In my experience the best way to think about wearing colour is to start with the idea of harmony. What colours go together well – like notes in a phrase or tune? Look at nature and you will see colours which harmonise – a setting sun set, the plumage of a bird, or a peony where the particular pinks blend perfectly with the particular greens. Or a human face – where your natural hair, skin, eyes and lip colours work together well. In all of these examples light and life make the colours shimmer.
Colour in our clothes
When we reproduce colour in our textiles it is flatter, and more artificial looking (and to the textile designer, often disappointing). Just compare a piece of black cotton with the black of the night, or a ladybird’s spot or a blackbird’s feather. Because textile colours are “deadened” we need to be more careful with how we put them together. We are able to see 2.4m colours, but creating a harmonious look when you are getting dressed in the morning can be challenging. Also colours are on a continuum – when exactly does a red purple become a blue purple, for example?
Perhaps the easiest way to do it is to break down each shade in to the following categories. Colour has three dimensions. Value (depth/light), hue (cool/warm) and chroma (brightness-clarity/muted purity), and therefore can be compared with their “opposites”. And while there are obviously some colours are in the middle, I find it a helpful approach. I think it is fairly easy to see these difference. Decide if a colour is:
Deep or light?
Cool or warm?
Bright or muted?
Colours are often in more than one group. For example mustard is both warm and muted, mint green is both cool and light.The basic idea with dressing in colours that suit you is to determine your own predominant look. If we are seeking a harmonious palette that will suit an individual and make them look their very best we can usually identify one of the above groups which will work best. If your colouring is very light for example (a natural blonde or light redhead for example, with light eyes) you will look your best in lighter colours. Which group of colours enhances and supports your natural colouring?
For me it is cool shades. My natural colouring is predominantly cool – ash blonde hair, blue eyes, purpley pink lips, cool-light skin tone. I’ll always look my best in shades which are cool. This doesn’t mean blues and greens rather than red or pink. I can wear every colour but it will be a shade of that colour that has blue (rather than yellow, which is warm) undertones. The pinks that look good on a person with cool colouring are bluish pinks rather than yellowish (peachy) pinks. These pinks will harmonise well with other cool (blue based) colours. Greens that work with my colouring, and with my wardrobe, are bluer greens rather than yellowy greens (pea green) or muted greens (khaki).
Before I identified my own shading and cooler direction I had clothes in every single group. I bought clothes or fabrics in colours I liked (tobacco brown, or peach, for example). I instinctively matched warms or muted shades together but as a result there were lots of items which didn’t match or harmonise with each other. And a lot of them didn’t really harmonise with me (cool – bright – light) either. This theory of colour is really helpful in terms of streamlining your wardrobe and ensuring that virtually everything can be worn together.
Because I am so interested in colours that enhance people rather than drain or age them, I qualified as a colour analyst. I will blog about how this works, but if you are interested please get in touch.