Where Celebrities Go Right and Wrong with Their Contrast

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Contrast – both colour contrast and value contrast can be quite tricky concepts to grasp. Once you see it you can’t go back, but learning to see what is and isn’t working and understanding why can sometimes take a little time.

I’ve explained how to figure out your contrast levels in this post – with my 3 easy steps.

Once you know your value contrast and colour contrast levels, you’re ready to get dressed.

To give you some guidance, I showed you examples of a high value contrast, low colour contrast style icon Princess Mary here.

So here are some further examples of dressing to your ideal value and also contrast levels, illustrated by a few celebrities.

Understanding contrast - both colour contrast and value contrast, as well as ideal value level - with celebrity examples

Finding Your Ideal Value and Contrast Levels

Here is Sharon Stone – who has an overall light value (she has light hair and skin and eyes).

The wrong and right value contrast on Sharon Stone
Left: Too high value contrast – notice how your attention is drawn to her pants
Right: correct value contrast

 

When she’s wearing a high value contrast with the dark pants and light top, the outfit is obvious and wears her.  But when she’s wearing an overall light value outfit, there is harmony with her colouring and the outfit.

Now here is Reece Witherspoon.  Again she has an overall light value.  You can see that when she’s wearing the dark outfit on the left, the outfit dominates her, and if weren’t for the black sunglasses, would look really bad, as the black sunglasses help to add some depth to her face.

 

Wrong and right value on Reece Witherspoon
Left: overall value is too dark/deep for Reece Right: overall value is great for Reece as is the value contrast and addition of a colour to the outfit.

 

Now when you compare her to the photo on the right where she’s wearing a medium blue jean and light top, that relates much more to her natural value and contrast level, she looks so much more balanced.

Here is Jennifer Aniston, who has a medium light overall value, and a medium low value contrast.

Jennifer Aniston value
Left: great value and value contrast outfit for Jennifer Middle: Black dress is too dark and becomes the focus Right: another example of a great value and value contrast outfit for Jennifer

 

You can see that the black dress wears her, the value is way too dark.  But when she’s wearing the other outfits, they create harmony with her colouring as they are overall medium light in value and low-medium value contrast.

Here is Reece Witherspoon again.  This time in two similar sized patterns, but one is high value contrast, the other high colour contrast.

Value and Colour contrast explained - Reece Witherspoon
Left: the high value, low colour contrast pattern wears Reece Right: the high colour contrast but low value contrast harmonises with Reece

Which looks better and why?  The high colour contrast (but lower value contrast) print on the right, as it’s in tune with her colour contrast dominant colouring and natural value contrast levels.  The high value contrast navy and white print wears her, as there is nothing about it that relates to her value contrast.

Colour contrast dominant people, like, Reece Witherspoon, Blake Lively, Emma Stone, all look better wearing at least one colour (often a couple of colours or more).

Colour contrast dominant - how to dress
Colour contrast dominant people look best wearing at least one colour (if not more).

When they just wear neutral outfits, they look bland, and their clothes don’t harmonise with their colouring.

Colour dominant people wearing neutrals
Colour contrast dominant people don’t look in harmony with their clothing when it’s all neutral. The outfit may be “cute” but it doesn’t suit the person.

Let’s look at colour contrast again.  Here Courtney Cox, who is “neutral plus 1 colour” ideally in her colour contrast wears two very different dresses.

Colour contrast explained with Courtney Cox
Left: the high colour contrast dress wears and is unrelated to Courtney’s neutral plus 1 colour contrast Right: the deeper blue dress relates really well to her overall value and colour contrast

The one on the left is high colour contrast, and what you see is the dress, not her face.  The dress on the right is a deeper value (in tune with her own deeper value) and is just one colour at a time, which is what is ideally suited to her.

Let’s just double back on Courtney Cox’s value contrast.  She has light skin and dark hair, which makes her high value contrast.  This is why she is value contrast dominant and can more easily wear either a neutral palette (even though she has blue eyes, and looks great in neutral plus one colour) like black and white as it reflects her dominant characteristics.

