Which colours go well together?
How to put colour combinations together
Colour in clothing design is incredibly important. Think about the clothes rails in shops, it’s generally the first thing we notice and are drawn to. The shape and style of the garment is secondary. I used to explain this to my students when I was lecturing at art college. Putting interesting and aesthetically pleasing colour combinations together is an art in itself and doesn’t always come naturally. Often artists (and designers) will have their preferred range of colours – a signature palette. Pretty much like you being drawn to certain colours or being stuck in a rut with wearing the same colours all the time. To break away from colours that you are naturally drawn is not always easy.
Trick of the trade for creating colour combinations
I didn’t learn the tip I'm sharing with you this week when I was at art college studying for my degree, it was only when I got a job in a design studio that I learnt this trick of the trade. There were a lot of things I didn’t learn when I was a student come to think of it. I’m not sure if that was because I was also working a part time bar job or because I was having too much fun partying. Or, with hindsight, whether I wasn’t actually sure a lot of the time what I needed to do?
Was it my fault as a student for not taking responsibility and asking questions or my tutor’s fault for not making sure I understood what was required of me? I was quite naïve when I went to university (or art college as it was then). I’d been working 3 part time bar jobs, as well as studying for a make-up course at the same time, when I was doing my A ‘levels so I was clearly spreading myself quite thinly and not really learning how to learn. Coming from a working-class family where my parents had left school and gone straight into factory jobs, they didn’t really have any idea on how to help me prepare for this next step either. I barely scraped through my A levels and eventually my degree.
Putting great colour combinations together with ease
Thankfully, the fact that my grades weren’t great never really hindered me in terms of getting a design job. While my friends with better grades all went of in search of the glamorous, designer high life in London I chose to move to Nottingham. Friends and I had made the bus journey over from Loughborough a few times on shopping trips. It seemed like a nice place. I actually moved here only knowing two people who I’d met through working in the pub. They introduced me to their part time drag queen friend who needed a flat mate. My first flat share in Nottingham was in a dodgy part of town, over a disused sex shop. I’m not sure my mother was fully aware of this fact.
I got another bar job when I moved to the city but wanted more. I decided to write to all the design studios I could find within travelling distance in search of work. My tenacity paid off and before long I got a part time job in a design studio producing designs for fairly traditional furnishing fabrics. Not really my style, it was ridiculously poorly paid, and the bosses were very odd, but it was a great learning experience.
Before long I secured a second, much better, part time design job. This time it was creating designs for fashion textiles – much more my thing. And the money was almost double the other place – result! It was time to leave the furnishing studio. In fact, I walked out after the boss losing his shit with us one day because someone had put wastepaper in the bin the ‘wrong’ way. (Told you they were odd.)
It was in this role I learned about putting great colour combinations together. We were producing commissioned design work for all the high street stores and there was an amazing variety of styles required from tiny, ditsy florals and detailed, intricate paisley designs to large scale, expressive tribal prints and everything in between. I honed technical skills such as intercutting and how to put a multi directional design into a half drop repeat. It was steep learning curve, fast paced and I was churning out design work on demand.
Simple tip for putting colours together
Looking back the combination of this real-world design experience in the studio (and not really achieving my potential during my degree course) made me a great tutor to my own students some years later when I became a college lecturer. The students I worked with came from similar backgrounds to me, with similar challenges. I made sure they were best prepared for their next phase of study at university. I loved that job – it was so rewarding. Ever since then I made it my business as an educator to make sure that, whenever I’m teaching something, my learners grasp the concept. If they don’t, I’ll try a different way to explain what I mean.
This simple tip I’m sharing for putting colours together whether it’s for a design or an outfit was one I learnt in that design studio, shared with my students and I still share with my clients today. It’s such a brilliant short cut.
You basically take your inspiration from something else where the colour combinations have been put together for you already. It can be a simple as copying colours from nature, taking a flower from the garden and replicating the colours from the petals and leaves, it could be using a painting for inspiration, or a magazine cutting of a beautiful interior – it really doesn’t matter what you use. I often use a patterned scarf as inspiration to pull together colours in an outfit. You can see an example of what I mean in these images. I’ve taken the photograph of the cactus as inspiration. Pulled out 3 of the colours and created outfits around the palette.
Ready made colour combinations & outfit inspiration
If you like this idea and would like to see more examples of ready-made colour combinations and outfit inspirations, I have created a pdf booklet of an A-Z of Colour Inspiration that you can purchase here. There are 26 colour combos with examples of 4 outfits per combo ranging from formal to casual so that’s 104 outfits for you! It’s available to buy for just £7.
P.S. Are you able to get to NOTTINGHAM on Sat 5th FEB 2022? It's time to SWISH - full details here
PPS. Date for your diary Project FAB! The Retreat 25/26 March 2022 - come and spend a couple days with me for bespoke advice
Style Liberator | Author | Speaker | Coach
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