Given the cash that is splashed around in Hollywood, and how many professional stylists are employed to help celebrities choose the clothes they wear both on and off the red carpet. It always amazes me just how much bad advice they are given and how many outfits they wear are not quite right.
Doing the research to put this post together, I spent hours and hours scrolling through thousands of celebrity photos and was amazed at just how much black is worn, whether or not it suits the celebrity and how little thought is given to colours, contrast and predominant value.
Why does it matter anyway?
I believe, that you should be the focus. Your clothes should express your personality and harmonise with who you are both on the inside and outside. Contrast and colour are two elements of harmony that I’ve discovered over my more than a dozen years of doing personal styling and personal colour analysis, and they are really really important and make a huge difference in just how good an outfit looks on you.
I want to see your face first. You, not your clothes, should be what I see first.
When you look at the images below, you’ll notice in the ‘not so great’ outfits, that you focus on clothing first. Versus, when you look at the outfits the work, you see the person as a whole. Once you train your eyes to see this you will never ‘unsee’ it!
Following on from this post on where celebrities go right and wrong with their value and contrast, I thought I’d show you more examples which includes a range of different colouring so that you can find and example (I hope) of someone who looks like they have kind of similar colouring and you can see what does and doesn’t work and understand why.
This way, you will learn how to put outfits together for yourself (no celebrity stylist needed) that flatter you. I’m assuming you don’t have a celebrities clothing budget, so care more about what you do buy as you don’t want to make expensive shopping mistakes.
Just a quick reminder of the meanings of value and contrast:
Value means the lightness or darkness (depth) of a colour. From the pale pale colours through medium colours to very deep colours (as can be seen on a grey scale). So light colours (8-10 on the grey scale), medium colours (4-7 on the grey scale) and deep or dark colours (1-3 on the grey scale). Some colours are naturally light – for example yellow, and some colours are naturally deep – for example indigo.
Contrast means the different between two colours.
Colour contrast – the difference on the colour wheel between the colours
Value contrast – the difference of lightness or depth of colours.
Want to know your contrast? Do my three step process… (and you can download the post and grey scale to use)
Neutral Dominance – Light Value – Emmy Lou Harris
Gorgeous Emmy Lou Harris is neutral dominant – she has grey hair, brown eyes and a neutral beige skin (aka 3 neutrals). She has a high value contrast (light hair and skin but dark eyes) but is predominantly light in her colouring (both skin and hair are light – overall light). When not wearing a strong lipstick colour, her lips don’t stand out as an obvious colour. Emmy Lou is value contrast dominant.
You can see in the pic on the left just how fabulous she looks in her tones of grey with a pop of brown, echoing her colouring with the dark glasses that frame her dark eyes. You see her face, before you really notice all the elements of her outfit (and as I’ve mentioned before)…
The outfit on the right, a multicoloured pattern is what you see first. The bolder lipstick colour helps to make it work, but still, your eyes are continually drawn back to the top, away from her face, creating a body focus. There are just too many colours in this top to flatter Emmy Lou.
Best colour scheme: Ideally, an overall light outfit with pops of dark will work well, in a monochromatic colour scheme are her best outfit options.
Neutral Dominant – Medium Value – Jamie Lee Curtis
Another gorgeous silver haired woman. Jamie Lee Curtis has grey hair, beige skin and blue eyes (2 neutrals plus 1 colour) making her neutral dominant, but would look great with pops of colour. Jamie is value contrast dominant (it’s just not a high value contrast).
As her hair is medium to medium light in value, her skin light in value, she’ll look best in medium to light value predominant outfits. You can see in the deep value dress it wears her versus in the stunning grey number it harmonises so well with her colouring, the outfit would have been even better if she’d opted for a silver shoe or even blue shoes with a blue clutch to add that one colour she can so easily wear with her neutrals.
Best colour scheme: Overall light to medium in value or a combination of the two, and neutral plus one colour.
High Value Contrast – Monochromatic – Deep Value – Anne Hathaway
Anne Hathaway has a predominant deep value because of her dark hair. She is high value contrast because of the difference between her hair and eyes (both dark) and her skin (light). She is monochromatic as she is 3 neutrals (all in the brown/beige family). Anne is value contrast dominant.
In the outfit on the left, the predominant light value of the white dress and denim jacket only creates a medium value contrast, and is overall too light for her natural deep value.
On the right, the predominantly dark or deep value outfit that includes a high contrast with the check skirt, works well for her as it’s achromatic (meaning without colour – black and white), and replicates her light/dark hair/skin colouring perfectly.
