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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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).
When they just wear neutral outfits, they look bland, and their clothes don’t harmonise with their colouring.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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
The Value of Value Contrast and Using it to Create Stunning Outfits
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.
Excellent! Your posts about personal coloring are always my favorite, and these are really helpful examples. Thank you.
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,
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.
It’s a complex subject, but the longer I’ve been working with clients and colour the more I see that it really makes a difference.
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, 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.
Thanks Imogen for adding more examples on color and value contrast!
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!!!
I see that you have a lot of dark haired celebrity examples with high value contrast. Wondering if you could do one on Elizabeth Hurley or Paulina Porizkova, as they seem a bit lighter contrast to me than the high contrast celebrities like Courtney cox and Anne Hathaway. I’m having a hard time with determining my hair color value- whether or not I’m High value contrast or Medium-High value contrast. Where does hair that’s a step lighter like medium brown hair fit in like Liz and Paulina? Does that change you to medium-high contrast? I could read posts like this all day! 🙂