Style Systems: My Color Palette

Last week I blogged about finding your color palette, and told you all about how I struggle with the seemingly oversimplified standard minimalist color palette of black and white. Today I’m diving into my color palette, the soft summer color palette.

On the season color wheel, summers are defined as being cool and light. In my case, the features that qualify me as a soft summer/cool summer are my ash-blonde/ash-brown hair color (I started life as a blonde and my hair darkened as I got older), my light ivory skin tone, and my grey-green eye color.

The family of summer color palettes is one of the most delicate, meaning that if we stray too far from our core colors, or choose a hue with warmer orangey undertones, things get hairy really fast. Because we tend to have softer features (unlike the striking contrast you see in winter color palettes), it is easy for color overwhelm us, making our features look bland or dull.

Here are my two most important guidelines when pulling together my soft summer wardrobe (and bonus, these tips work for makeup too):

1| Stick to muted hues and stay away from saturated colors.
White and black are actually the perfect examples of saturated, high-contrast colors that are likely to overpower the low-contrast features of a soft summer. Instead try gray or eggshell to balance and play up the natural color tone.

2| When in doubt, ask if the color has more blue or orange.
While blue and orange may be complimentary colors on the color wheel, they are also polar opposites of the warmth spectrum. Colors with more orangey warmth (think olive, lime green, almost any yellow, rust red, etc.) tend to drain the life of a summer’s natural coloring, while cooler blue-toned colors, such as jewel tones (raspberry, royal purple, ruby red, turquoise, seafoam, etc.) in muted hues bring life by complimenting the natural light and muted colors in the soft summer’s hair and skin.


Now for the fun part! I’ve pulled out some clothes from my wardrobe to illustrate the five color families that I have built my wardrobe around: taupes, grays, pinks, greens, and blues.


TaupesWhen I was in college, I remember reading somewhere that when building a professional wardrobe, one should choose a solid neutral to base their wardrobe off of. Because at this point in my life I already knew I didn’t like black (thank you, years of orchestra), but since I had brown hair and I knew I was drawn to more neutral, organic colors, I chose brown. Thankfully, I never made the mistake of investing in brown suiting, but it took years for me to see how my warm chocolate brown trousers were clashing with my favorite blush pink or seafoam tops.

Eventually I discovered the magic that is a color I affectionately call mushroom taupe. It’s a cool, almost gray or silvery hue of brown. Think of a portobello or baby bella mushroom that you see in the grocery store and recall all of the colors on it, from brownish taupe of the top, to the stone-colored stem, to the gray-brown under the cap. These make up the range of hues in the mushroom taupe family and they are the perfect neutral for soft summers!



GraysFor soft summers, as cliché as it sounds, gray is the new black. As I mentioned before, a saturated black will wash me out completely, but soften that black to a charcoal gray, and the simple act of dialing back the intensity will add life back into my features. Since making this realization, gray has become one of the hardest working colors in my wardrobe, in everything from tees, pants, sweaters, and cardigans.



PinksGrowing up, I was never naturally drawn to pinks and purples; I could maybe blame it on having older brothers (and wearing their hand-me-downs), but I just typically preferred blues and greens instead. The colors that changed my mind were pinks in the magenta family and a soft true pink (think the color of cherry blossom buds). With their soft cool undertones, these hues add vivacity to my neutral hues.

Similarly, I struggled to feel comfortable in purple for a long time, until I went out on a whim and bought a royal purple dress for $10. It suddenly became the single most complimented item in my closet. And the best part? People would say things like “you look amazing in that dress”…the dress wasn’t getting the compliments, I was! Because this color is so dramatic, I tend to limit it in my daily wardrobe, but I love pulling it out when I feel like making a statement!




Greens have always had the power to make me swoon, but it took a while to narrow my love of green down from bright emeralds and warm sage to the cool hues that I adore today. From the light color of ruffle-y lichen to deep turquoise, all of the greens in the soft summer color palette are infused with a heaping helping of blue to keep things cool. These colors also get a special place in my heart because they bring out the green of my gray-green eyes. *wink*




I’ll be honest, blues are still hard for me. I blame this struggle partly on the fact that I adore blue jeans and rarely feel like matching a blue top with a denim bottom. Similarly to greens, I have had the best success with softer, muted blues, like denim, dark navy, slate, and what’s known as a Carolina blue. I’ve especially loved wearing blue colors with just a touch of gray or green in them. I did recently make a mistake with a bright pastel blue sweater, so even if the color is light, a hue that is too bright will wash out my natural coloring.


So there you have it, my soft summer color palette, and how I make it work for me! Overall, I try to stick to these five color families, and the system has given me a simple and cohesive color scheme that helps me avoid color faux pas and feels authentically me.

Curious what your color palette is? Check out this quiz by Agnes at 30 Something Urban Girl

I want to hear from you! How have you refined your color palette over the years? What colors do you find yourself reaching for again and again?

Hope you’re having a lovely Tuesday, and I’ll see you back here next week. 😀

Anna Signature

3 thoughts on “Style Systems: My Color Palette

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