I have a confession to make… If you walk into my closet, you’ll find 5 dresses, a jacket, and a blouse in exactly same color. What’s with the repetition? My husband will never understand, but there’s method to my deep blue madness. I discovered what color suits me—and ran with it. Moreover, I urge you to do the same!
Anyone can wear any color… but not with equal results. We’re not talking about the colors you love; we’re talking about the colors that love you back. When you select hues that truly harmonize with your skin complexion, eye color, and hair tone—you instantly play up your best features and bring out your unique beauty. For example, the golden yellow and dusty mauve tones that are super popular in the fall? I find them beautiful them, but can’t wear them. They make me look sallow and washed out. Whereas, vivid primary colors and bold blue-based hues compliment my skin tone.
This shouldn’t feel like a limiting experience, it’s all about simplifying and enhancing your life. When you figure out the color (or colors) that flatter you most, getting dressed is a breeze. You’ll spend a lot less time stewing in front of the mirror. You will know what you’re looking for while shopping and can approach your closet with a sound strategy. Those who understand what colors suits them can also quickly build a flattering capsule wardrobe.
The photo set above is a good example of the importance of understanding your colors. I adore the earthy brown and copper hues of this sweater. However, they don’t play as nicely with my complexion as jewel tones or colors with blue undertones, such as the “marine blue” in this dress from Peach. It’s the Camden style and gets a ton of wear. Not only is the fabric deliciously soft, but the color is just right. So, let’s find your magic shade!
The first step in determining your most flattering colors is identifying your undertones. Are you cool, warm, or neutral? This does not depend on how light or dark your skin is. Whether you are super fair or have a deep dark complexion, you can have cool, warm, or neutral undertones. So, how do you figure it out? Here are a few tests…
This is far from an exact science, but your hair/eye color can also help you figure out the colors that make you glow.
Warm – Amber or brown eyes with dark blonde to dark brown hair
Cool – Gray, blue, or green eyes and hair that ranges from very dark (blue-black or super dark brown) to light blonde.
Neutral – Hazel eyes and hair that is multiple colors. For example, neutral beauties often have blonde with ashy streaks or brown with warm golden highlights.
Now that we have an idea which color family you fit into, it’s time to put it into practice. Here are the colors that generally look best on warm, cool, and neutral skin tones. However, to really hone in on the color that suits you best, you need to test the rainbow! Find a day when you have ample time and be exploratory with your shopping.
Grab solid color pieces in the colors suggested for you, as well as those you should avoid. Try them on and study your reflection in detail – better yet, snap a photo on your phone or ask a friend. This can help you assess the color impact more objectively. Are these colors enhancing your features, making you glow? Or do they detract a bit and look “blah”?
Can’t determine which color family you fit into? You might fall into two groups. For example, I consider myself a cool neutral. The cool color family is generally most flattering for me, but those for neutral skin types work as well. Below you will find examples of some of the best hues for neutral palettes.
Unsurprisingly, warm skin tones glow in warm colors. Makes sense, right? Look for golden yellows, oranges, honey hues, amber, or olive tones. Warm blues and greens, like moss or fern will also look wonderful on you. Purples with a red undertone, such as magenta or orchid are great too. In general, you’ll want to steer clear of anything icy or jewel tones.
Ladies on the cooler side look their best in bright blues, royal blue, sapphire, amethyst, lavender, or emerald. Ruby reds and bright rose hues are also great on you. You can rock gray, navy, and pristine white, but may want to avoid oranges or golden yellows.
You can explore your best colors more thoroughly by testing out a seasonal analysis. What do I mean by this? Well, color theory is also classified by seasons… and brace yourself… because it gets a little complex. There are 12 to choose from!
Initially, style expert Carole Jackson broke it down into four seasons in her bestseller “Color Me Beautiful” in the 1980s: spring (light hair/eyes and warm undertones, summer (light hair/eyes and cool undertones), autumn (dark hair/eyes and warm undertones) and winter (dark hair and eyes, cool undertone). That delineation wound up being way too narrow. Many women, particularly those with darker complexions, didn’t fit into those limited categories. Now, seasonal color analyses sector the population by three main properties:
A good way to understand hue is to take a look at a color wheel. Blue is on one side and yellow is on the opposite side of blue. Blue is the ultimate cool and yellow is the ultimate warm. They are opposite hues.
