How To Dress: Color

Last week I shared how a personal shopper taught me a lot about proportion. Another thing she helped me with was what colors I should wear. Not all shades of the rainbow look good on me. There are some colors that generally work well with my skin tone, usually tomato reds (not blue-red tones), corals, hot pinks (tricky), mid-purples. Some neutrals are OK too: light grey, black, tan, denim blue, cream. (Yes, I consider these all neutrals. YMMV.)

But the best tip she gave me was: before you even try something on, hold it up to your face and see if it makes you look pale, sallow, or, best case scenario, it brightens your skin making you look healthy.

Some colors are surprising: yellow is unpredictable. The color chartreuse? Looks good on me! RANDOM. You’ll see an outfit featuring chartreuse below. Chiffon yellow makes me look like I’ve caught diphtheria.

My shopper also taught me to pair colors with a base or neutral color. To ground an outfit, you can have one base color. (Not a hard and fast rule, though: lots of good stylists avoid this.) Even though dark brown doesn’t look great right next to my skin, it does look fine as pants. Same with olive (also a base). If you are super skinny, you could get away with wearing white pants or a white skirt. But that doesn’t work for my proportions: darker colors are generally better for my bottom half to balance out my wide hips. Usually. Colored skinny jeans, if paired properly, are almost universally flattering. That’s why they’re so popular.

Then there are the seasons to take into account. I do like to wear the oranges, yellows, rusts and the multi-colored comfy sweaters during October and November.

Here’s this week’s outfits with an eye on color:

Chartreuse and grey generally pair well, and that’s true in design too. Purple, grey and chartreuse are fantabulous all together. In an ideal world, those would be the colors of my living room. I found this peacoat (I LOVE peacoats!) and the color oddly worked with my skin tone. I had no idea what to wear it with until I found this sweater, from the same store. Another tip: it’s easier to pair colors at a store with a collection that matches all together. Peacoat: Old Navy, 2009. Sweater: Old Navy, 2009. Grey cords: Banana Republic, 2010. Boots: Born, 2009.

Back when I was using my personal shopper, she pulled this sweater coat for me: it was marked down to $180 from $990. I thought she was crazy. She convinced me that not only was this a classic American style (the blanket coat), but she also knew it would balance out my proportions. I wore it to death in London. It’s warm, cute, and feels like a bathrobe, shows NO stains, yet I always get a million compliments on it. One of my greatest purchases, ever. Sweater Coat: Ralph Lauren, 2000. Turtleneck, INC (gift). Necklace, Lucky Brand 2012. Peach cords: Old Navy, new. Boots: Payless, new.

This outfit’s pretty boring. It was cold and rainy, and miserable. I just wanted to be comfortable. I figured the Vermillion boots added enough of a punch to brighten me up. I love those boots. Grey sweater: Old Navy, 2010. Grey turtleneck: Walmart, 2011. Leggings: H&M, 2010. Boots, Hunter, new.

The weather perked up a bit and I thought it was warm enough to wear this. Yeah, no. I was freezing. But I felt cute. The sweater is that tomato red color that works so well for me. Denim shirtdress: Old Navy, 2012. Sweater: Gap, new. Shoes, Tahari, 2012.

If there was a date night. Black and beige are good neutrals for me, and outfits can be composed entirely of neutrals, as Coco Chanel spent her life proving. Faux fur coat: Michael Kors, gift. Shirt, Lauren, gift. Skirt, Banana Republic, 2006. Bow belt: Anthropologie, gift. Spectator heels: Aerosoles, 2006.

What colors look good on you? Do you wear colors that don’t suit you because you like them anyway? What’s your favorite color to wear?


Filed under My Favorite Things

11 responses to “How To Dress: Color

  1. I love color, but my wardrobe is mostly black, grey and beige. I love the pops of color in your outfits!

  2. Wordgirl

    Help me! I have now inexplicably dyed my hair Christina Hendricks red -(a decision that can only be explained as a mid-life crisis?!) and it’s totally changed what color palette I can wear. Here’s my dilemma — I as always an ash blond — but I have a cool complexion but it’s more peachy — anyway — some go-to colors are out now — like that lovely new Anthropologie shirt I bought and LOVE that is red with blue undertone? Totally clashes with the hair. Not good. Black? My STAPLE color? A little washed out.

    So my guru (and I say that in all seriousness — this fashion stuff is very helpful to me) — any thoughts or resources other than endless pictures of Julianne Moore and Christina Hendricks on google?….



    • Great question! I LOVE your new hair color. Red really suits you and you look even more gorgeous.

