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4 Seasons to travel light: pack the right colours

4 Seasons to travel light: pack the right colours

Want to travel light? Pack the right colours.

You need clothes when you travel - right? And making decisions about what to take can plague you: should I take this? Will it match that?

On holiday in the 1990s, wearing a t-shirt the wrong colour for me!

On holiday in the 1990s, wearing a t-shirt the wrong colour for me!

Previously, I would pack something - perhaps a top - I hadn't worn for years. I'd say to myself: 'Oh, great find! I haven't worn that for a while. I'll wear it when I'm on holiday (even though the colour doesn't suit me).' Does that sound familiar?

The colour looks no better at the beach than it does in my bedroom. I'd stand in front of the mirror holding the top against me - then cast it aside in frustration: 'Why did I bring that top with me? No wonder I didn't wear it for years: the colour does absolutely nothing for me!'

Isn't that irritating? It's a waste of packing space, an unwanted expense (buying the top in the first place), and unnecessary on holiday when you'd prefer to look your best.

I no longer waste my space, money or sentiment on the wrong colours and choices. These days I know what colours suit me - and therefore what colours to pack. Easy!

Knowing the colours that suit you is one of the cornerstones of packing lightly: start with your base colour and support that with a few items in complementary colours.

So how did I do that? And how can I help you to do the same? 

Colour tones

Barbara Jacques, Colour and Style File

Barbara Jacques, Colour and Style File

A long time ago I read a book called the Colour and Style File, by Barbara Jacques. In her book, Jacques writes about 'tonal groups'. She draws upon hair, skin and eye colouring to assist our tonal definitions of bright, light, warm, muted, dark and cool.

To recognise whether you are, for example, 'dark' or 'bright' Jacques suggests you look in the mirror. 'Dark' or 'bright' is the first characteristic you see. My skin and hair colours define me as 'dark' therefore I choose my colours from the 'dark' colour wheel.

The ability to choose the 'right' colours based on my personal colouring was a revelation. It really worked!

Since knowing what colours suit me, I no longer buy clothes in the 'wrong' colours. Instead I am confident in selecting colours that work for me. 

Colour analysis: what 'season' are you?

Rereading Jacques book after so many years, I find it a little challenging to recognise individual's tonal groups - just by looking at the person. I thought it might be interesting to consider another methodology, which is identifying individuals' 'seasonal' colours. 

What colour is your skin?

What colour is your skin?

What colour is your skin?

Last year I studied with the Australian College of Professional Styling and qualified as a Professional Stylist. As part of the course, one of the units was a comprehensive overview of colour theory. This included a colour analysis component: I interviewed and analysed a client and provided her with a personalised report, identifying her own colour style.

What colour is your hair?

What colour is your hair?

What colour is your hair?

I wrote and podcast about this process in an earlier post called 'What colour is your style?' This colour theory and analysis is based on Carole Jackson's book, Colour me beautiful, published in the 1980s.

Jackson proposed a single personality per season, making it easy for us to identify with one of either  'winter', 'spring', 'summer' or 'autumn', based on our personal colouring.

As part of the process to identify her 'season', my client and I had a two-hour long interview. We analysed her skin, hair and eye tones to determine her colouring. At the end of the interview and assessment, I produced a comprehensive report to show the client the best colours to suit her specific colouring. 

What colour are your eyes?

What colour are your eyes?

What colour are your eyes?

When doing the reading and analysis, I was astonished by the range and depth of skin, hair and eye colours. The literature identifies 25 different skin colours, 35 different hair colours and 33 different eye colours. One of my readers suggested that's not a definitive list: what happens when you have eyes with different colours? Interesting question.

Pack colours for light travel

I know what colours suit me and therefore I can easily pack the 'right' colours for light travel. By limiting my colour choices to my one base colour and adding a few items in complementary colours, I vary my limited wardrobe to look and dress fashionably for a few weeks away. I've also learnt another trick: I never wear more than two colours at one time - I dress either all in one colour - matching tops and bottoms - or add a touch of another colour for a bit of variety - a coloured t-shirt with black or grey trousers or shorts, for example.

Colour choices

Accessorising with the 'right' colours for my hair and skin tone.

Accessorising with the 'right' colours for my hair and skin tone.

When I first discovered my own colour 'season' - I'm a winter - it made shopping for clothes so much easier. I no longer buy apricot or lemon-coloured tops - even though I love those colours - because I know they don't suit me. Pastel or light colours make me look bleak and washed out. I have olive-coloured skin and salt-and-pepper grey hair, so deeper and darker colours suit me best.

Colour swatches

Back in the day, shopping by colour or matching to my 'season' meant carrying colour swatches to select and match to the right colours at the shops. These days there's an app for it - of course. I use 'My Colours' (see the colour swatch screens below). If you know your own colour 'season', it's easy to select the colours that will work for you. In addition to these base colours, the 'My Colours' app includes complementary colours (not featured here) for each of the colour screens below.

Winter season colours

These are my colours - reds, pinks, greens, blues, purples, black and greys. These colours suit me best based on the combination of my skin, hair and eye colour:

Pack light and right

Packing for Japan - with the right colours - almost

Packing for Japan - with the right colours - almost

As I know which colours suit me, I shop quicker, pack my clothes easier, and travel light - with a carry on bag only. I'm confident that I'll look my best with my light, select wardrobe.

Sometimes I make mistakes. In this photograph where I've laid out my t-shirts for my recent trip to Japan, I selected the right colours in the black and grey tones, but you might notice that the red t-shirt is not quite the best colour for me - compare it to the red colour swatch screens above. It's a bit too tomato red or orange. I knew the colour wasn't quite right when I packed it, but I took it nonetheless. I wasn't happy wearing it. 

I bought the t-shirt online without trying the red against my skin. Next time I'll be more careful. 

Travel me beautiful

It's helpful to use the 'My Colours' app - as long as you know what 'season' you are. How can you find out what your particular colour 'season' is? I recommend you read Jackson's Colour me beautiful, which is still available in print. Or get in touch with me. If there's enough interest, I'm happy to write or consult more on the subject of colour and style.

By narrowing down your wardrobe choices to your right colours, you will not only grow a sensible and useful wardrobe - it's so satisfying to dismiss certain choices because you know the colour doesn't suit you - but you'll also pack lightly and travel with only the clothes that suit you. Now doesn't everyone want to look their best for their next holiday or business trip? 


My preferred 'winter' colour combinations

My preferred 'winter' colour combinations

I'm Slobodanka Graham, blogger, podcaster, extreme light traveler, fashion and colour stylist.

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