How to Choose Your Perfect White


A lovely reader mentioned she’d like some advice on how to find her perfect white for a wedding dress, so here is my guide, and I hope it helps both her and you.

White is Not White

Just like any colour (blue, green, pink) white just denotes a kind of colour, but not an exact colour.  When you think about painting walls white – how many whites do you get to choose from at the paint store?  Hundreds!

how to choose the right white for your complexionChoosing the Right White

Whites vary, from a brilliant bright white, to soft white, cream, buttermilk, ivory, antique white, winter white etc…..

Start by looking at the whites of your eyes – what is their colour? Are they bright white or a more yellow white, pink white, ivory, blue … what are you seeing in them?

You could go to a store and find a selection of white tops and shirts, find a mirror, and I hope the store has decent lighting.

Stand in front of a mirror (preferably with no makeup on – sorry), and hold up 2 of the white tops to just below your chin, whilst looking at your face, and especially at your eyes, notice the whites of the eyes, you are looking for a white that makes your whites look whiter (not yellower).

Discard the worst coloured white, pick up another and keep repeating the process until you get down to a 2-3 white tops that all work with the whites of your eyes, then do the same process, but look at your skin, look for the white that gives you the evenest skin tone, diminishes under eye bags and shadow, and makes you glow.

Cool vs Warm Whites

How to choose the right white for your colouringGenerally, most people with warmer complexions need warmer whites like winter white, cream and buttermilk.

Those with very soft and muted colouring need a soft white (which is just off-white) or ivory.

Cool people will work best with brighter, whiter whites.

More Tips on Choosing and Wearing Whites

When Should You Wear White in Winter?

Styling a White Tailored Shirt

How to Choose a Wedding Dress

Which is Your Best White

Psychology of Colour – White



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  • I love this post! Thank you for writing it. It does help. I do wish I had you to take to the store with me. But since I don’t I think I will take a friend.

    I would say that 90% of the tops I try have been bright white and I always look horrible in them–even if I add a scarf and/or jewelry.

    Thanks so much, Imogen!!!

  • IMogen, wouldn’t it stand to reason also that the wrong white will make your teeth look yellower? I guess we can bleach those, but not our eyes!

    Also, this makes me think about the color of pearls. If we get them too white, then our eyes and teeth look yellow. Can you comment? Karen

  • Karen: Given that teeth colour is affected by what you eat and drink (eg. coffee, red wine), and not genetics, it’s better to match your white to your skin, as this will make you look overall healthier, rather than match it to your yellow teeth, which if you’re cool, will make you look like you have a case of jaundice!

    If this is an issue, a trip to the dentist may be in order.

    La Belette – I hope this helps, you’ll be surprised at how many ‘off whites’ are now in shops, it used to just be the more expensive end of town, but I now see lots of soft whites available in even the lower end stores – so the are available.

  • I also love this post, but here’s what I’ve been thinking about whites, well, two things, really:

    one, it seems like the time of year makes a difference. I like to wear white in the sunny seasons, but once it turns gray I put it away, except as an accent, and replace it with charcoal heather in my wardrobe (which I don’t like to wear when the sun shines).

    two, used as an accent, say just to set a light in value color away from my face or in combination with a muted dark, the effect is that of the color it’s combined with more than the white.


  • Rebecca,

    Whites in winter need to be in much heavier fabrics, and more creamy than bright white to work, all our light, floaty summer whites feel so wrong in winter. I love the idea of a winter white overcoat (though wouldn’t wear one as my kids would have it covered in mucky handprints in seconds).

    If you use a little white to set off your colour, it will brighten the colour as it creates a simultaneous contrast with that colour, and as white is a neutral, we notice the colour more.

  • “more creamy than bright white”, that’s helpful.

    I, too, love the look of a winter white coat, but I’m just too practical (even though my kids are grown). Maybe if I could see dry-cleaning my coats more than once a year. I am thinking about a white pantsuit, though. =D

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