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I am a mother, a new grandmother, and a teacher. But whatever happens in my life, I keep sewing. I have worked as a political communicator and now as a teacher in my formal life. I have also written extensively on sewing. I have been a frequent contributor and contributing editor of Threads magazine and the Australian magazine Dressmaking with Stitches. My first book Sew.. the garment-making book of knowledge will be published in May 2018 and is available for pre-order from Amazon


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Monday, February 26, 2018

Finding your style series part two: inside colours

First of all, aren't the comments great?

I want to thank all of you who took the time to participate in this discussion. I am sure I am not the only one who has come away from reading all the thoughtful comments left here, with new insights, something new to think about.

In fact it was the mulling over that has taken me a few days until I was ready to write this next post, on colour, which I think is an important one too.

To recap though on neutrals here are my take aways:

  • a neutral based wardrobe makes dressing easier and more efficient
  • for many of us neutrals are comfortable - we feel less dominated by what we wear
  • neutral dressing, at least as a component, is key to mix and match (what a great 60s term too bad no one but us uses it any more) separates dressing
  • a colourful wardrobe is more challenging to construct as a cohesive unit
I certainly would add that neutral based dressing also tends to hit the suitable for the occasion mark more easily.

Now all that said I am not sure it is enough, at least for me.

Over time you come to terms with yourself I think. 

At some point if you are lucky you outrun the school system and societal standards (your body has flaws that need to be disguised for instance) that it was all about compensating for your "weaknesses" and realize that you will go a lot further if you just forget about those and build on your strengths. 

If you are a bossy older child become a manager, for instance rather than try to learn to settle down. If you ponder this long enough you are able to apply this to other people in your life too - see what they do really well as an expression of themselves rather than on the things you wish they would do differently.

Nurture their natures, as my daughter says about parenting.

Thinking about this has made my think about neutrals.

The thing is I don't feel neutral.

It has occurred to me that if you look at the above neutrals list of virtues that it is mainly about functionality and how clothes look from the outside.

But today I want to talk about how clothes feel from the inside and I think that's about colour.

About three years ago I saw a photo of myself all dressed head to toe in black - in my mind I was marvellously coordinated - but when I actually saw myself dressed like this it just looked so severe.

Not who I am at all.

I am just not that serious a person. The one quality I value in my friends is that they make me laugh. If someone is funny I more or less can forgive all other character flaws. I am random and am pretty sure things will all turn out. I eyeball it through life and get wound up about things I care about, about things I am making. I cry easily but not for very long. 

I think you get the picture. I am also sure that these aspects of me aren't going to change any time soon.

So within this context head to toe black, despite the fact it sort of suits my colouring, is not an accurate representation of me, a misrepresentation actually.

So about the time of this revelation I had to think about colour schemes for my book. The text of the book is pretty anecdotal and handy hinty and the one thing I wanted readers to do when they read it was to smile and to feel sewing was fun and not that hard.

As a result I decided to make all the garments bright, light and colourful. Probably more so than most people would wear (oh yes and a bowling shirt too, but I do like to bowl) but I thought it would look cheerful on the page. Maybe this was a dumb but at the time I thought this was a great idea.

During this process I decided to let myself just feel the colours I was drawn too. 

I realized this was a lot of colours I didn't often wear but just felt to me like a juice my insides craved. 

This ended up being a Lilly Pulitzer palette:

These reminded me of these colours, another thing that makes me happy, Bollywood dance scenes:

Yes I know this isn't heavy stuff but theses are the colours I feel inside.

So I am under revision.

I no longer wear black on its own. Best I can do is always wear it when I do with a lighter colour, like I did the other night when we went out, Jalie top, Style arc Brooklyn pants and Beshari jacket in off white silk:

Not really me but O.K.

I am also shifting over to grey as my base neutral. It goes with the palette above easily and I have discovered as far as one colour dressing different shades of grey look fine with each other, which is something you can't say about black or even navy.

I am opening myself up to colour these days and it resonates with me and who I am.

For example I was thrilled to see that the rivers here in Texas, Austin and area at least, are turquoise:

I have been swimming here in the unbelievable Barton Springs pool and you can't imagine how happy it makes me to be in water this colour.

