Updated: Jul 17, 2020
Colour theory can get very complicated and it is easy to get wrong. So instead of getting too technical let’s see how we can relate this information above to our own colour choices for ourselves or the client. Lets just look at you for now, but this information can obviously be determined for anyone.
Essentially how do you know what you are going to look good in? You may have spent time buying clothes you think are a good fit or are quality made or just downright expensive but still you may never have worn them because you don’t think that they look right somehow although you can’t quite put your finger on why. It could be that it is the colour that is causing the problem (don’t forget here that lots of fabrics can be dyed with natural or artificial dyes so all is not lost for these items. You may even end up pulling a few items back out of bag B!).
When considering colour a general rule of thumb is that the colour of your features will define what colours you look the best in. You can keep it just simple like that or expand on this further.
Like it or not we do look the best in colours that are similar to the features that we have for example eye, hair or skin colours and we should be picking clothes based on these colours. You want to wear your clothes not have the clothes wear you. Your clothes should complement you and your features in the best way and not shout louder than you do, unless that’s your personality and the whole point of it for you.
So the first step is to study your features and determine what colours they consist of. If you look at the chart below compare the colour of your features and what number they area on the chart i.e eye colours, hair colours, skin colours, lips etc. I keep it plural as not many people have block colours for everything, hair has highlights/lowlights, skin has undertones, also some people wear makeup and if a standard colour palette is used every day in the makeup you could even consider this a feature.
By going through this process you can pull out a dozen colours that will suit you already.People don’t usually just dress in one or two colours so we can use more colours extra to these dominant colours. Like neutrals or complementary colours to add a little flare or highlight to enhance a feature. So when designing a capsule wardrobe or even an individual piece we might want to consider a 60-30-10 split of main colour, secondary colour then highlight colour. This ratio can be used to assist with highlighting body areas that you want to show off to set them apart from the body areas you want to make low key.
If it helps you could get hold of some colour charts from your local paint shop or if you are more serious buy a set of pantone colour guide sets or some other colour reference guide to help you with your colour choices. If you have all of your colours to hand it can make shopping for clothes or fabric for your capsule wardrobe easier.
Now you have identified your dominant feature colours you can compare them together to find out what type of Colour Contrast you have.
Look in a mirror or take a selfie and refer back to the colour wheel diagram.
If your features are all similar in colour then you are monochromatic in colour, using similar colours tends towards a conservative design.
If your features have colours that sit next to each other on the colour wheel then you are analogous in colour so are low in contrast.
If you have features that are opposite in colour on the colour wheel then you have complementary colours these colours are high in contrast.
So for example say you have;
Brown eyes and brown hair you potentially monochromatic in colour and will look good in monochromatic colours of similar shades/tone/tint/value and chroma. By choosing colours in a monochromatic way we can create a vertical colour block like a tower that elongates the body and optically sliming it down (colours do not have to be perfectly matching to do this either).
Brown eyes and beige/tan hair are analogous colours therefore analogous colours, would look good on this person.
Green eyes and Red hair are complementary colours so this person would look good in complementary colours.
It is also worth noting here that Teal is a colour in various shades that lots of people can wear as it is a complementary colour to many different skin tones.
Colour Value is very different to Colour Contrast.
Using a standard value scale 1 is black 10 is white, we are assessing here the contrast between our lightest and our darkest features and working out a value.
Look at the colour scale and identify colours that are similar in Shade and Tint to the colours of your own features. How far apart are your features?
Pick your darkest feature is it your eyes, lips or hair and your lightest feature it maybe a highlight in your hair or the undertone of your skin, the whites of your eyes or teeth and find a point on the scale for both. This is the scale of contrast of colours in your features. This is the contrast level that you can repeat in your clothing colours and it is advisable not to go beyond them otherwise they are outside what is comfortable for you.
Count up how many marks of contrast you have – the wider the contrast in colours the more colours you will be able to wear.
You will be low value contrast difference if you have only moved 3 points on the scale.
medium value Contrast is 3-6 points.
high value contrast > 6points.
So for example;
So a high contrast person should wear high contrast coloured clothes to help mirror the contrast in the features.
A low contrast person should wear low contrast clothes so that the features or not overwhelmed. So compare light with light or dark with dark choosing analogous colours can also blend in here too.
A medium contrast person can work with contrast more freely wearing both higher and lower contrasts, so will need to experiment on what looks best for their colouring.
Just to add a little more science into the mix all of these colours can be split into two main groups of undertone, Warm colours and Cool colours. Warm colours include some shade of yellow in them cool colours have undertones of blue. You are usually either going to look best in warm colours or cool colours, I say usually because there are some people that will fit into either group.
The easiest way to decide what colour has what undertone on the colour wheel is to split the colour chart into two halves. Although as you can see there are many shades of green that have yellow in them and there are crimsons with blue in, so it’s not a perfect way to define it but it is a starting point.
To help you choose what undertone will suit you the best here are a few pointers;
Have a look at the veins on the inside of your arm what colour are they; blue, green or in between. If they look green then you are seeing the result of viewing your veins through yellower toned skin so you have a warmer skin tone.
Hold up anything gold to your face, either jewellery or a piece of card and take note of how it makes you look then do the same with silver. Warmer toned people look better in gold. If you can’t decide then you may be able to wear both.
Usually your features can help you, blue or green eyed people are usually cool toned, brown or hazel usually warm toned. Look at the undertones of the hair are they blue for example silver or black or are they yellow for example strawberry blond or red or brown.
You will have to experiment a little with this.
The upshot is that you would mix warm colours with warm colours and cool colours with cool colours as main colours in a design palette.
Choosing your colour scheme
To bring everything together we need some way of harmonising all of your own colours together, as you may have a wide range of colours to choose from by now.
If we harmonise all of the colours together in the capsule wardrobe then it should not matter which item of clothing you pick to wear it is going to work and blend with everything else without having to put in too much thought into it on an everyday basis.
Seasonal Mix – One obvious way to do this is to consider a seasonal mix to help break up colours into groupings.
So we have, Winter, Spring/Summer and Autumn and combining those seasons with colour options Light, Dark, Bright, Dull, Warm and Cool can give you a range of choices. For example, any of these combinations could be viable for any season – although some combinations lean more towards a particular season.