Many Shades of Gray: My Go-To Neutral

In high school I used to tease my friend for her inclination to wear the same color (navy blue) almost every day, her other go-to colors were forest green and maroon. Together we joked about her needing to branch out (at least I hope she was laughing with me). But now that I am being more intentional about making a modular wardrobe…I realize she was ahead of her time.

As a teen I had bought into the idea that I had to keep my outfits fresh and on trend (even though I was rarely on trend). I’ll have to ask her if she spared herself some of the high school social anxiety each morning by always having clothes that matched her jewel tone color palette.

This is a perspective that I still work to break – not so much the on-trend part, but the idea of having a variety of colors and options to keep things fresh in one’s wardrobe.

The many minimal capsule wardrobes on display on Pinterest are an indication that monochromatic outfits can be interesting. And I’ve been trying to settle on that one main color to lead the palatte. Except…

Every time I go into a thrift store or fabric store I end up with something that is gray or has gray in it. I was starting to worry that my wardrobe was getting too gray and dull. In my head, I had assigned gray as one of the supporting neutral colors, not the main color.

But why not? Why can’t gray be my main color, around which I build awesome outfits?

Some people look great in beiges and build wardrobes around that. I’ve never quite made peace with beige. My darker skin tone often matches beige outfits, and then I just feel naked. Similarily, the yellow undertones in my skin and black-brown hair keep me out of lots of browns.

Black is supposed to be the traditional wardrobe stable. It goes with EVERYTHING. I have a few things, but black tends to be my accent color rather than the main focus. Black reads more formal than gray. Black is crisp and pristine. And…that isn’t really me, at least not every day.


Gray, however… Gray is [usually] a cooler color that compliments my complexion. It matches all of the colors in my wardrobe and transitions between all seasons well. And grays come in so many shades from off-white to charcoal.

A gray wardrobe base, with seasonally-rotating accent colors and accessories that embody my personality, is my new objective. I’m already partway there.

When I look at this gallery of outfits, what strikes me is I feel like I am wearing the outfits. Whereas really bold outfits can sometimes feel like they are wearing me. I feel more confident in these outfits, but I also wonder, am I dressing myself to fade into the crowd? I once wrote about red being my power color, and I still think it is (it also pairs with gray beautifully.) As I navigate through my professional career will standing out with bold colors (and fashion) draw more attention or will my ability to carry my head high when I walk into a room dressed in olive green and gray?

What is your go-to color?  What colors make you feel powerful, confident, or genuine?

2 thoughts on “Many Shades of Gray: My Go-To Neutral

  1. I was the navy blue in high school as well. I moved into black because all the blacks go together, while navy blue and denim and midnight blue don’t always work together. I didn’t want to clash and I didn’t want to stick out.
    So now I’m in my 50s and I am very fond of clashing colors and prints.

    I think the difference between what I wore then and now is I have more authority and experience, and frankly am more of a show off than I used to be. I can afford better fabrics now, and my sewing skills almost match them. Working on it anyway.

    Grey is a beautiful color family. Go with it.

  2. Grey (especially a warm grey because I look best in warm tones) is my neutral of choice – black is always far too harsh on me and makes me look goth. I probably have more grey mix & match items in my closet than any other color but I am definitely all about the bright colors to keep from being forgettable and boring.

    I really love how you have so many grey items that are visually textured (whether it’s a subtle print or actual texture like a sweater). Texture is something that adds so much interest to a wardrobe and grey shows off texture so much better than black.

    I like your idea to have a mostly neutral base for your wardrobe – you’ll be able to wear the same things for years while following trends with accessories to keep everything fresh.

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