“This is your colour”
That’s what my students said to me when they handed me some fuchsia roses…
My colour? Maybe… I had worn a fuchsia dress, a sweater and a berry / orchid scarf to work. But I had also worn other colours. Well, blue, mostly… My point is, of all the outfits I had worn, on those 7 evenings that they saw me, they remembered the 3 in various shades of dark pink…
How about this: under ‘Popular Posts’ on the sidebar of this blog, there are 5 posts. I’m wearing something pink, fuchsia or berry /radiant orchid in most of them…
In a way, red has always been my go-to colour, but it never occurred to me that other people would think of a particular colour or shade as ‘my colour’. Of course I know that pink, fuchsia, magenta – the cooler shades of red – suit me. But so do the warmer shades of blue and purple.
How do you determine which colours suit you?
It’s all about your natural colouring. There are many methods to examine your natural colouring, all of them a bit confusing. For instance, you can try to determine which ‘season’ you are: a warm-toned autumn or spring, or a cool-toned winter or summer. It’s not so easy, and it may just be that you are not just one season but a mix of two, or more. Or you can try to determine whether your skin has cool or warm undertones, by looking at the veins on the inside of your wrist. Apparently, blue veins mean your skin has cool undertones whereas green veins mean warm undertones… OK, so far so good, but what if your veins are sort of blueish greenish, or some of them are blue and some seem more green…
OK, Let’s cut through this bullshit and do my test: take two shades of red, one clearly more orange (= has yellow in it) and the other a bit more pink (= has blue in it). Which one looks better on you?
Aha! So, if the more orange-red looks better, you probably suit warmer colours? And if the more pink-red makes your skin glow, stick to cooler colours?
Not so fast… Because the shade of red that suits you says absolutely nothing about the shade of blue, or green, or purple you should be wearing…
But the method still works: now, do the same with other primary colours (= red, blue, yellow) and secondary colours (= orange, purple, green). Do you look better in warm blue (= has more yellow in it, i.e. greenish shades of blue) or cool blue (= has more red in it, i.e. purple/violet-blue)?
This is how I found that while the cooler shades of red (pink, fuchsia, magenta) suit me well, cooler shades of blue (violet-blue) do not. And this is exactly what you see in the photo below: a cool shade of red (hot pink) on the left (original post) and a warm shade of blue (original post) on the right. And if I continue, I get cool shades of green (=blue-green, teal) and warm shades of purple (=red-purple, i.e. radiant orchid) as some of my best colours. And yellow and orange? Well, I would not wear either (cool or warm shades), they just do me no favours. But that doesn’t mean they wouldn’t work as accent colours…
Wait a minute, aren’t these more or less the colours often described as jewel tones? Oh yes they are. Jewel tones are perfect for anyone with medium-contrast skin tone.
High contrast or low contrast?
When choosing your best colours, you have to also consider your hair colour and the colour of your eyes. More importantly, the contrast between your skin tone and hair and eyes.
I’m going to use myself as an example here. OK, so, what’s the first thing you notice?
I’m pale. Really, really pale. I have skin that burns when it just feels the slightest touch of sun… Yet, I have dark hair. Brown hair, not black. Medium brown, not dark brown. Warmer brown (chestnut, i.e. it has some natural red / yellow tones in it) rather than cool brown… So, the contrast between my hair colour and my skin tone is not as high as, say, Elizabeth Taylor’s (a good example of high contrast).
And my eyes? Well, they’re sort of blueish / greenish grey, sort of diluted blue…
So, the contrast between my eyes and my skin tone is low. But the contrast between my eyes and my hair colour is high.
But what does all this have to do with discovering my best colours?
Let me tell you a little story. There is a wonderful shop in Chinatown in San Francisco which sells Chinese silk jackets, among other things. Really nice ones, too, not just the traditional type but very modern and trendy styles. Anyway, I was there a few years ago, looking for a silk jacket. They had such lovely colours: hot pink and purple… and I didn’t buy anything. Why? Well, I did try on both the hot pink and the purple (or perhaps in this case we should call it violet) one. It was a hell of a lot of hot pink, is all I can say… I wasn’t wearing the colour, the colour was wearing me. Hell, the colour was drowning me, then wiping the floor with me… Yet, it would have looked perfect on the black-haired, olive-skinned sales assistant. So unfair, right?
It’s not just the colour but the intensity of the colour that matters.
Once you have discovered the colours that suit you best, you have to determine the range of shades in those colours you can wear. Think about for example pink: from the lightest, barely there blush to the darkest, deepest magenta… My guess is you don’t suit all of those shades. I certainly don’t.
Let’s look at the high vs low contrast. I have medium contrast skin-tone, so mid-tones suit me best. These are shades that are not too dark nor too light. The middle-of-the-road shades, so to speak. I can wear (some) brights (e.g. tomato red), but usually slightly muted tones work better. Again, this has everything to do with my natural colouring; someone with a more olive skin tone can get away with a lot brighter and / or darker shades than me.
What you see in the picture above is a very saturated colour (original post), but it doesn’t overwhelm me. And in the picture below you see a much lighter shade (original post), but it still provides enough contrast next to my skin. And this is about as light a shade as I would wear. Anything paler probably blends too much into my skin tone and makes me look a bit… blaah.
And how do you determine which shades of a particular colour suit you? Well, you have to see what it looks like on you, really. There are no shortcuts, I’m afraid… As you can see, I’m a firm believer in learning-by-doing.
So, it’s a process of trial-and-error, pretty much, determining which colours suit you best. And when you do discover your best colours, people will notice, I guarantee that.
However, no colour exists in a vacuum but is enhanced or subdued by other colours around it. But, are all colours equal or are some colours more equal than others when it comes to combining them?
But that is a topic for another post…
What are your best colours?
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