If you're just starting out in vintage and are wondering where to start shopping, or if you've made a New Year's resolution to overhaul your wardrobe, or if you just want to add a little discipline to your shopping habits, one of the things you'll need to consider is colour. So I've decided to kick off 2012 with a theme week all about it. We'll be talking a little about colour theory; neutrals and wardrobe basics; and designing colour palettes, with a little colourful inspiration from the 1930s, 40s and 50s.
You probably already have at least a passing acquaintance with the colour wheel, but I'll go through the basics here in case you need a refresher course.
Primary, Secondary and Tertiary colours
For the purposes of fashion, the primary colours are red, blue and yellow, and form an equilateral triangle on the colour wheel. Mixing any two of these gives the secondary colours: red and blue give purple, blue and yellow make green, and yellow and red give orange. In turn, combining a secondary with a primary gives a tertiary, so mixing orange with red you get red-orange, and orange with yellow makes yellow-orange. And so on.
Hue, Saturation and Value
Hue is the actual "colour" of a colour - its position on the colour wheel.
Saturation refers to how pure or intense the colour is. Vibrant colors are highly saturated, and colours with low saturation appear "muted". Variants in saturation are called tones of the same colour - sage is a tone of green, for example.
Value refers to the relative lightness or darkness of a colour. If a colour is made lighter (by adding white) the result is called a tint, and its value is high. If black is added to make the colour darker, this is called a shade, and has a low value.
Warm and Cool Colours
The colour wheel is split into half warm and half cool colours. Reds, violets, oranges and yellows (and tints and shades thereof) are warm, create a feeling of energy, and tend to advance in a scheme. Blues, indigo and most greens are cool colours - these are calm and soothing, and tend to recede.
Types of Colour Scheme
There are all sorts of different 'official' colour schemes, from tetradic to triadic to accented split complementary. But since I'm firmly of the opinion that basically any colour can go with any colour, to me there are two basic types:
Monochromatic and Analogous schemes are those which use tints and shades of the same hue, or colours adjacent on the colour wheel. These are fairly easy to get right, as similar colours harmonise well. They're rarely daring, but they needn't be dull as contrast can be introduced in terms of tonal value and proportion.
Complementary and Split Complementary schemes (note: that's complement with an e, as in "complete", not to be confused with the similar-sounding but different compliment with an i, an approving remark). Complementary schemes are high contrast, using colours on opposite sides of the colour wheel:
Complementary colours are opposite one another on the wheel - red and green, yellow and purple, blue and orange, violet and lime, etc. A split complementary scheme takes a colour and the two colours either side of its complement - for example violet, red-orange and green (as above), or turquoise, indigo and orange.