Fashion, Beauty & Style

Making the Right Color Choices

Wearing the right color can bring brightness and vitality to your overall look and give your skin a healthy glow. But choosing the right color is a challenge, especially as we age. Our skin tone might not reflect as much light as when we were in our teens or 20's, and some colors we could wear then might look harsh now.

So what are some of the ways we make color errors, and how do we correct them?

One of the primary mistakes many people make is that they over-emphasize a color that is only a secondary or tertiary influence for them. Here’s what that means. Taken together, your skin tone, hair color, eye color, and bone structure suggest two or three seasonal color “harmonies”, not just one.  We’re not just Spring, Winter, etc.  We are combinations. For example, let’s say someone has auburn hair, a more angled (than rounded or oval) face, and hazel eyes. They might have a lot of the autumn, warm and rich colors in their closet, but also they can likely wear a few brighter spring-like colors, and a mere splattering of the softer summer season colors. But when they want to “hide” or play with an image they think might be more attractive (likely because they admire someone wearing a particular color or garment) they go to a color that is only a secondary season – in this example, the soft muted summer colors. What happens then is that they tend to disappear.

Another way we can make a mistake is to confuse coloring for style. In the style archetypes I write about there are some natural associations between certain archetypes and certain seasonal colors. People with a lot of the stark winter coloring are often thought to be Dramatic in their personal style whereas someone who has a lot of the spring coloring can be considered to be rather Youthful or High Spirited in nature. Someone with “Subtle Blended”  summer coloring  might be Classic or Angelic in their fashion style. And a voluptuous autumn type is sometimes considered Romantic or Natural.

But here’s the rub: our individual style and our personal coloring often do not fall that easily into these related categories. One of my clients has very Romantic features and body, but her personality is very High Spirited. And her primary color harmony is winter – Striking.  If she wears something that is autumn-like in color, thinking that it reflects her voluptuousness, she will completely miss the glorious intensity of her winter coloring.

Another consideration is simply time - a garment that was lovely and flattering to your skin tone when you bought it may have faded in the wash over time. Unless the lighter faded color is also part of your ideal palette, you can either dye the item back to its original color or relegate it to your gardening attire…or to the rag pile.

Then there are patterns – mixed colors. When you find a pattern that you like, check to see that the colors that jump out most are part of your primary color harmony. If they do, it will likely work for you. Pattern mixing can be another great way to wear multiple colors, and a real attention getter when done right. The key there is to make sure that the patterns you wear together stay in the same color family (cool with cool, warm with warm) and that the scale of each of the patterns works together. Two larger patterns with multiple colors simply confuse the eye.

Finally, contrast level is crucial. If your coloring is highly contrasting, your colors, particularly in prints, must strongly contrast with one another (color blocking is a good example) too. Otherwise you’ll look dull. If your overall coloring is more blended -not very great contrast between skin, eyes and hair color -your patterns should avoid any severe color contrasts. I had to reject a gorgeous scarf in one of my favorite peach colors because the border was a stark white…it completely dulled out my skin.

But we all make mistakes from time to time. Wearing more makeup can sometimes save face – literally and figuratively.

What was your biggest color purchase mistake? How did you make it work?


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Andrea Pflaumer - SheSavvy Expert

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Shopping for the real you