I have actually read more about selecting colors to wear than anything else about fashion. After I learned the basics, it seemed like every additional thing I read was breaking a previous rule while adding so many rules that pretty much everything was okay and looked great. And honestly, I think this is true to a degree if you are super high fashion. But for people just looking to get by looking like a responsible adult, and maybe even get a compliment every so often, I have created my own color guidelines. I have also found, that I do not have to adjust colors to my personal lesbian style. I think you can find a color in women’s clothing as easily as you can find the color in men’s, and it is the print that incorporates these colors that are different. (Men will have the same shade of pink on their shirts but its striped rather than polka dot.)
Level 1: I sorted this into levels because if you follow only this paragraph you will already look like you know what you are doing. You really need not go any further. This level is: Seasonal Colors. The concept is very simple: you want to wear colors that complement the colors around you and the colors around you vary by season. Visualize with me: it is winter and you are going to walk around town. Visualize snow on the ground, black or grey street lamps, brown tree bark, tan bushes, splashes of harvey green wreathes and deep red ribbons. And you are wearing a pastel purple jacket with creamy yellow pants. You stand out big time, which for some is high fashion, sure -but for most people it looks out of place. You want to look in place, like an actor on their mark. Now take that outfit of a purple t shirt and creamy yellow pants and it is summer. You are outside again in town but now the flowers are blooming bright colors. There’s a festival down the street and you blend right in with the cotton candy, balloons, picnic tables, and the moonbounce in the background. Now imagine someone in that spring background wearing black shorts and a white shirt with dark grey shoes… they clash against their surroundings. If you only want to take away the basics of color remember that. Before you go somewhere think about what you can expect the setting to look like and wear colors that would go well with it. It naturally makes you nicer to look at.
Basic color schemes
Spring: pastels, light grey, cream.
Summer: bold, intense and contrasting colors coordinated with a couple subdued colors like tan, navy blue, or grey.
Fall: earth tones with a focus on textures (corduroys, jeans, “waffle shirts”)
Winter: black, white, grey, deep colors. Have the accessories (scarves, beanies, gloves, shoelaces) serve as your flare of color but still no neons or pastels.
Level 2: Don’t go out of your way to be all matchy matchy. What I mean is don’t think, “hmm I have an yellow striped shirt… I should wear a belt with the same exact shade of yellow, yellow earrings, and shoes with the same yellow trim!” Notice I’ve been using the word complement, meaning “goes well with”. Yellow doesn’t go well with yellow (even if its the same shade) if you do it 5 times. Now we are getting into the term color coordinated. Easily, wearing a color coordinated outfit would steer you away from wearing bright neon purple with an earth tone like copper. But at the same time… don’t match too hard by having a bunch of the same color. If you are working with 2 colors… try expanding it to 3 or 4. Here is a website that addresses the issue. Basically just catch yourself and use neutral colors to even things out. If you want to read even further just google matchy matchy or too matchy.
Level 3: The possibly most interesting, possibly least helpful thing ever: undertones. The concept is that everyone has natural coloring and because of this some colors look GREAT on some people while somehow look bad on others. Here is an image I downright stole off the internet. The guy with the pink hand has cool undertones while the yellowish one has warm undertones. (Those are the main two and sometimes “olive” is introduced but we’ll ignore that for now.) When you think of cool undertones think of being in a cave with gems. When you think of warm undertones think of being out in the sun with earthy colors… maybe even in a desert. There are color wheels on the subject but I think those are dumb because you can have a cool orange that looks like the type of color a gem would be, and you can have orange that looks like a warm, earthy dirt clump. Either way, you can still wear orange just a different shade to go along with your skin tone better.
Anyway, this is important when doing make-up in order to be natural looking, but it can be used in fashion too. There are several ways to figuring out your undertone including trying to decipher if your veins are blue or green, if you look best in gold or silver, or if you have a certain eye or hair color. You can google these tests too but I found them unhelpful. Make-up artists and other people versed in fashion take classes on how to figure out others’ undertones. I spoke with a friend who had such knowledge who decided I was both, but mostly “cool”. I do think there is some truth to it. I look awful in some shades of warm colors like yellow, pink, and mustard. I call these my tricky colors. And I think for the most part I do look good in gem colors. But I really don’t do this day to day because it’s limiting. I only think about undertones if I’m going to a wedding or an event like that. I also use this information to avoid buying my “tricky colors” online and wait until I’m in a store so I can see how the color looks against my skin.
I have one last comment on pairing your natural coloring with clothes coloring that I think has a little merit too. When visualizing most outfits, you think of having a little color and anchoring it with some neutral color, to create a nice contrast. Most people like a little contrast. Now with that in mind, pale white people with light colored hair and eyes can “look normal” with wearing more dark colors than a dark black person can, because of the concept of contrast. At the same time dark black people can wear a lot of light colors because their skin naturally adds contrast to the outfit in a way that a pale person’s would not. I hope this makes sense. To put it bluntly and offensively… you can wear a lot of light colors if you are very dark because your skin naturally provides a contrast; while white people would have to wear black accessories or black shoes with this outfit, YOU have your face and your arms so you’re good.
Asians are typically very fair skinned with very dark hair and eyes and are naturally contrasted and look good wearing clothes which also have high contrast like traditional tuxes and suits. Most people are somewhere in the middle and therefore wear regularly contrasted clothes, but just some food for thought.
That’s it. Probably my longest post. I’m sure lots of people can argue every single sentence I’ve written but that is the summary of what I’ve read and what makes sense to me. Feel free to let me know what you think.