How to use your colour palette to build a summer travel wardrobe
A couple of weeks after I published my post on Developing a Colour Palette for your Wardrobe, I received an email from Linn who lives in Stockholm:
"Hi Anuschka, I just wanted to say how much I love your posts - they helped me transform my entire wardrobe (and let me tell you, it was a complete mess before). I'm pretty happy with most aspects of my wardrobe but I still have trouble with the color distribution. In late August, I will be vacationing in the Phillippines and would like to only bring a small set of clothes (20 maximum). I will mostly be wearing bikinis, dresses, simple tops and skirts. I like nudes, rosy shades and orange, but I am not sure how to find a good distribution of colors that is versatile enough to make 20 pieces last for three weeks. Can you help?"
Like Kali mentioned in her Travel Experiment post, packing for a trip requires essentially the same thought process as building a fully stocked wardrobe. You have to consider your needs, body shape and colour preferences and combine everything into a set of individual pieces that, when combined, express your style concept and give you something to wear for everything you want to do. The only difference is the scale and also, in most cases, a slight shift in lifestyle, i.e. your everyday activities will (hopefully) be a little different on holiday, which means your wardrobe needs are different too. I don't want this post to become too wordy, so I'll try to illustrate the process I would use to build a travel wardrobe from a colour palette as briefly as I can, using Linn's wardrobe needs and preferences as an example.
For a more in-depth guide on how to build a colour palette and use it to structure your wardrobe, read the original post here.
Step 1: Create a mood board for your colour palette and pick out dominant colours
The above mood board is an example for what Linn's first step towards a strong, coherent colour palette could look like. I included the colours she mentions in her email and also added a rich cool green shade that I think complements the rest of the palette well and could be used as an accent colour. In my original Colour Palette post I recommend extracting 6 to 10 colours from your mood board, although for travel wardrobes I'd aim for the lower end of the range. 6 or 7 colours for 20 pieces and 3 weeks should be enough to build a diverse but versatile wardrobe. I chose these 6 shades from the example mood board:
Step 2: Create a colour hierarchy
The next step in the process is to organize the chosen colours into a hierarchy of main colours, neutrals and accent colours. The distribution of these three groups depends on how many shades you picked out from the mood board, but in general I would go with 2 - 4 main colours, 1 - 2 neutrals to ensure versatility and 2 - 5 accent colours. For Linn's colour hierarchy I chose a rosy nude and a soft medium pink as the two main colours because I think they best represent the overall warm and summery feel of the mood board. I picked a light grey as a neutral, and a tomato red, yellow-toned orange and deep green shade as accent colours that can be paired with neutral pieces or in small doses with the main colours. The entire colour palette is relatively rich and colourful, especially with the soft pink as a main colour, but I think it's perfect for a beachy holiday.
Step 3: Consider your lifestyle and choose proportions
After developing a colour hierarchy, you'll need to select a couple of proportions (=combinations of item categories) that are tuned to your lifestyle, i.e. your plans for the vacation. Linn already provided us with her's: Dresses and skirts + tops. I guess beach holidays are pretty easy to plan for, because you can run around in single-item proportions (dresses or bikinis) all day. But even if you are going on a city trip to a country with fickle weather conditions, it helps to choose 2 or 3 versatile proportions and build your travel wardrobe around them, rather than blindly stuff your suitcase with everything you could possibly need.
Step 4: Decide on item frequencies
Once you have chosen your proportions you can start building a tentative wardrobe structure by estimating how many items per category you will need. Linn said she wants to take about 20 items with her, so we'll use that number as a rough guide. To create her two proportions she only needs three item categories (dresses and skirts + tops), plus she'll also need footwear and bikinis. She listed bikinis at the top of her list, so I'm assuming she is planning to spend a lot of time in them ;) They take up hardly any space in the suitcase, so 3 different sets are definitely justified. Since she didn't explicitly state whether she will do a lot of sightseeing, spend most of her time at the beach or go to evening events, I allocated four items to the footwear category, so she can take a variety of styles and be set for every activity she might have planned. That leaves us 13 pieces for her two proportions and three corresponding item categories. If you don't want to do laundry while on holiday (who does?) it's best to take about twice as many tops than bottoms for top-bottom proportions, e.g. 6 tops and 3 skirts in Linn's case. The rest of her items should be reserved for dresses, her second proportion.
Step 5: Distribute colours
The final step of the process is to fill in the structure of item frequencies with your colour palette. Although this step may seem a little tricky, a strong colour hierarchy will do most of the work for you. Since your main colours represent the essence of your colour concept, it's a good idea to reserve one item per category for each of your main colours. Any item category that needs to be worn with another, so pretty much everything except for bikinis and dresses, should also include one neutral item just to make it easier to mix and match with accent and main colours. The rest of your items can be in accent colours or additional main or neutral colours, however you like. Don't forget that you can also use accessories to enforce or diversify your colour palette further. Here's a sample structure for Linn's travel wardrobe based on her proportions and colour palette:
When building your own travel wardrobe you should obviously also consider the contents of your current wardrobe and fill in your structure with items and colours you already own. And always remember: Whatever final product you come up with is not set in stone, it is only meant to inspire, simplify and help you express your personal style. You can always shuffle things around in the end!