So let’s look at Anne wearing colour rather than just black and white.
The dress on the left has a high value contrast – that gets a tick. It’s a predominantly deep colour – that also get’s a tick, but it’s high colour contrast and Anne is not, so you keep looking at the dress – it grabs attention.
The dress in the middle is monochromatic – that get’s a tick, and it has a high value contrast – that also get’s a tick. But, it’s overall light in value and so doesn’t work as well for Anne.
The dress on the right is neutral plus one colour – tick (anyone can wear this combo). It is deep in value – big tick, and has a high value contrast – another big tick. This is why the dress harmonises best with Anne’s appearance.
Best colour scheme: Monochromatic (one colour) or neutral plus 1 colour, high value contrast, predominantly dark outfit.
High Value Contrast – Neutrals plus 1 colour – Deep Value – Zooey Deschanel
Zooey Deschanel again (like Anne Hathaway) has high value contrast as she has dark hair and light skin. But she is 2 neutrals plus 1 colour (blue eyes) so needs to wear a colour in her outfits to really shine. Like Anne Hathaway she is also predominantly deep or dark in value. Zooey is value contrast dominant.
Outfit on the left has the required high value contrast of light and dark and also includes multiple colours. Because of her blue eyes, she needs colour (and if she was wearing a red lipstick you would add in a 2nd colour to her face which would really make this dress work well). This dress looks good on her.
Now the outfit on the right is predominantly light in value (and Zooey is dark) and is medium-low in value contrast, but noticeably high in colour contrast (pink and green being complementary colours – that is – opposites on the colour wheel). This dress seems at odds with Zooey’s colouring, unlike the dress on the left which harmonises.
High Value Contrast – Deep Value – Monochromatic – Juliette Binoche
Here with Juliette Binoche, another example of a predominantly deep colouring (dark hair, dark eyes) with high value contrast (light skin/dark hair), monochromatic colouring (similar to Anne Hathaway). Juliette is value contrast dominant.
Outfit on the left – is medium value contrast – medium value – there is nothing deep enough in the outfit to make it really work for her.
The outfit on the right – high value contrast – predominantly deep value, 2 neutrals plus 1 colour works well and flatters her colouring.
Best colour scheme: High value contrast, deep value, monochromatic or neutrals plus 1 colour.
High Value Contrast – Deep Value – Michelle Trachtenberg
Like Zooey Deschanel, Michelle Trachtenberg is a high (to medium high depending on her hair colour) value contrast, with predominantly deep value and because of her coloured (blue) eyes, she looks good wearing a colour with her neutrals. Michelle is value contrast dominant.
The outfit on the left just look wishy-washy on Michelle. The overall light value and low value contrast don’t do anything for her.
On the right, we have 2 neutrals in a high value contrast and it flatters her colouring so much more.
Best colour scheme: Deep value, 2 neutrals plus 1 colour, high value contrast.
Deep Value – High Contrast – 2 Neutrals Plus a Colour – Jennifer Connolly
Another example of overall deep value, along with 2 neutrals plus a colour is Jennifer Connolly. She has a green-grey eye, so that adds in a coloured element to consider. Jennifer is value contrast dominant.
On the left, is a great high value contrast, neutral plus colour outfit.
On the right, is a not so great medium value contrast, neutral with neutral outfit that looks drab on Jennifer.
Best colour scheme: Deep value, high value contrast, neutral plus colour.
Deep Value – High Value Contrast – Monochromatic – Duchess Catherine
Duchess Catherine has a high value contrast, but monochromatic colouring with predominantly deep colouring (that dark brown hair). She is value contrast dominant.
In the dress on the left which is multi-colour, you see the dress first – there is too much colour and it draws your attention.
On the right, with two colours, and a high contrast, the dress is more related to her colouring, what would have made it better? If it was reversed – blue background with white pattern, which would have make the dress overall deep in value, as Kate is.
Best colour scheme: Deep value, high value contrast, monochromatic.
Medium Value – Colour Dominance – Emily Blunt
Now for someone different! Emily Blunt is colour dominant as she has coloured hair (red/orange), coloured eyes (blue) and neutral skin. Colour is the first thing you see when you look at her. She is overall medium value (sometimes lighter, sometimes a little darker depending on the colour of her hair at the time – hair colour is the thing that effects value dominance the most for most of us!). Emily is colour contrast dominant.
On the left the high contrast monochromatic outfit (black and white and wearing her all over) does nothing for her.
