For a cohesive wardrobe, choose neutral wardrobe colors based on your features and distinct coloring.
Have you ever searched the term capsule wardrobe on Pinterest or Google? If you have, you’ve probably noticed the overwhelming majority are all neutral colors.
In the minimalist wardrobe, neutral wardrobe colors are all you find because it makes it easy to get the most mileage out of your clothing.
Even if you love a bit of color (or a lot), neutral colors remain the basic rule for building a wardrobe. Easy to find, easy to match, and easy to wear, neutral colors should make up the majority of your closet.
However, the idea that everybody can wear the same neutrals is an outdated concept. We are all unique and have different coloring, and your neutral wardrobe palette should reflect those attributes and make you look your best.
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What are Neutral Colors?
Neutral colors can simply be defined as those that go with everything. However, there is more to neutrals than boring shades of black and brown.
The most specific definition of neutrals is tonal shades of black and brown. This includes everything from black, espresso, and charcoal, to white, ivory, and silver, plus all the colors on that spectrum.
As we expand into other neutrals, many colors along the blue spectrum are included, including navy and denim shades.
In addition, as palettes have expanded, there are now a few colors outside the black/brown/navy range that are considered to be “color neutrals.” Such colors as blush, olive, burgundy, and sage fit well into a neutral wardrobe and share the unassuming characteristics of traditional neutral colors.
Neutral Capsule Wardrobe
Capsule wardrobes have become very popular in the last decade as interest has increased in sustainability, minimalism, and simplicity. If you’re unfamiliar with the term, a capsule wardrobe is a small wardrobe that mixes and matches well together
One of the most important keys to creating a functional capsule wardrobe is choosing a color palette. As you begin to research capsule wardrobes, you’ll see that much of the information focuses on a mainly neutral wardrobe.
There are several reasons for this, the first of which is simplicity. Blending neutrals together is an easy way to create cohesion in the wardrobe, and be assured that everything goes together.
Secondly, finding neutrals in a wide assortment of styles and sizes is much easier than finding specific colors to match a colorful palette. Colors experience trend seasons, so you may be able to find that bright cobalt one year, but have trouble for the next 5. Neutrals are always available.
Third, it’s widely accepted that neutrals look good on everyone. While I contend that there is some truth to this, the purpose of this post is to find the best neutrals for YOU.
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Neutral Wardrobe Colors for the 12 Color Seasons
The best neutral wardrobe for each of the 12 seasons in color analysis depends on the color theory attributes of hue, value, and chroma.
The warm seasons do better in the brown tones, while the cool seasons are best in black and gray.
Those that lean dark will need deeper shades, even with their white, while those on the light end of the spectrum will avoid the near blacks.
If you are mostly bright or muted, the neutrals will reflect that and offer either high contrast or low contrast.
Below are example neutral color palettes for each of the 12 color seasons.
Clear Spring Neutral Color Palette
Clear Spring is warm-neutral, medium-light value, and bright chroma. The best neutral wardrobe colors for these bright warm beauties feature mostly warm tones and high contrast. Medium range neutrals are best kept in small doses.
With the winter influence, many Clear Springs prefer navy to the brown neutrals. Mixed with a soft navy like deep denim and paired with both soft white and alabaster, these make a great neutral base.
For a warm option, choose espresso as black substitute and pair with cashmere, a light subtle tan.
Other options include ash gray, a warm medium gray, and cognac, a bright brown that does well in fall and winter.
Warm Spring Neutral Color Palette
Warm Spring is warm, light-medium value, and medium-bright chroma. The best neutral wardrobe colors for these true spring ladies are mostly found in the brown spectrum.
Espresso makes a great black substitute, and when paired with ivory, cream, and alabaster offer a high contrast luxe look.
Medium-dark shades of brown can be difficult to find, but sepia and latte are great choices for the warm spring palette.
If browns prove difficult to find, navy is a great choice as a base for the wardrobe. Warm Seasons should avoid gray, but a gray-taupe like Beaver is an option here as well.
Light Spring Neutral Color Palette
Light Spring is warm-neutral, light value, and neutral-bright chroma. The best neutral wardrobe colors for these light fresh women feature warm shades.
Light seasons can be overpowered by the deep colors, so tuscan or soft navy can make a great substitute for black. Pair them with almond, alabaster, and rice as a white option.
Light Spring is moving toward the soft chroma of summer, so slightly muted browns like beaver and cashmere look great.
Timberwolf is a light warm gray option that meshes well with the rest of the neutral wardrobe palette.
Light Summer Neutral Color Palette
Light Summer is cool-neutral, light value, and neutral-soft chroma. The best neutral wardrobe colors for these fair skinned beauties feature mostly cool tones and soft colors.
Black is out for light summer, but graphite is perfect substitute. Gray is perfect for summers, so stick with lighter shades of light gray or white smoke. Use soft white instead of true white.
Other gray shades such as pewter and ice gray create a neutral tonal look.
Soft navy like a deep denim is also a great color for light summer. For something a bit closer to black, consider onyx as a dark neutral option.
