Color For Summer: How to Make Your Wardrobe Pop

When our newest summer line came out at the clothing store I work at, it looked beautiful. We had orange so bright it hurt your eyes and every possible shade of pink. Baby blues, emerald greens and mustard yellows were sprinkled everywhere. It was like leaving the depressing darkness of that last snow storm behind us. I rejoiced in the color.

I went home, determined to plan some outfits using as much color as possible. I pulled all the colorful things from my closet and placed them on an empty clothes rack I bought at IKEA months ago. There were four items on it.

Seriously. And one of the four was a bright yellow shirt I had bought at my store earlier.

The next day, I lamented to my coworker about my colorless closet.  Once again, I was wearing all black.

“If you look at those minimalist wardrobe pictures on Pinterest, they’re all black and white and gray and some brown,” she told me.

“Great,” I said. “I have all the colors of a minimalist wardrobe without actually being minimalistic.”

My sister’s closet looks completely different from mine. She has teal blazers and hot pink dresses and bright blue blouses. Her shoes are every color of the rainbow and more. It’s hard to find any dark colors amongst all her clothes.

“It took me years to stop wearing black,” she told me. “I decided like four years ago that I wanted to wear more color and I feel like I’m finally almost there.”

I needed to do exactly what my sister had taken four years to do, except I needed to do it in about a week. Now, it was time to find out how I could make my wardrobe pop without spending crazy amounts of money.

I started at the Goodwill Outlet on Kearney Street. Goodwill Outlets are unlike anything else. They are equal parts terrifying, shocking and exciting. Items are placed in large bins on wheels that customers can search through to try and find things they want.

The bins are supposed to be sorted based off of the items inside, but the only ones that are consistently successfully sorted are the bins filled with mismatched shoes, and even then it’s difficult to find a pair. You’ll find clothes mixed in with outdated college textbooks and pink babydoll strollers and chipped coffee mugs. Every half hour, old bins are taken to the back and new bins are brought out. Customers flood the new bins as they are brought out, desperate to find the best items before anyone else. For many, it’s a kind of sport.

“My kids love to come with me,” one woman told me, gesturing to her two children who didn’t look older than eight. “It’s like a treasure hunt for them. Hell, it’s like a treasure hunt for me.”

The best thing about the Goodwill Outlet is that they charge by the pound, meaning I got two Zara blazers, an Old Navy blouse, two Vera Bradley handbags (which will be gifts for my mother), and a Vera Bradley eyeglass case for $4.37, with tax.

I began to shop around at other stores, keeping an eye out for inexpensive items with color that could make a big difference in my closet.

Jewelry was the easiest to find, with hot pink floral necklaces, teal blue bangles, and bright orange statement pieces all being quite affordable.

I bought most of my colorful jewelry from H&M. I found a few pieces at Maurices and Claire’s as well, and I discovered some great deals purchasing online from Ardene and Wet Seal. The new jewelry added the pop of color I needed to my everyday outfits.

I found that scarves could help me. Admittedly, I stole some of these from my sister, my favorite being a dark blue one with bright blue flowers on it. I found others at a Goodwill in Denver and one on clearance for $1 at Rue 21. I particularly love these pieces because of how versatile they are. They can be worn around your neck, in your hair and around your waist if you’re feeling super nostalgic for the early 2000s.

Belts are another fun accessory to add color. I bought-slash-stole-from-my-sister bright red, hot pink, and neon yellow belts that I’ve been able to incorporate into more outfits than I anticipated.

I also found that bright tank tops and t-shirts could be worn under my black and gray blazers for the splash of color I was looking for. I stocked up on some from H&M and Target, all between $4-$6.

Finally, I ditched my darker shades of nail polish for brighter, more upbeat colors.

I went a bit outside my comfort zone here , but the need for color called and I answered with Pretty Woman’s Pouty Purple and Sally Hansen’s Triple Shine Reef-Raf. I even used a bright orange Essie color I got over a year ago at Ulta called Color Binge.

Looking at my closet now, there’s a few more colorful shirts and dresses (and my new hot pink Zara blazer!), but not a ton. The biggest difference is my accessories, and how I’m beginning to use them.

Summer is as much a time for change as spring is. Wearing more vivid colors was a change I definitely needed.