The outfit on the left in a warm pink and blue (think skin, and eyes) carrying a bag that matches her hair … harmonises so well. When you repeat the colours occurring in your natural colouring, you always create beauty and harmony and it always replicates your value contrast too, as well as your colour contrast.
Best colour schemes: medium value, multiple colours aka high colour contrast (complementary), medium value contrast.
Colour Dominant – Light Value – Cate Blanchett
Light value (hair, skin and eyes) gives Cate Blanchett a low value contrast and overall light value. But her golden hair, blue eyes and peaches and cream skin make her colour contrast dominant.
The multicoloured light value dress works well for Cate as she needs the light value and also the multiple colours to really shine. Plus the colour scheme has a warm undertone which matches her warm undertone.
The deep value, but multicoloured dress on the right doesn’t work as it’s overall too dark for Cate and it also has a cool undertone which is the opposite of Cate’s warm colouring.
Best colour scheme: Light value, multicoloured – triadic, warm undertones, low value contrast.
Light Value – Colour Dominant – Nicole Kidman
Nicole Kidman, like Cate Blanchett is colour dominant. She needs to wear colour. She is also overall light in value and low in value contrast.
The outfit on the left wears Nicole – it’s dark and achromatic (meaning the absence of colour) which have nothing in common with her colouring.
The outfit on the right relates to Nicole – it’s lighter in value, is multicoloured, and medium-low in value contrast. The colour dominance of the outfit repeats the elements of Nicole’s colouring.
Best colour schemes: light value, medium-low value contrast, high colour contrast (triadic).
Light Value – Dominant – Jennifer Lawrence
Jennifer Lawrence is another colour dominant, light value woman. She has medium value contrast as her blue eyes have some depth, but it’s the colour contrast that is dominant.
The deep outfit (black) on the left is unrelated to her colouring, not only is it dark and cool, it’s also achromatic (yes meaning, no chroma or colour).
The outfit on the right is medium value contrast, light-medium in overall value and includes a colour. When you are colour dominant, you must wear at least one colour (if not more), neutrals just aren’t your friend in the way they are for the monochromatic and most commonly value contrast dominant people.
Best colour scheme: light value, medium value contrast, high colour contrast (triadic to complementary).
Light Value – Colour Dominant – Cameron Diaz
Cameron Diaz, another light value dominant woman. She is also more colour contrast dominant with her golden hair and blue eyes. Her value contrast is low.
How to wear an all neutral outfit when you’re colour dominant?
Not like the pic on the left, which is high value contrast but in achromatic neutrals.
Instead, opt for a version of the pic on the right, where each ‘neutral’ as it is different from the other and are the coloured version of neutrals – blue denim, green khaki, golden camel – creates the colour contrast required, but done beautifully here in a low value contrast overall light-medium value palette.
You see, there is always a way to break the rules – you just have to figure out how to bend them so they work for you, not against.
Best colour scheme: light value, low value contrast, high colour contrast (triadic).
Medium Value – Medium Value Contrast – Natalie Portman
Natalie Portman is overall medium value contrast, with 2 neutrals (eyes and skin) and 1 colour (hair). She is value contrast dominant and overall medium in value.
This is why the outfit on the left, which is deep in value and low value contrast – even though it contains one colour (the oxblood jeans) isn’t working as well as she’d like.
Instead, the blue scarf and jeans with camel coat work much better, as it replicates her value contrast and her colour contrast.
Best colour schemes: Medium value, medium value contrast, neutral plus 1 colour.
Light Value – Colour Dominant – Kate Moss
Kate Moss has golden blonde hair, green eyes and neutral beige skin, making her overall light in value and medium value contrast with a colour contrast dominance (2 colours, 1 neutral).
The outfit on the left which is medium in value contrast and light in value, even though it’s neutral, because the neutrals are chromatic (meaning the presence of colour – which are used to make the shades of beige, ivory and brown), it works.
The outfit on the right, which is high value contrast but achromatic and overall deep value doesn’t highlight her natural colouring and beauty.
Best colour scheme: light value, medium value contrast, analogous (green eyes, golden blonde hair).
I hope this series of examples of different outfits and colourings helps you identify your own dominances and which kinds of colours schemes will work best on you.
If you’d like my professional opinion on your contrast and colours, if you can’t see me in person for a personal colour analysis, I offer this as part of my 7 Steps to Style program (along with body shape analysis and a whole lot more!).
Want more tips on understanding your contrast? Read these posts: