When we pack our travel bags, the one thing that gives us the most hardship is clothes. All of us traveling women know that making decisions about what to take can plague us: Should I take this? Will it match that?

Previously, I would pack something – perhaps a top – I hadn’t worn for years. I’d say to myself: “Oh, great find! I haven’t worn that for a while. I’ll wear it when I’m on holiday (even though the colour doesn’t suit me).” Does that sound familiar?

The colour looks no better at the beach than it does in my bedroom. I’d stand in front of the mirror holding the top against my skin then cast it aside in frustration, thinking, “Why did I bring that top with me? No wonder I didn’t wear it for years: the colour does absolutely nothing for me!”

Isn’t that irritating? It’s a waste of packing space, an unwanted expense (buying the top in the first place), and unnecessary on holiday when you’d prefer to look your best.

I no longer waste my space, money, or sentiment on the wrong colours and choices. These days I know what colours suit me – and therefore what colours to pack. Easy!

Knowing the colours that suit you is one of the cornerstones of packing lightly: start with your base colour and support that with a few items in complementary colours.

So how to do that?

Colour Tones

A long time ago I read a book called the Colour and Style File by Barbara Jacques. In this book, Jacques writes about ‘tonal groups’. She draws upon hair, skin, and eye colouring to assist our tonal definitions of bright, light, warm, muted, dark, and cool.

To recognise whether you are, for example, ‘dark’ or ‘bright’ Jacques suggests you look in the mirror. ‘Dark’ or ‘bright’ is the first characteristic you see. My skin and hair colours define me as ‘dark’, therefore I choose my colours from the ‘dark’ colour wheel.

The ability to choose the ‘right’ colours based on my personal colouring was a revelation. It really worked!

Since knowing what colours suit me, I no longer buy clothes in the ‘wrong’ colours. Instead, I am confident in selecting colours that work for me.

Pack Colours for Light Travel

Knowing what colours suit me makes packing the ‘right’ colours for light travel easy. By limiting my colour choices to my one base colour and adding a few items in complementary colours, I vary my limited wardrobe to look and dress fashionably for my few weeks away.

I’ve also learnt another trick: I never wear more than two colours at one time – I dress either all in one colour, matching tops and bottoms, or add a touch of another colour for a bit of variety. For example, I would wear a coloured t-shirt with black or grey trousers or shorts.

Colour Choices

When I first discovered my own colour ‘season’ – I’m a winter – it made shopping for clothes so much easier. I no longer buy apricot or lemon-coloured tops – even though I love those colours – because I know they don’t suit me.

Pastel or light colours make me look bleak and washed out. I have olive-coloured skin and salt-and-pepper grey hair, so deeper and darker tones suit me best.

Colour Swatches

Back in the day, shopping by colour or matching to my ‘season’ meant carrying colour swatches to select and match to the right colours at the shops.

These days there’s an app for it – of course. I use Shopping My Colours. If you know your own colour ‘season’, it’s easy to select the colours that will work for you.

Winter Season Colours

My colours include black, reds, pinks, greens, blues, purples, and greys. They suit me best based on the combination of my skin, hair, and eye colour.

Pack Light and Right

As I know which colours suit me, I shop quicker, pack my clothes easier, and travel lighter – with a carry-on bag only. I’m confident that I’ll look my best with my light, select wardrobe.

Sometimes I make mistakes. For my recent trip to Japan, I selected the right tones of black and grey, but the red t-shirt I packed was not quite the best nuance: too tomato red to orange. I knew the colour wasn’t quite right when I packed it, but I took it nonetheless. I wasn’t happy wearing it.

I bought the t-shirt online without trying the red against my skin, so next time I’ll be more careful.

Travel Me Beautiful

How can you find out what your particular colour ‘season’ is? I recommend you read Carole Jackson’s Colour Me Beautiful, which is still available in print.

By narrowing down your wardrobe choices to your right colours you will do more than just develop a sensible and useful wardrobe. Indeed, you will find it very satisfying to dismiss certain choices because the colour doesn’t suit you.

This will give you the opportunity to pack lightly and travel with only the clothes that make you shine. Now doesn’t everyone want to look their best for their next holiday or business trip?

How do you determine which colours suit your complexion? Do you go by that rule when shopping and packing? Is there any colour swatch app that you like to use? Please share any tips you have about packing the right colours for light travel.

Let's Have a Conversation!