Just like this shoes I wear to walk there along the river trail:

Now you tell me about colour.

What colours do you feel inside and how do they make you feel?

And even what is your favourite colour?

This so often the first question children ask when they are making conversation and something adults never ask each other. 

Think about that fact.

What is your favourite colour?


Unknown said...

Reds, turquoise, sea green, forest green, mint, burnt orange, goldenrod, lavender, periwinkle, sand, mushroom, white.
Becca G

Karen said...

I love all the Lilly Pulitzer colors, but not all at once! Bright pink is my "happy color". My favorite color combination is black (or gray or navy...) plus white plus a bright color. But since I order most of my fabric online and I never order swatches my wardrobe is lacking the bright colors. I've ended up with too many fabrics that look nothing like I expected, so I end up ordering neutral instead.

Debbie Cook said...

My favorite color is turquoise. Then greens and oranges. Then blues. Color and print ARE my neutral. I can't dress in all solids. Mix and match is OK, if it happens ... and it does often because I tend to go with the same colors. But it's not my goal. I sew outfits, not mixables.

Sydney Brown said...

The color of that water is my favorite color. I am much more colorful since I had my colors done, and I can see the improvement.

Julie Culshaw said...

Teal green, not teal blue, but definitely green. That said, I have nothing to wear in that colour, isn't that dumb?

beckster said...

I love all shades of red except orangey reds, all shades of green except pea green, ivory/cream/ecru, peachy pinks, mostly warm colors. I look dreadful in cool tones for the most part, and they don't make me happy.

LWS said...

Cobalt blue. Looks wonderful with black.
I am in a reverse style journey from you. My mother told me that I was too pale to wear black, looked too serious in it, and should stick to pastel shades. And so I did, for decades. Approaching fifty, I decided that I AM serious and I want to be taken seriously, and I started to wear black. Felt like coming home.

Seattle Sews said...


My best color to wear is almost any green found in nature-forest, grass, moss, olive. Second best is somewhere on the tomato paste to dirt colored spectrum-rust, adobe, terracotta.

I love other colors but those are my personal "neutrals". Auburn hair-even graying, those still work best. Even "warm neutrals" like camel and dark brown have always made me look washed out.

LinB said...

My favorite color is that deep slate blue the sky turns during a spring storm -- when the sun is ahead of the clouds and every leaf, every blade of grass, every single petal of every flower is outlined in its own glow against that dark backdrop -- that's my favorite color.

A good approximation is a middling-to-dark indigo denim that's been washed for years and years.

Brenda said...

Raspberry and mauve are my two favorite colors with turquoise as a close second. I made some "crazy lady" (yoga)pants in a wild swirly blue,pink,black and white print and I love them but don't wear them in public!

Kamchick said...

Brown is my neutral. I also love caramel and camel shades. For colour, my favourite is brick red, other favourites are warm darker greens. I never wear black or white. Cream is my light neutral. It is often difficult to find cream in RTW or in fabric.

Carol said...

All shades of blue and blue/green. Pale blue not so much. Dusty blue. Faded denim blue. Got lots of compliments wearing cobalt blue top. But feel conspicuous in bright colors. Right now only blue in my closet is navy. Would like navy and beige for neutrals Only have navy and black pants currently and that makes coordinating for a trip difficult. Lots to think about

Rebecca said...

Coral is my favorite color, although by far my best color and one I wear a lot is that green that's like a brightened up version of olive. Besides denim, that is my neutral (I also consider pale pink and mint green neutrals, so...). When I was younger - teens through early thirties - I wore black black black all the time but as I get older (43 now), I prefer color and vibrant (bordering on loud, if I'm honest) prints. I'm totally going to be that old lady with the ridiculous bright patterned dresses and suits and long witchy hair. Not sorry about it!

Robert Kahan said...

Great topic! There are so many colours I love. Also, I have 2 Japanese books on colour and clothing - very inciteful, quite different to North American ideas. They suggest coco as a possible neutral, and just one example. Staying away from very dull, depressing colours. I tend to get depressed to very depressed. To-day I am wearing a lime green cami, with a fuchsia cardi, a necklace in glass beads in reds. With black exercise pants. And sewing a rose T. Must get to Jazz class. Need those endorphins. Cathie. Love the shoe laces and water colour!

AlaskaBerninaGirl said...

I am drawn to the colors of nature in my home and my office, and my cars have always needed to compliment the color of my house. On Fridays you will always see me in College Navy, Action Green or Wolf Grey because it's Blue Friday (for the Seattle Seahawks.) I am an opportunistic color person and take advantage of the situation (thank goodness for Pinterest) where I’ve been stalking the bride of an August wedding where I found that the colors are champagne and blush, accordingly I got my hands on some beautiful complimentary fabric for my dress and have also sewn the bridal shower gift up in the same. I also take advantage of the colors of the season and holidays. I guess I like all colors but need to blend in and that is true about me. I think this is an exercise in learning about ourselves.

Erika Otter said...

sigh, such a good question ... but so hard to answer, I love almost all the colors ... eggplant, purple-grey (related to the spring-storm blue up there!), deep grass green, cognac and burgundy, oh of course indigo, love chartreuse but don't like it near my skin, raspberry, cherry, watermelon ... sparkly silver, rose gold, copper for sure ... colors! the best!

SewRuthie said...

Oh Barbara why are you making me pick only one? I most of all love teal (the colour of my eyes) and a soft but almost warm pink (that's the colour of my lips) these are great for helping people look into my eyes and say I am looking well. I also love blue(my door), and red(for work), and yellow(Mr Happy reapot) and green(house plants). My auntie made me a quilt of a stained glass window from Gaudi's Sagrada Familia which takes up an entire wall and I love it so much.
I live in a joyous world of colour!
P.S. I don't really like black (or grey or white) those non colours bring me no joy whatsoever.

MakeitAnyWear said...

If Panatone could pick 2 colors for the Color of The Year in 2016 so can I and I'd pick the same pink and blue.

VeraS said...

I love this topic, about colors and, especially, black. The rule I live by is "life's too short to wear black". Besides, every time I wore some black garment people would inevitably ask if I'd been ill or if I was coming down with something. OK Universe, I can take a hint. I do, however, have a few pair of black trousers; they're far away enough from my face that they won't cause damage, ha!

My "neutrals" are eggplant, blue and apple green. And yes, there are certain shades and hues in those colors that will harmonize. That's why I sew: so I can make those "neutral" pieces that I'm not going to find in department stores. There are some fantastic fabrics in lovely colors to be had so I take advantage.

As to my favorite color? It depends on the day, and sometimes, the moment. But my wardrobe definitely has colors and will continue to do so.

Awesome topic, Barbara.

bbarna said...

My most favorite colour is pink. Add that to navy, burgundy, greys, milk chocolate, camel and pastel shades of most colours. Those are the colours that you will find in my closet. The only time I deviate is for cycling. I have some neon yellows, greens and oranges...only because I want to be seen , and not squashed.
Barb from Prince George

Mary Deeter said...

You know Barb, my favorite color changes. It is now shades of teal, but for the longest time it was purple. Who knows what will fancy me next year, but if it moves me, I'll wear it!

Vicki said...

My favourite colour is teal - soft in either blue or green. Matches my eyes. I'm not into bright colours. Textures, softness and peaceful neutrals are my inside and outside colours.

paloverdeblooms said...

I adore blues, purples, greens, and the combinations in-between. A pure blue turquoise is the color I'd pick if I got married again (first time my handmade wedding dress was a deep iris blue/purple). I'm currently intensely in love with vivid spring greens (not too much yellow and not too much green) and bright violets. You'll never find me wearing reds, browns, oranges, or lemony yellows, although gold is very appealing. I think what I really love are bright, intense shades. I often tone them down with navies, blueberries, blacks, and grays , but hey, since I also love monochromatic looks, several shades of purple will make me happy. Oh, and I loathe and detest pink, but since it's a red derivative, that's understandable.

Laceflower said...

