The unexpected fear of adding color to a super neutral wardrobe

The unexpected fear of adding color to a super neutral wardrobe
A sample of wardrobe neutralness over nine outfits.

A sample of wardrobe neutralness over nine outfits.

Looking at the Instagram grid of my daily outfit photos, I'm struck by two things: wow, I can't believe I've been so consistent in taking OOTD photos; wow, I really only wear black and beige now!

After about a year of making an effort to streamline my wardrobe, I guess I've finally arrived. Everything pretty much goes with everything. There are a few outliers of course — some burgundy, some navy, some gray, some camel. Even those colors go well with most things though. For the most part, I've really transitioned to black and beige.

Is it boring? Maybe a little. Am I mad? Not really.

I dress so neutrally because I want to be dressed appropriately for anything. I hate the idea of being out somewhere and running into a situation where I'm dressed in a way that attracts undue attention. By sticking to neutrals, I can avoid some of those messy situations.

Of course, cuts and styles of clothes can attract their own attention, but the likelihood of being too loud or garish is reduced by avoiding wild colors and patterns. It let's you blend in to your surroundings more easily when your color palette is soft and basic.

Paring down my wardrobe to this limited palette has been rewarding in multiple ways. I'm rarely unsure that I look good in a certain color because the colors I wear have been extensively vetted. I don't worry that an outfit is wearing ME because I avoid bright colors and patterns. It's easy to match tops and bottoms because most things go with most things. Packing for a trip is easier because my whole wardrobe is basically a capsule wardrobe.

This isn't to say I don't like color — I do! I love navy and a variety of very specific blues. My affection for burgundy is well documented. Both these colors embody a calm richness. Understated but saturated.

Then there's salmony pink and dusty rose. I still love these colors, although in practice I wear them far less than I used to. I have one top in my Active Closet right now that has survived the last couple years of closet purges. I don't think I've worn it in about as long, but I know I used to LOVE this color, and I know I look good in it. I just have to be in a very specific mindset to feel like wearing it. 

Arriving at such a minimal and neutral wardrobe is like starting from a blank slate. At this point in my process I am able to look at new acquisitions with clearer eyes, able to see how it might fit into the wardrobe as a whole. With a cluttered and unedited wardrobe, it's much harder to determine what really feels right and what plays well with others. With a neutral, basic wardrobe, it's much easier to see how a garment might fit in the mix. You can carefully choose what makes sense to add.

But lately I've been caught off guard with what my eye is telling me. It started earlier this summer when I added a vintage floral print dress. All I know is my eye told me yes to this dress. It has a beige background (so far so good) and a medium-scaled pattern of pink and golden yellow flowers, green foliage, and some small touches of white. 


I was attracted to the dress. I trusted that and went for it. It fits in well with my wardrobe color palette while adding some variety. 

But then I found myself thinking... yellow shoes. Yellow shoes would be good with this. What??

My deep dive into neutrals is perhaps most celebrated in the shoe department, where I never shut up about how much I love beige shoes. So yellow shoes kind of blow all that up. What is wrong with me??

But it hasn't stopped at shoes. I've somehow got it in my head that a sunflower yellow is a color I should add to my wardrobe. It's hard to trust that instinct when it feels like it's come out of left-field. 

A long long time ago, I felt like I looked good in yellow. The last yellow thing I owned was a long sleeve t-shirt I bought at Target in college. It's long since moved on from my closet. Where is this yellow attraction coming from??

Amour Vert Beryl blouse  in sunflower.

I'm able to put my finger on a sunflower yellow Amour Vert blouse with flutter sleeves and a subtle floral jacquard pattern.

I rarely check in on online retailers anymore, but when I poked around at Amour Vert recently, I saw this blouse and couldn't look away. I added it to my cart, but at at over $100, I can guarantee it's gonna languish there.

But the seed has been planted.

Wherever it's come from, I feel like I should trust this yellow instinct. It's kind of scary when you think you know your wardrobe, and then you start thinking maybe you don't. What about my carefully edited closet of black and beige?? Was it for naught?

On the other hand, maybe I had to come to this neutral, basic place in my wardrobe journey before I could understand what bright or loud things should be allowed in. Like I said, it's hard to tell what's working in a wardrobe when it's all over the place. Now that my wardrobe is so streamlined, these crazy ideas can be dealt with in a reasonable way with balanced eyes.

Still, it's kind of... scary! My boring wardrobe is too boring? Is yellow a good idea??

We'll find out I guess: I've ordered two swatches of yellow silk brocade to see if it's a fabric I would like to make a blouse out of. I'm looking around for blouse inspiration, looking to see if there's a pattern out there that would be appropriate to pair with yellow. It needs to be a little basic, a little elegant. A cut that doesn't scream for attention because the color itself is going to demand quite a bit.

Hand-dyed yellow silk swatch from  Prism Silk Fabric .

Hand-dyed yellow silk swatch from Prism Silk Fabric.

I'm kind of excited to go down a new color path. A blouse feels like a low investment way to try out something that might have a big impact on the direction of my wardrobe. I don't anticipate going all out for this new color, but if I'm finding myself attracted to it, it couldn't hurt to have just a little bit of it to choose from, right?

Have you had any revelations like this in your minimalist wardrobe? Any discoveries that caught you off guard? How did you cope with the newness?