Do you shy away from colors you think don’t suit you? Or have you banned black from your wardrobe just because you’re ‘a summer’?
If you find all the advice on which colors you should or shouldn’t wear more confusing than helpful, read on. Because I truly believe we can wear (almost) any color. We just need to know the rules – and how to tweak them.
A Little Bit of Color Theory
Objects reflect light in different wavelengths. Our eyes perceive those waves and send the information to our brain. Our brain translates the data into what we call color.
Color theory explains the relationship between hues (the pure color) and how they can be mixed with each other or with black (shade), white (tint), or gray (tone) to create new colors.
An Abundance of Choices
Let’s apply some color theory basics to fashion. When we consider that pure colors can be mixed with each other and with black, white, and gray to create new colors, it becomes clear that there’s a lot to choose from. Just take red as an example. There are almost endless variations of red available.
- Warmer (leaning towards orange-red) and cooler (leaning towards blue-red) versions of red
- Lighter versions of red (mixed with white), like pink, rosé
- Darker versions of red (mixed with black), like burgundy
- Muted versions (mixed with gray), like soft red
Hence, if you love a color, experiment with different versions to find the one that suits you best. Or try some of the tips below to balance out colors to make them more wearable.
Color Analysis and Pre-Defined Palettes
You likely know these color analysis systems that assign people to four or more seasons. They emerged back in the 1980ies and got more refined over time. Today you find them with 12 or more categories (seasons).
All color analysis systems have the same goal. To give you a pre-defined set of ‘best colors’ at hand. This can be helpful. No question. But the downside is that they limit your choices right from the beginning and don’t consider your preferences.
And as I wrote in my Ultimate Guide to a Well-Curated Wardrobe, I would always recommend starting with what you love and then see how to make it work for you.
The Role and Placement of Colors
A way to make difficult colors more wearable is to minimize their impact. Here’s what I mean:
- Wear colors that don’t perfectly suit you further away from your face (bottom yes, top no).
- Choose hard-to-wear colors for accessories or smaller items only.
How to Warm-Up or Cool-Down Colors
Specific colors often don’t suit us because they are too warm or too cool for our complexion. As a result, they make us look tired or washed out. But there are various ways to balance out this effect, for instance by:
- thoughtful color combinations;
- adding accessories in warmer or cooler colors;
- the choice of jewelry and hardware (gold = warm, silver = cool);
- the amount and tone of makeup;
- getting a (fake) tan.
Like other colors, white comes in cooler (blue-ish) and warmer (yellow-ish) versions. Both look great but different. You can also increase this difference by choosing other fabrics:
- A bright white shirt looks crisp and clean. Natural, slightly stiffer materials like linen, cotton, and cotton blends support the freshness of the look.
- A warm white shirt creates a softer look. Especially when it’s in a smoother material like viscose or silk.
White and the Color of Your Teeth
Lip tints in cooler colors like mauve and pink can make your teeth look whiter than warm, orangy ones.
It’s different, though, with wearing white.
Bright blue-toned whites can make your teeth look more yellow. The higher the contrast between the white top you’re wearing and the color of your teeth, the darker they appear, especially in photos. So, if you want to make your teeth look whiter, don’t wear a bright white top for a photo shooting.
We love black for its versatility and slightly slimming effect. However, it’s not the most flattering color on earth. On bad days, black can make us look old and tired. Here are some suggestions on how to make black more wearable:
- Choose black only for bottoms and avoid black tops (safest option, but not necessarily what a lover of all black outfits would do).
- Wear the right makeup to minimize any negative effects.
- Wear black when you’re tanned (natural or fake tan).
How to Shop for Your Favorite Colors
Your Favorite Color and Trends
With trends, not only styles and silhouettes change, but also colors. Usually, a large selection is then available. So whenever your favorite colors are on-trend, take the chance to stock up on your wardrobe.
Your Favorite Color and Brands
Adhering to a preferred set of brands can help refine your style and reduce shopping mistakes. But when it comes to color, we may need to look a bit further. Every brand has a slightly different take on colors. For instance, Burberry’s ‘beige’ trench coat likely differs from a ‘beige’ Max Mara trench coat.
Knowing and Breaking the Rules
I definitely think it’s good to know a bit about color theory. It’s good to be aware of the tone and undertone of your complexion. And it’s helpful to understand what your best colors are. But this doesn’t mean you should limit yourself. There are so many ways to make any color work for you. So wear what you love and not what you should!
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Let me know which colors you love and how you make them work for you. I’d love to hear from you!