Remember when we used to have our colours done? Doing that made me understand why I couldn't wear a yellow red but could wear a blue red. It simplified all my colour choices and after getting the correct colour wardrobe sewn, I realized that everything went with everything else. Pink is my favourite colour but I don't wear it out very often, blue is my go to colour, any and all blues. The outside of the house is painted blue and cream, I've decorated in blue and cream. Colour matters a great deal to me and my well being. I once spent a month with my father and his place was dismal as he didn't care. It really affected me and gave me some self knowledge. I never wear jeans, I don't want to look like everyone else. Last year I latched onto white as a look and it is a pretty big statement look as well as a big departure from darks or mix and match.

Kathleen Meadows said...

I found it interesting that you said you've really had a "break" with black because I've noticed in the last couple of years that I have too. I've come to the conclusion I hate actually black garments. Black is everywhere in RTW because it's cheap to produce so now when I see black I think "cheap" and further to that is there anything more aggravating than unpicking black thread in black fabric?? MY PET PEEVE. That's a big shift for me because I used to think black looked so classy! I love navy though - I would say that's a staple for me. Aqua, dusty rose, coral, olive - I think I should live in Greece! For many reasons but I think the colours would thrill me at every turn.

Anonymous said...

These two post have had me thinking.

Joseph's Coat of Many Colours was my favourite story in Sunday School. Oh the coat I imagined! The little ones I taught in elementary school loved colours and loved the frocks their teacher wore every day. Not so when I taught grade 5 and everyone wanted to fit in and started their black phase. The grade fivers were not at all impressed with my frocks.

Neutrals enhance and balance colours, much like in my garden where the quiet evergreens unite a riot of colour. I could never have a garden of just evergreens nor could I ever wear just neutrals.
I do need neutrals to balance out the colourful prints I love. My pear shape dictates neutrals on the bottom and the prints to balance out the top. My favourite colours must now be softer hues as dictated by my gray hair. I need far fewer frocks but even denim neutral, garden coveralls must be worn with a colourful tee shirt. Colour feeds my soul. The joke in our house is that mom makes flowered pyjamas so that she can have her morning coffee and camouflage herself in the garden until someone else makes lunch. They know me well.

Barbara, thanks for making me laugh and think. Wonderful topic. I still can't pick a favourite colour.
Donna E

Wendy Rader said...

This is a fabulous post!
I love hot pink, and I consider it a neutral for my summer wear.
I also love shades of green, not turquoise but lime, forest.
Blue was my favorite for decades, I love pale blue and brighter blues, but not navy.

Alison Garnett said...

This is really interesting! My favourite colour, one that I could look at for hours, is royal blue. But it's not my favourite for wearing, because it doesn't suit my skin tone particularly. A small child once said that it really brought out the colour of my....veins! A glance in the wardrobe suggests red and pink highlights with the occasional bit of teal. Cheerfulness is the philosophy behind my choices. My house is full of all sorts of colour and pattern.
Re the ubiquitous black, here in the UK I think there are more navy basics available, probably because so many of us have pale skin, which just looks washed out with black.

June Gould said...

June Gould
Oh i loved this post and everyone's comments. Everyone is so different. My neutrals now are navy and pale grey. i used to wear black when i was young but now i just look washed out in it. I love colour, lemon,lime green,turquoise and pale pink to wear, red, but only in jewellery, not clothes. My glasses are red too. somehow, despite wanting to look jazzy and bright I almost always end up in the neutrals. My wardrobe is a mish mash and things just don't seem to co-ordinate!

thornberry said...

You probably already know this of me - I like ALL the colours! I actively avoid black (although still seem to have a bit of it in my wardrobe - but I do live in Melbourne, so it's hard to avoid being influenced by the prevailing black) and don't actually have much solid white. I particularly like orange, lime green, mustard and teal - and chocolate (in both colour and food forms).

Neutrals really aren't my thing.

Although I'm finding that I'm moving more toward solids and stripes instead of multi-coloured patterns at the moment. I turn 50 this year, and I think that I'm trying to 'rebrand' myself a little and also adapt to my ageing body.

My advice on colour is to wear the ones that you feel great in. I don't really care about the colour 'rules', although I've had my colours 'done' and I love reading all about colour theory! But it's the same thing to me as clothing styles - wear the ones that you feel great in (which may or may not be the ones that others would suggest for you).