Color, as simple as an idea can seem, can present certain complexities when it comes to the wardrobe. What colors match well together? What colors clash? Is clashing a good thing? Well, yes and no. To all of them.
Today, we are talking about color stories, and how to create them on an individual level. There are a variety of reasons that people wear the colors that they do, and we’re going to demystify choosing colors for physical traits, personality, and even for specific events.
One of the biggest questions about color might go something like: “Okay, but what colors look good on ME?” This has multiple answers. It can be based on physical traits: Your eye color, skin color, hair color, or any other very present colors in yourself as a human person in the world. For example, if you have a darker skin tone, a jeweled purple or bright yellow would look good because it brings out the natural warmth of your features. If you have a bright or light hair color, wearing striking darker colors would offer a sharp juxtaposition, making your hair stand out all on its own. Using colors to your advantage while dressing can help show off your personality, or evoke specific emotion. This allows more room for dressing how you actually feel rather than dressing how you feel you should.
Before we get too ahead of ourselves with examples, let’s talk theory. Color theory is the science and art of using color - it explains how humans perceive color, and the visual effects of how colors mix or contrast. If you like terminology, this is for you:
A color’s Hue is how strong the true color is.
Shades of a color are how a color hue is affected by adding black.
Tints of a color are how a color hue is affected by adding white.
Tones of a color are how a color hue is affected when both black AND white (or simply, just gray) is added.
Don’t worry, there’s no test! Color theory is just a fascinating and helpful tool to mathematically explain how colors are created, like following a recipe. A forest green color is a tone of green, sky blue color is a tinted blue, and so on. Visually, using color theory can help us see which of the endless colors matches with ourselves.
Complimentary colors are opposites on the color wheel. They are colors that, when combined, cancel each other out and create a gray-ish color.
Adjacent colors are colors that sit next to each other on the color wheel. These colors have similarities in true hue, and coincide as transitional colors.
Both complementary and adjacent color schemes tend to pair well or create strong contrast, such as red and orange adjacent, or blue and orange complimentary. These schemes also show us how warmth and coolness affect color. For example, a warm purple looks and pairs differently than a cool purple. If purple is composed of both red and blue together, a warm purple has more red and a cool purple has more blue.
So, how does all this relate to fashion and styling? Color association plays a big role in styling. What’s the first thing you think of when you picture the color blue? It might be water, or the sky. It feels peaceful, and is associated with safety and calm emotions. How about orange? It might remind you of traffic cones, or citrus fruit. Orange is a bright and attention-grabbing color, it draws focus and lets us know of something important - like a traffic zone, or how sweet the fruit you’re about to eat might be. Blue and orange as standalone colors are quite different, complementing each other well in this regard. Blue is often included in fashion color palettes as a go-to, a “safe color”. Navy is one of the most popular dressing colors of all time because of this - it’s non confrontational. Orange is completely confrontational and in its truest form, a “statement color”. Wearing orange is less common, and is effectively used as a standout color.
Balancing safe colors and statement colors is an effective styling tool, and helps us create an overall look that is visually pleasing. Talking about colors in this way does sound a little bit overly analytical, but it’s all true! Color is a science!
Using all of this information, we can deduce what colors suit us as people, in both a physical and psychological sense.
Let’s start with physical traits. Like we discussed before, warmth and coolness plays a major part in styling in harmony with the natural colors of your skin, hair, and eyes. If your skin has warm undertones, you’ll find great matches in warm colors, or warmer tones of those colors. If your skin has cooler undertones, cooler colors will match beautifully. Pretty simple to remember! Hair is a slightly different story. Your complementaries will be your friend with hair color. This will make your natural hair become a statement all on its own. Picture this: A person with blonde hair in a red dress, versus a person with blonde hair in a yellow dress. Which dress color makes their hair color stand out better? If you answered red, congrats! While color matching can seem complicated when it's broken down in words, most people already have a subconscious knowledge of what colors pair in a way that’s pleasing to the human eye. It’s in your DNA!
Now let’s move on to a more complex topic: Styling for personality. Some individuals struggle with styling for their personality because it ultimately draws attention to one’s self with colors, prints, and textures. Personality dressing is also a personal journey: it takes a certain amount of confidence and vulnerability to dress how you feel. A lot of dressing for personality comes from taking stock of your interests. Are you an easygoing, outdoorsy person? Lush greens, warm browns, or rust oranges could be great picks. Or if you love dancing the night away or always on the way to the club: blacks, metallic silvers, and a bright pop of red could be a killer combo. Taking a minute to think about the aesthetics of your interests has the ability to tell a story about you. Love Ariana Grande? Try out a bubblegum pink outfit or accessory with your next look. A fun part of this process is in the experimentation, you might find a color you’ve never worn before, or a pairing that becomes your new favorite!
Playing around with color is a way to express yourself, have some fun! If you don’t love it, that’s okay! Try again tomorrow. It’ll become a goofy photo to look back at, laugh and say, “I can’t believe I wore that!”. But if you do love it, it becomes a staple and maybe even shows off a part of your personality that you didn’t know was there.
We want to hear from YOU! What’s your color story? What are your essentials, and what’s a new color you’d like to start wearing? Follow us on Instagram at @thisstylefiles to join our conversation.
Raveena wearing Christopher John Rogers, Collection 008.
Styled by Reva Bhatt, Photographed by Conor Cunningham.