Warm hued faces will have less contrast between their skin, eyes, and hair color. They often have golden or rich undertones. Alternatively, cool faces will have moderate to high contrast in their features. They often have darker hair and more pale skin. But all races can have cool undertones, and it breaks down to having a contrast between your skin tone and your hair. So, let’s dive into the 12 seasons.
The above graphic from Gabrielle Arruda (gabriellearruda.com) is the best example of colors by season I’ve seen yet. If you want even more detail on color theory by season, this Parsons School of Design-educated creative does a great job of explaining what can be a complex process!
Cool Winter – Celebs examples (Liv Tyler, Kristin Davis, Jamie Lee Curtis, Lauren Graham)
Hair: Ashy blonde, Ashy light or dark brown, or Black with blue undertones
Skin: Olive or Cool Blue undertones
Eyes: Light brown, blue, or gray
Contrast (or the lack of it) isn’t the defining factor for the cool seasons (summer or winter). Rather, it is the overall undertone of your hair, skin, and eyes. Do you have a cool or bluish undertone in your hair, skin, and eyes? Have you noticed that pastel or light colored shades are unflattering, while medium tones of the colors in your palette really pop? You are likely a cool winter. Seek out medium valued hues to match your natural contrast/coloring. This will best complement your undertones. Don’t be afraid to experiment with slightly darker shades, but avoid warm toned shades.
Clear Winter – Celeb examples (Courtney Cox, Zooey Deschanel, Alexis Bledel, Angelina Jolie)
Skin: Olive or Cool Blue Undertones
Eyes: Bright green or blue
If you have higher contrast between your skintone and hair/eye color, you may fit into the clear seasons (Spring or Winter). For example, beauties with bright blonde (not platinum or ashy) or dark brown hair with vibrant blue eyes fall into the clear category, as do women with fair skin with dark brown hair and bright blue eyes. The best colors for clear season types are the clearest and least muted one way or the other. Look for true colors, like what you’d grab from your child’s crayon box… true blue, true red and only the brightest shades of each color.
Deep Winter – Celeb examples (Priyanka Chopra, Lucy Liu, Anne Hathaway, Lupita Nyong’o)
Hair: Medium to dark brown or black
Skin: Olive or Cool Blue Undertones
Eyes: Dark Brown or Black
Deep seasons (Autumn or Winter) have varying skintones with similarly dark hair/eyes. You look your best in the deepest, richest shades for your season. These luxe hues give you such a glow!
Light Spring – Celeb examples (Taylor Swift, Scarlett Johansson, Gwyneth Paltrow, Amanda Seyfried)
Hair: Golden Blonde, Strawberry Blonde, or Golden Brown
Skin: Fair skin with pink or peachy undertones
Eyes: Blue, Green, Hazel, or Light Brown
Light seasons (Spring or Summer) are all about light! You have both fair hair and a lighter skintone for your ethnicity. Your eyes will also softer, light/bright colors like blue, green, hazel or light brown. Seek out colors that are muted but not dark. The darker shades will overpower you, while more muted hues complement your softer coloring.
Clear Spring – Celeb examples (Emma Stone, Tyra Banks, Beyoncé, Cara Delevingne)
Hair: Golden light to dark brown
Skin: Skin has a pink undertone and ranges from more ivory than milky white to golden brown
Eyes: Green, Blue, Light Brown
Have a higher contrast between skintone and hair/eye colors? Clear springs look their best in less muted colors. We’re back to the true palette for you! These are the standard shades, that haven’t been diluted with the addition of white or deepened with black. Bright colors (within your palette) suit your vibrant features.
Warm Spring – Celeb examples (Mandy Moore, Cameron Diaz, Marcia Cross, Amy Adams)
Hair: Strawberry blonde to copper auburn and light to dark golden brown
Skin: Warm beige, slightly bronzed, may have freckles
Eyes: Green, Blue, Hazel, or Light Brown
Warm seasons (Spring or Autumn) have hair and skin colors with a deeper coloring and warm, golden undertones. Their eyes can be dark, but usually have a golden spark to them, whether green, brown, or hazel. Your best colors always have a sense of warmth too them. Look for warm shades that are muted, but not dark or pastel to highlight your natural glow. Both warm seasons share neutral brown bases, but the spring palette has the warmest tones of bright spring colors.