Value contrast explained - celebrity version
Left: the medium value contrast outfit looks bland on Courtney as it lacks the high contrast she needs Middle: Courtney can wear black head to toe as she has naturally deep overall value Right: the black and white pattern works well for her as she has a high value contrast

 

This is why the outfit on the left looks kind of “blah” and uninspiring.  It’s not high value contrast enough for  her.  She has the colouring that works so well with black and dark/deep colours, which is why she can wear the head to toe black and look good, unlike all the other light value celebrities I’ve already featured here.  And this is why the black and white print top on the right works for her, it is her ideal value contrast.

Emma Stone has natural colour contrast.  It’s what we see first (particularly when she has her hair dyed red).  So when she removes all colour from her outfit (such as the head to toe black outfit) it wears her.  The only saving grace of this outfit is her fabulous signature hair coloured handbag (which you can see works so well).  In fact, wearing a bag in your hair colour is a fabulous way of repeating that element of your colouring in any outfit.

 

Emma Stone Colour contrast
Left: the black wears emma. It looks hard and too dark. Right: The clue is a good value for her and stops the indigo jeans from appearing too dark (medium value contrast), and wearing colour works for her.

On the right we have a blue jacket.  This is a medium value, which works much better than the deep value of the black outfit on the left.  Plus she’s added colour which is important as she is colour contrast dominant, and always looks better when she has some colour in her outfit.  I just wish she’d chosen a warm rather than cool pink for her shoes.

Lesson’s learned here?

Wear the right value - instructions on what suits
Wearing outfits in the value related to your own value (dark, medium or light) always harmonises and looks the most beautiful.

Ideally wear your right value and colour contrast.  But even if you just wear an outfit in a value that is similar to your dominant value (light, medium, or deep) your outfits will look more stylish as they relate and harmonise with your natural beauty.

If you want my professional opinion on your best contrast levels, why not join my 7 Steps to Style program which includes colour analysis, body shape analysis and direct input from me on what your ideal value and contrast levels are.  Find out more here.

More Posts on Contrast to Help You Get Yours Right

Discover the 4 Nifty Low Colour Contrast Dressing Tricks Used by Princess Mary

9 Real Life Examples of Dressing to Your Contrast

Are You Colour Contrast or Value Contrast Dominant

The Value of Value Contrast and Using it to Create Stunning Outfits

How to Work With Your Contrast – Low Contrast

What Exactly is Low Value Contrast

Getting Your Value Contrast Levels Right

How to Work with Your Contrast – Medium Contrast

How to Wear Medium Value Colours When You are High Contrast

How to Work with Your Contrast -High Contrast

How Anyone Can Wear a High Contrast Print

What Exactly is Medium-High Value Contrast?

7 steps to colour and style

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10 Comments

  • So, if your overall dominant value is light or medium how do you wear a Little Dark Dress without it wearing you?

    • Your dark isn’t as dark as someone who has a dominantly deep value. You make sure there isn’t too much fabric, lower neckline, and most of us when we are wearing that LDD wear a brighter lipstick or smokier eye, which helps to add a bit more value to our faces.

  • Wonderful, Imogen!! Your visuals really drive home your points of discussion. If you keep pounding us long enough, we’ll get it!!

    You are the best!
    a faithful fan,
    Pat

  • I dont think I had ever heard this “value contrast” terminology before, or at least not applied to outfits… I can totally see the difference ! I am going to read more into this. Thanks Imogen.

  • I find this post very useful as I did not know the “value contrast” terminology before either. I can relate myself to the high value contrast (light skin, dark hair and eyebrows and deep brown eyes) but it is interesting that the black and white never suited me, as I never got a cumpliment when I was wearing them. Is it posible to be a high contrast person and not looking good in these achromatic outfits?
    Thanks for your postings, I keep learning a lot from them.
    Alex

    • Alex, perhaps it’s because you have a warm coloring. I may be wrong, as I don’t know what you look like, but black and white are considered bright, cool that suit people who fall into one of the winter seasonal palettes. I also have the same coloring a you, and I am a Deep Autumn. Therefore, my version of black and white to suit my higher value contrast is a dee chocolate brown and a lighter antique white/cream. Look up Deep Autumn and Deep Winter colors and see which palette suits your coloring.

  • Ahhhhh…..I finally get it!

    Because I look good in some super bright shades I took that to mean high contrast in both senses would suit me. Couldn’t figure out why I had problems sometimes putting together outfits. Now I see the light….I am a high-color, low-to-medium-value contrast person. I have been reading your blog for a couple of years now but this is the first time I have truly understood this concept. Thank you so much!!!

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