, that's 1 piece a week. That adds up to a lot of waste each year. You can watch this video from last year to get an idea of what that actually works out to in a year of buying.
          Most experts say you should actually be buying 4 pieces a year.  That breaks down to 1 core wardrobe piece and 1 fashion piece per season. Since the average piece of clothing costs $15-20 each, building a wardrobe will conservatively save you directly $720-960 a year just by changing why you shop in a clothing department store. Forget storage or any other indirect costs. This adds up to a huge difference in expenses annually simply by understanding a few principles to selecting clothes that will actually both look good on you and withstand the seasons. Add to that that a well-designed wardrobe with save you time every morning getting dressed and make you look 30 lbs. lighter and we all have a compelling argument to spend a little time thinking about how to look our best. Plus you're saving the environment by producing less waste.
         All good wardrobes are built around a core set of elements. They start with you and feature your natural coloring, body type, and overall trends/fashion. Today we will be starting at the very beginning with color, you can check in next weekend for body type. There are few things worse for a person than a beautiful top in the wrong color. So how then does one select the right colors for one?
        The answer is that one starts first with one's skin, then hair color, and finally eye to determine what colors to use in their wardrobe. When looking at skin there is the underlying color and the actual shade of the skin itself. There are 3 underlying skin colors in the world. They are the primary colors: blue, red, and yellow or gold. Blue is more common in Northern European and Russian descent skin types. Red is more common in Latino, Middle Eastern, and African skin tones. Yellow is more common in Asian and Indian skin tones. Skin tones can vary within family and you can be a mix. For example, I have completely blue undertones and strong Irish coloring, while my brother pulls from more of our great-grandmother's Italian side so he has some red undertones in addition to blue. If you have questions on how to determine your underlying skin type you should visit a department store make-up center and look for an older, more experienced saleswoman who will actually know what they are talking about. Estee Lauder does a particularly good job of training their salesforce so I like to recommend them if at all possible. The salesperson will need to look at your wrist to determine if your veins look yellow, blue, or red.
         Your underlying skin color will determine what types of fabric dyes will look best with your skin. Otherwise your skin will lose it's luster making you look old and bringing out your wrinkles. Most people believe that the primary fabric colors are standard across the world for clothing. They are not. Dyers generally add 4 parts per 10,000 of the particular base color: blue, red, and yellow in different parts of the world to bring out the underlying color and make your eyes sparkle and skin have luster to it. Otherwise, it will result in skin that looks ashen and sick. This is why one color may do wonders for you while the same color in a slightly different shade will not be flattering. For example, true yellow makes people with blue undertones look sick. True blue makes people with red undertones look ashen. And true red in people with yellow undertones makes them look florid or intoxicated. Where your fabric was processed in the world will often have an effect of making you look to years older or younger by effecting your natural skin tone. In the US, fabric is often marked with it's country of origin. I have a very hard time wearing true yellow without some blue mixed in. No matter what other colors you use, you should look out for this problem when selecting clothing. You have a color that will look great, neutral, and awful on you. I look great in true blue, neutral in true red, and awful in true yellow.
          Now that you understand what your base color is, you need to start building your wardrobe colors that will look good on you. A base wardrobe is normally built around the 3 following colors: black, brown/tan, or blue. This base color is used to provide a backbone through your wardrobe and allow you to mix and match pieces resulting in less orphan items. Many people in the world use black as the backbone of their wardrobe as it is slimming and flattering, but not everyone has dark enough coloring to wear black well. Brown or tan is often a color associated with redheads. Blue is often used as a religious or friendship color and for people who are too fair to wear black well. You should pick one of these and use it as a base for your wardrobe. Every item you build into your wardrobe should be compatible with you base color. This allows you to pull and go in the morning when you are bleary-eyed and scrambling to meet the bus, car, train, etc. You can pull different shades within the same color scheme, but the overall trend is for 1 primary color.
         After you determine what your base wardrobe color is for your wardrobe, you need to decide on your accent colors. There's an old website called "color me beautiful" which uses your hair color to separate you into 4 seasons and has a whole color swatch system they can mail you for $20-40 to stick in your wallet for shopping. This is a great thing to have with you when trying to pick out clothes in a store. Take the 30 second test and it will tell you the 3-4 best colors for you plus wardrobe suggestions. If you change your hair color, you will need to update your color selection. While a person can look good in thousands of colors, there are usually 6 colors that will bring out their best features. This is what you should stock in your wardrobe.
         Lastly, the eyes and skin tone will often dictate accent colors. Grey eyes like mine will often change color depending on if they are subjected to dashes of blue, green, or grey so many people will add small splashes of color to their clothing to help their eyes sparkle. It is a fun little back pocket trick. You can use the trick of adding white around the face (such as a collar or strand of good pearls) to help keep you from looking washed out as your skin color lightens over the winter. Many of the traditionalists like to recommend clothing shopping done primarily in the summer and fall with pearls added to fall outfits in the spring to compensate for the bleaching that winter gives skin color. This often allows you to get around having two separate closets for spring and fall. Older women often also use pearls to counteract the grey in their skin.
      So go take the test and mark your best colors for your wardrobe. Have a great day. I hope this classic advice is helpful to you. I will see you back next week when we continue my 3 part series on my grandfather's advice on how to build a wardrobe to save you money.

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