Light Summer – Celeb examples (Naomi Watts, Cate Blanchett, Amy Poehler, Meryl Streep)
Hair: Lightly colored hair such as light to medium ashy blonde or strawberry blonde
Skin: Skin has a neutral undertone that is neither warm or cool, but may have a slight pink tinge.
Eyes: Blue or Green
Does your skin have a slight pink tinge to it? Do you have light hair and a lighter skin tone for your ethnicity with lighter eyes… blue, green, or light brown? You likely fall into the light summer category. Your best colors are light and muted, never dark. These are shades that are diluted with white and appear more pastel than their original color. The light colors complement your light overall coloring, instead of overwhelming it with harsh or dark colors.
Soft Summer – Celeb examples (Sarah Jessica Parker, Ellen Pompeo, Leona Lewis, Katie Holmes)
Hair: Medium to Dark Ashy Brown
Skin: Medium beige to dark brown with neutral undertones
Eyes: Gray, Blue, Hazel
Soft seasons are lucky, your neutral undertones (neither warm nor cool) allow you to lean one way or another depending on what you are wearing. You have little contrast between your hair and skintone. The most flattering shades for you will be soft, but not washed out. These are the more subtle variation of true colors.
Cool Summer – (Celeb examples – Kate Middleton, Tina Fey, Zendaya Coleman)
Hair: Medium to dark Ashy Brown
Skin: Skin has a cool undertone and ranges from medium beige to dark brown
Eyes: Blue or Gray
This is the classification I believe I fall into… Cool seasons (Summer or Winter) do not depend on contrast or lack of contrast between skin/hair/and eye color, rather it is the overall undertone of these three things. Moreover, cool seasons have a cool or bluish undertone to their hair, skin, and eyes. Therefore, pastel or light colored shades are less flattering on your skin type, than a medium-valued tone of your season’s colors. This medium value offers the most appropriate contrast to complement your undertones. Don’t be afraid to experiment with slightly darker shades than what is in your palette, but avoid warm toned shades.
Soft Autumn – Celeb examples (Celine Dion, Melissa McCarthy, Drew Barrymore, Jada Pinkett Smith)
Hair: Blonde to Medium Brown or Red Hair with a Golden Shine
Skin: Ivory, Olive, or Medium Brown with warm undertones
Eyes: Green, Hazel, or Light Brown
Like soft summers, soft autumns are also style chameleons! You have little contrast between their hair and skintone and neutral undertones, neither warm or cool. For instance, you may lean one way or the other on occasion or depending on what you are wearing. Consequently, the most flattering colors in your color palette are soft, but not washed out.
Warm Autumn – Celeb examples (Julianne Moore, Debra Messing, Julia Roberts, Jenna Fischer)
Hair: Medium to Dark Golden Brown or Warm Auburn
Skin: Ivory, Olive, or Medium Brown with warm undertones
Eyes: Green, Hazel, or Light Brown
Warm seasons (Spring or Autumn) have hair and skin colors with a deeper coloring and warm, golden undertones. Your eyes may be similarly dark, but have a golden spark to the green, brown, or hazel. The color palettes for warm season types are muted but not dark or pastel, and they will have a warm tone. Both warm seasons share neutral brown bases, but the autumn palette has the medium tones we associate with Autumn like maroon red or dusty green.
Deep Autumn – Celeb examples (Oprah, Keira Knightley, Sandra Bullock, Mindy Kaling)
Hair: Medium to Dark Brown with Golden Shine
Skin: Ivory, Olive, or Medium to Dark Brown with warm undertones
Eyes: Dark Blue, Deep Green, Hazel, Dark Brown, Brown-Black
Finally, let’s talk about our deep autumn beauties! Women in this category have darker/medium hair with similarly dark eyes. While deep autumns vary in skintone, they have warmth to their complexions. For example, they may have fair skin like Keira Knightly but it is balanced by deep brown eyes and warm brown hair. Your most flattering shades are the deepest shades for your season.