      So, lots of the Hollywood redheads are natural blondes (Emma Stone, Cynthia Nixon) INCLUDING Christina Hendricks. I LOVE Christina’s wardrobe on the show. (No comment on red carpet stuff.) I think Joan Holloway’s color palette is exquisite. And certain colors apparently even indicate her moods! I love this website, which analyzes the characters’ clothes. Mad Men spoilers ahoy…

      First of all, you definitely need to update your wardrobe. Your guru has said so 🙂 Go shopping!!

      I think you should check out jewel tones: especially, amethyst, emerald, sapphire and topaz. And even ruby red, but be careful there. Hold the items of clothes near your face to see which ones suit you best. Neutrals are going to be tougher, ESPECIALLY BEIGE which is notorious for washing out redheads!!: I’d stick with them for pants, jackets, skirts and keep a pop of color near your face (whether a turtleneck, scarf, shirt, etc.).

      Good luck! 🙂

  3. Chris

    I seldom wear color, and I should. My “other mother” (bff’s mom) comments on how I always wear black. And it’s true. I’ve branched out a little seeing picture of how good I look in the cashmere sweaters the husband has gotten me for Christmas the past few years. Burnt orange? Really? I never would have guessed, and yet as I wear it today (with skinny jeans) I think it’s a really good color. And all the jewel tones. They make my blue-grey eyes pop. Seriously, more color would be good, you’re inspiring me to try a little more color, something I tend to only do in summer- and it took years to do that. I like my safe haven of neutrals. In fall and winter give me black leggings and dark jeans and appropriate tops and I’m golden. And dull. LOL Please continue with your lessons.

    I’ll say the best revelation I ever had was when I “outgrew” the having a bunch of clothes for buying GOOD clothes. I may have fewer, but they last forever. I love White House Black Market for example and have jeans from there (they fit me like a dream) that have lasted YEARS without looking like I’ve worn them, and they look tailored for me. Jeans, the bane of woman’s existence. I was sold on nice clothes after that. And Cashmere. Ohhhh… I look forward to cool weather just to have that touch my skin.

  4. I love colour. I usually do the “boring” thing of wearing a solid colour on top with a neutral pant (as Stacey London would say), but I love when it’s cool enough to layer and then I play around with two colours on top – a t-shirt and cardigan, or similar.

    One thing I’ve recently realised is that almost-clashing/violently-contrasting colours go together so long as they’re the same intensity. This is hard to explain without pictures, but I mean, I wear jewel tones together – a bright teal sweater with a violet t-shirt; or more muted tones like an olive green cardigan with a dull rusty shirt. Does that make any sense?

    Some day I will become braver and enter the world of coloured pants.

    I’m a brunette with the skintone of a redhead and green eyes. I love wearing green but not all shades suit me. I have recently become very fond of purple, especially the violet that was around a lot this summer. The burgundies, eggplants, and dark reds that are abounding this season are totally my colours.

  5. Red, navy, orange looks great – green yellow look AWFUL!!

  6. I would like to retire in the English countryside

  7. Have I mentioned how much I am enjoying this series? The person I supervise at work is leaving, and as I interview for her replacement my boss has given me instructions to “hire someone visual.” As in, someone who likes to make things look pretty. I am spending a lot of time thinking about what makes some people enjoy putting together colors and designs and others not. I’m so not-visual myself, it is hard for me to hire someone who is. At the same time, I’m intrigued by the idea that I could actually learn these things and be able to make things look pretty. I know I’d enjoy the end result, but would I actually enjoy the process? I can’t imagine. You’re giving me insight into those kinds of people, though.

  8. I am LOVING your fashion posts. I am a big fan of the tomato red this season as well as the chartreuse and gray.

    “Usually. Colored skinny jeans, if paired properly, are almost universally flattering.” I am not convinced. I’ve got a good deal of junk in the trunk. I haven’t tried on skinnies since they first came out, though. I remember being in the fitting room thinking, “Holy crap! Good thing no one else can see this!” Admittedly, I haven’t tried to colored ones yet though.

  9. Once again, I am envying your closet. ; ) I think I look my best in jewel tones. I have a lot of teal blue/green, dark/cobalt blue, burgundy/red, green & fuschia in my closet. “Dusty” tones & various shades of grey also look pretty good on me. Sadly, I do NOT look good in pastels.

  10. I think I have a good sense of what works with my coloring. Everyone always comments, though, when they see me wearing a fuchsia or berry color like I wore last week. They expect it to clash with my coloring and are amazed at how “brave” I am to try such a risky color LOL

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