Cool Summer Neutral Color Palette
Cool Summer is cool, medium value, and medium-soft chroma. The best neutral wardrobe colors for these summer stunners are strongly cool and medium value.
The blue family of neutrals is perfect on cool summer, so build the base on navy and soft navy. Pair it with a cool light ice gray and use soft white instead of optic white.
True grays are also lovely, and charcoal paired with gray is a nice blend. Other grays include the blue toned cadet, and platinum.
Soft Summer Neutral Color Palette
Soft Summer is cool-neutral, medium-light value, and soft chroma. The best neutral wardrobe colors for these gentle beauties are very muted cool tones.
Muted colors are created by adding gray, so gray toned neutrals fit perfectly here. Charcoal, pewter, and light gray offer a broad range, while soft white is better than white.
Midnight is softer and deeper than true navy as a dark neutral, while cadet is a blue-based gray shade.
Soft Summer can play with some of the color neutrals, such as sage and purple taupe to create variety in the neutral palette.
Soft Autumn Neutral Color Palette
Soft Autumn is warm-neutral, medium-light value, and soft chroma. The best neutral wardrobe colors for these lovely warm ladies feature mostly warm tones and low contrast.
Soft Autumn shares the same muted characteristic of soft summer, so gray-based browns work best. Cafe Noir is a rich brown substitute for black, while khaki and alabaster are toned down. Choose ivory as a warm white option.
Beaver and cream are more light soft browns that work well in this season.
As most color neutrals are a bit muted, they feature well in soft autumn neutral wardrobes. Add olive drab and blush for variety.
Warm Autumn Neutral Color Palette
Warm Autumn is warm, medium-dark value, and medium-soft chroma. The best neutral wardrobe colors for these bronze beauties feature a lot of warmth and depth.
Espresso is a perfect near black for warm autumn, and pairs nicely with camel and tan. Use ivory for a warm alternative to white.
Dark brown and caramel are medium-dark rich browns that are perfect for this true warm season.
Warm autumn can have a lot of fun with color neutrals such as oxblood, a deep blood wine, and true olive.
Deep Autumn Neutral Color Palette
Deep Autumn is warm-neutral, dark value, and neutral chroma. The best neutral wardrobe colors for these dark divas feature deeper slightly muted warm colors.
A neutral wardrobe palette for deep autumn features the darkest and deepest browns, such as espresso, cognac, and caramel. Eggshell is a darker cream that works best for these rich skin tones.
Almond and tan are lighter brown neutrals that can provide tonal options in the neutral palette.
Bistro is a bit more muted than espresso and can be used as a near black. For a color neutral, consider a deep green such as kombu.
Deep Winter Neutral Color Palette
Deep Winter is cool-neutral, dark value, and neutral chroma. The best neutral wardrobe colors for these deep cool beauties feature deep cold tones.
Winters typically can handle a lot of contrast, but for a deep winter, sticking to the deeper shades of black and carbon. On the other end choose pure white and alabaster.
Jet and battleship are grays that work well for deep winter.
Gunmetal is a deep blue-based gray, while espresso works as deep winter lies next to autumn.
Cool Winter Neutral Color Palette
Cool Winter is cool, medium-dark value, and medium-bright chroma. The best neutral wardrobe colors for these ice queens feature black and blue based shades.
Black and white form the backbone of all the winter palettes, and can be paired with cool pewter and silver for medium range grays.
Navy and soft navy are also perfect for cool winter and can be used during the hot seasons of spring and summer for a lighter look.
For more gray options, consider charcoal and platinum.
Clear Winter Neutral Color Palette
Clear Winter is cool-neutral, medium-dark value, and bright chroma. The best neutral wardrobe colors for these bold clear beauties feature mostly cool tones and high contrast.
Clear seasons do best with lots of contrast, so medium value neutrals can be difficult. Stick with black and white and pair with nevada and platinum for the core neutrals.
The rest of the palette can be filled in with blue based neutral wardrobe colors. Navy and soft navy pair well together.
Gunmetal is a deep blue-based gray, while cadet is a medium gray-blue to finish the palette.
Final Thoughts on Neutral Wardrobe Colors
Neutral capsule wardrobes are all the rage, but it’s prudent to remember that not every neutral is a great neutral.
Your personal coloring and attributes of hue, value, and chroma create specific types of neutrals that work best.
If you’re looking for neutral wardrobe colors, be sure to take into account which colors look best on you, and work from there.
Ready to create your own cohesive color palette?
Related Color Analysis Articles
- Explore the 12 Seasons of Color
- Personality and Color Analysis
- Eye Patterns and Color Analysis
- Why You Need a Color Palette
Which of these color palettes is your favorite? Let me know in the comments!
Neutral Wardrobe Colors form the foundation of a capsule wardrobe, and should be chosen based on your features.
Stacey is the owner and creator behind Radiantly Dressed. She is a certified image consultant and AICI member focusing on creating simplicity in wardrobes via color and style.