You’ve weeded out the clunkers from your closet – the things that obviously needed to go – but how do your evaluate all those “MAYBE” pieces to be sure you’re keeping the things that can become foundation for a truly effortless wardrobe into the future?  Think about it as a treasure hunt.  It’s not about what to get rid of, but about what great items to keep.  The specific choices are unique to each woman, but here are some guidelines – a treasure map if you will – to point you in the right direction.

The very first criteria is COLOR.  If the color is great for you, there’s about an 80% chance the item is a Keeper.  And if the color makes you look like you died yesterday, it’s nearly impossible for other factors to justify hanging onto it.

Before we move on with sorting by color, here are to other characteristics to look for in Keepers:

  1. Solid colors.  Print and patterned pieces have their place, but most closets I
    work with have too many of them and not nearly enough solids.  That is doubly true for women who sew.
  2. Classic styling.  Fashion retail constantly pushes the newest gimmicky style detail – the more extreme the better – specifically because those items have a short lifespan and push you to shop again sooner.  Hang onto pieces that are basic, unadorned styles because those are the source of great mix/match combinations.

Now back to color. Whether we’ve done a consultation together or not, here are some nearly universal guidelines:

  1. Hang onto solid neutrals that are related to your hair color (the color you see, if it’s chemically enhanced).  Lighter and darker versions as well as an actual matching color.  They create an incredible visual connection to YOU in any outfit you build around them. See how connected their hair colors look for these women? And how dis-connected they all look from traditional black?  Like floating heads.
  2. Colors that relate to your eyes.  Wearing one of these colors will make people notice your eyes, make and sustain eye contact with you and immediately begin to connect with you and trust you, whether in person on on a video call.  These are usually a bit subdued, complex colors.  With blue eyes, for example, royal blue is so bright it will dull your eye color by comparison.  But a quieter, dustier blue may repeat their true color and have a greater impact.
  3. Colors that relate to your skin tone.  Soft blush-y colors (not quite pink, not quite peach) are softer and more sophisticated than bright white for shirts and shells on Caucasian women.  Women of color get a similar effect from pale camel-y colors.
  4. Colors in the aqua/turquoise/teal/jade green family.  This range is the compliment (color wheel opposite) of most human skin tones, so it makes a woman look glowing healthy and vibrant.  Double points if this range repeats your eye color and even more if your hair is auburn (it’s deeper complimentary tone).
  5. Evaluate your other color groups by how well they work with your hair-color neutral pieces.  Nearly every woman can wear nearly every color family (except yellow/orange) but it needs to be the right version of that color family.  See examples of that concept for Blonde, BrownSilver, Black and Taupe hair colors.
  6. Consider ditching colors that are extremely clear and bright. Bright yellow, lime green, orange and fuscia are especially troublesome.  Fashion retail loves to spotlight so-called “jewel tones” because they are so bright that they grab our attention in the store.  But that same brightness make them overpower the vast majority of women – people see the outfit rather than seeing the person.  Slightly subdued, dusted, complex colors are far more likely to flatter.

By now the Keepers you’ve put back into your closet should be friendly with one another, looking like they belong to the same big happy family.  Next step is to identify print and patterned pieces that repeat one or more of those colors.  Bonus points for any print that includes an element of your hair color, like these:

Minus points for prints that include bright white.  Squint at the item, and if the white jumps out at your eye, that’s a big clue it might not be a Keeper (unless you want to play around with dyeing it – a fun activity for this stay-at-home time, by the way).

Also evaluate prints based on their level of contrast.  The step of difference between the lightest and darkest colors in a print should never be greater that the step between the lightest and darkest elements of YOU.

A great print  looks like it just belongs on you. Hold it up and look in the mirror to evaluate that visual connection.  Here are a couple of examples of optimal prints for Yvonne, a recent client.  See how many of her personal colors and shapes  they include?

I hope this discussion has pointed you toward the most effective pieces to retain in your wardrobe.  In a future post I’ll show you the method I used in clients’ closets to build dozens of outfits from these Keeper pieces … even before we shop for any updates.

Let me know if you need individual help with these decisions.  We’re trying out virtual closet consultations during this lock-down, so we can provide guidance no matter where in the world you are located.


About Nancy Nix Rice

I help other women feel confident about how they look every day - regardless of their age, budget, lifestyle or the size tag in their pants - so they put wardrobe concerns on the back burner and go share their gifts with the world.


  1. Katrina B on April 21, 2020 at 2:06 pm

    I always wondered why teal is considered a universal color that everyone can wear – now I know! As a double bonus my eyes are a dusky teal and even though I have pale skin I do like to wear that darker color.

    • Nancy Nix Rice on April 21, 2020 at 3:26 pm

      Although I’m sure the teal works fine for you, you can also interpret that color-wheel-opposite thing as dusty aqua or turquoise for a softer look.

  2. Jane M on April 23, 2020 at 8:49 pm

    Really great post thanks Nancy — particularly the part about hair color and skin tone.

    A quick question about this. My hair is now a light taupe/warm grey colour and lighter dusty/smoky colors suit me best, so is it OK to wear darker taupe as well as my secondary neutral? It can be really hard to find light taupe clothes at times, particularly in winter.

    • Nancy Nix Rice on April 24, 2020 at 7:48 am

      So glad you found it helpful. An effective wardrobe really does need to be color-related to the person. OF course it works great to use both a lighter and darker version of your hair color. If you sew, we carry our fabulous ponte knit in both lt and med taupe, as well as several companion accent solids in jersey and a couple of prints. If you’d like samples, just give me your addres using the CONTACT form on the website

  3. Jane Renzetti on April 28, 2020 at 12:59 pm

    I am loving these posts. They are so helpful. I had my colours done when I was in my early 30s. I am now soon to be 73…am I still able to base my colour choices on those colours?

    • Nancy Nix Rice on April 28, 2020 at 8:44 pm

      It’s very doubtful that your 80’s color info is still valid for a couple of reasons. #1 – your coloring has no doubt changed since then. We all lose pigment in our hair, eyes and skin over the years. #2 – our understanding of color theory has gotten a lot more sophisticated too. I’m betting that your original consultation put you into a category of some sort – seasons of whatever. Today a top-quality consult hand-selects each color for you. Check the blog post about Yvonne’s re-do for an example.
      If you are ready for an update, you are welcome to take advantage of our 2-payment offer running for the next few weeks on long-distance consults. Just contact me directly for details, using the CONTACT form on the site.

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