Who doesn’t remember their favorite box of crayons as a child? The seemingly endless array of colors; a true rainbow in a box. Thankfully, we can also experience that same joy as grown-ups, in our wardrobe, and we already have the fundamental knowledge of color thanks to that simple box of crayons!
Today, we live in a world of endless color options, especially in fashion, and it can be truly overwhelming to decide which colors look best on us. While “beauty” has an unlimited number of definitions around the world, to the human eye, beauty means symmetry, balance, and repeated patterns.
Not a stylist or color theory expert? Fear not! A simple tool known as the color wheel, invented by none other than Sir Isaac Newton takes the guesswork out of choosing your perfect colors.
What is the Color Wheel?
So what exactly is a color wheel? A color wheel is a circular chart that displays how different colors relate to one another. While some variations of the wheel contain dozens of shades, they are all different variations of the 3 primary colors: blue, red, and yellow. Any outfit is a mix of these colors and “neutrals”; white, black, grey, and sometimes brown.
I know, I know; you’re thinking “This is all fascinating, but how do I know which colors look best on me?” Start by asking yourself 3 simple questions:
1. Should I choose bright or soft colors?
You may look best in BRIGHT colors if…
Hair is: White, shiny black, or an intense shade of red
Skin is: Very dark or very light
Eyes are: Bright blue or hazel
NOTE: If you have a combination of light hair, eyes, and skin or have a strong contrast between fair skin and dark hair, you would also likely look great in bright colors.
You may look best in SOFT colors if…
Hair is: A mix of greys, ash blonde, or ash brown
Skin is: A mix of warm and cool tones
Eyes are: Any shade of soft, almost cloudy color, grey-blue, or grey-green
2. Does my skin have a warm, cool, or neutral undertone?
You have a WARM undertone if…
Hair is: Golden blonde, brown, auburn, strawberry blonde, or red
Skin is: Yellow, golden, or golden brown
Eyes are: Golden, gold flecks, earthy, warm blue-green, or warm brown
Your favorite jewelry is: Yellow gold
You have a COOL undertone if…
Hair is: Blue-black, cool brown, blonde, or silver
Skin is: Pink or olive, dark with a blue tint, or dark with a red tint
Eyes are: Grey, blue, cool brown, cool blue-green
Your favorite jewelry is: Silver, white gold, or platinum
*You have a NEUTRAL undertone if you are a combination of warm and cool. Lucky you; you can wear almost any color!
For more information on understanding skin tones, check out my post, “Why Your Makeup May Not be Working For You” HERE.
3. Am I light, medium, or deep?
You are LIGHT if…
Hair is: Pale blonde or white
Skin is: Very fair or light
Eyes are: Bright blue or green
You are MEDIUM if…
Hair is: Medium or medium dark brown
Skin is: Fair to medium
Eyes are: Blue or light to medium brown
You are DEEP if…
Hair is: Very dark brown to black
Skin is: Olive or dark with a blue or red cast
Eyes are: Dark
Color Wheel Clothes Matching
Whew! So now that you know which colors look best on you, let’s really have some fun and start combining them. While fashion rules are sometimes made to be broken, of course, the following 10 rules will definitely help you look your best!
- Go with your gut. Without any outside advice, what color are you naturally drawn to first? If your eye goes immediately to light blue, adding the adjoining colors (teal and blue-violet) will give you a color palette that feels natural to you.
- Complementary colors (opposite to primary colors) always go well together. For example, red (primary) will always look good with green, yellow (primary) with purple, and blue (primary) with orange.
A trick that many designers use is to choose 2 complementary colors, then select one in a slightly deeper shade. For example, instead of red and green, pick red and olive green, which will give you variation while still keeping to a balanced and pleasing color combination.
- Match colors to your skin tone. Refer to question #2 above and choose shades based on your skin’s temperature. Cool tones look great in emerald greens, deep purples, lavender, pink, ice blue, and bright blues. Warm tones rock green, brown, mustard yellow, warm reds, peach, coral, amber, and gold. You lucky neutrals out there can wear almost any color!
Style favorites for cool: 11 Honore Simone Sweatshirt available for purchase HERE.
Style favorites for warm: SHEIN Plus Color Block Geo Belted Maxi Dress available to purchase HERE.
- Keep it in the (color) family!
Combine pastel colors with other pastels, jewel tones with jewel tones, etc.
- Keep the amounts of each color carefully balanced.
Any interior designer will tell you that it helps to start with a dominant/primary color, follow with a subordinate/complementary color, and finish with an accent/unexpected or statement color, and fashion is no different. Follow the 60%/30%/10% formula when mixing colors.
- Mix it up right!
Mix colors of similar concentration (muted with other muted, bright with other bright), and undertone (warm with warm and cool with cool), then create contrast with neutrals.
- Don’t stress about matching your accessories. Accessories are a great way to let your creativity shine through, especially with bright or statement colors, and shouldn’t be limited to what matches the rest of your outfit.
- Experiment with mixing neutrals. While neutrals are usually used only as a backdrop for brighter colors, they can also mix really well with each other. Brown, black, navy blue, and white almost always go well together, so don’t be afraid to let them be friends with each other!
- Wear denim as a neutral. Denim, while in the blue family, is also being used more and more as a neutral and can be mixed with any other color, even blue and other denims. Those mid-wash jeans would look great with a light-wash denim shirt, as would those dark-wash jeans with a mid-wash denim jacket!
Style favorite: Macy’s Style and Co Denim Jacket available for purchase HERE
- Turn your closet into a color wheel! Coordinating your closet by color will save you a ton of time and aggravation and will also help you discover exciting new color combinations to show the world the unique style that is YOU!
If you have the time and desire to delve deep into color matching, you can always take a masterclass like the one HERE.
The Cultured Curves Team