Getting Your Head Around Value and Contrast – the Celebrity Version

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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.

Grey scaleThis 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.

I’m going to walk you through examples of predominant value, colour contrast and value contrast (and which is dominant) with each celeb to give you ideas on what they do right and wrong.

Want to know your contrast?  Do my three step process… (and you can download the post and grey scale to use)

How to Find Your Ultimate Colour Contrast – Your Three Step Process

Neutral Dominance – Light Value – Emmy Lou Harris

Getting Your Head Around Value and Contrast - the Celebrity Version -click here to read more

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

Getting Your Head Around Value and Contrast - the Celebrity Version - click here to find out more

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

Getting Your Head Around Value and Contrast - the Celebrity Version - click here to find out more

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.

Getting Your Head Around Value and Contrast - the Celebrity Version

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.

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

High Value Contrast – Neutrals plus 1 colour – Deep Value – Zooey Deschanel

Getting Your Head Around Value and Contrast - the Celebrity Version - find out more - click here

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.

Getting Your Head Around Value and Contrast - the Celebrity Version

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

Getting Your Head Around Value and Contrast - the Celebrity Version

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

Getting Your Head Around Value and Contrast - the Celebrity Version - understand more about this by clicking here

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

Getting Your Head Around Value and Contrast - the Celebrity Version

 

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

Getting Your Head Around Value and Contrast - the Celebrity Version

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

Getting Your Head Around Value and Contrast - the Celebrity Version

 

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

Getting Your Head Around Value and Contrast - the Celebrity Version

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

Getting Your Head Around Value and Contrast - the Celebrity Version

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

Getting Your Head Around Value and Contrast - the Celebrity Version

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

Getting Your Head Around Value and Contrast - the Celebrity Version

 

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

Getting Your Head Around Value and Contrast - the Celebrity Version

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!).

7 steps to colour and style

Want more tips on understanding your contrast?  Read these posts:

The Power of Colour and Value Contrast

What Exactly is Medium-High Value Contrast?

Where Celebrities Go Right and Wrong with Their Contrast

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

Are You Colour Contrast or Value Contrast Dominant

How to Wear Medium Value Colours When You are High Contrast

11 Real Life Examples of Dressing to Your Contrast

 

Getting Your Head Around Value and Contrast - the Celebrity Version - why some outfits work and others don't - find out more - click here

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58 Comments

  • Thank you so much for this. So anyone with dark hair color will be automatically considered deep in value regardless of their skin color? Can you please do a similar post with a few examples on women of color?

    • Yes that’s correct as we see 75% hair when we look at a face – the hair surrounds our face – so it dominates on the whole.

      I will do another post with women with deeper skin colours !

  • Hi Imogen, this is again a very helpful article and I’m sure it will save me a lot of time and money as it gives such good hints on contrast and colour. However, and as it uses celebrities as examples I was wondering about women of a darker type: black hair and deep brown eyes but also a neutral skin that is darker. Salma Hayek would be the example here, would she be a medium value as everything about her is neutral? When I think about her in colours I remember her in the film Frida. What would you say?

  • “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.”

    I think about this all the time!

    Fascinating, and thank you for sharing so many different examples to really make your points.

    If/when you ever write another post like this, it would be interesting to see some women of color.

  • Thank you for this, Imogen – really interesting stuff. I wonder if someone like Julianne Moore (pale skin and blue eyes, like Nicole Kidman, but with a stronger and darker shade of red hair) would fall into the same category as Nicole. Is all red hair considered light in value, or only the more strawberry blondes with more fiery redheads in a different camp.

    • Julianne Moore is medium value – her hair is a medium shade, Nicole’s is a light shade. So a slightly higher value contrast too, plus colour contrast is dominant

  • I actually think both Jamie Lee Curtis and Jennifer Lawrence look great in their LBDs. That’s not to contradict your point about color choices – looking at the photos what I noticed was I saw their body before their face. In their case I think that may have been intentional, as they are very fit, but maybe not what you or I would want as a focus! Really interesting to see how celebrities use color, intentionally or not, to different effects. And yes, once you see it is hard to unsee!

  • These articles on value and contrast right have been so helpful! I wish more people knew about this! And it’s true what you say, once you see it you can’t unsee it >< It's actually helped me realise why I liked or didnt like certain items in my wardrobe and now how I can make them work better for me, it's also made me so excited about future purchases because now I'm sure that anything I buy in future I'll actually like so much more!

    • Similar principles – I will do another post with examples – can you give me names of celebrities with the kind of colouring you’re thinking about?

      • That would be great Imogen! Queen Latifah comes to mind as does Jada Pinkette Smith…these two women, to me, have great style as well as different skin tones.

        Looking forward to your upcoming post.

        All the best, Stacy

      • Hey, hope some additional suggestions on celebrities will help – priyanka chopra, mindy kaling, thandie newton, hannah simone, freida pinto, archie panjabi, padma lakshmi, kerry washington, aisha tyler, gabrielle union, sofia vergera, eva longaria, zoe saldana.
        Sorry about highjacking this comment.

      • Reading through all the comments, I have another question that I am quite unable to understand. If someone has black (darkest color, not dark brown) hair and warm coloring, what will their darkest element or color they should wear be? Dark brown or will black be included, though it is a cool color?

  • Wow, what a fascinating post! I see and appreciate all the work you have put in this. Showing pics of people we know helps a lot. Please do more!
    Thanks

    Lucretia roletta

  • Thank you, Imogen! Clearly you did spend many hours of hard work finding just the right examples for us. We, your fans, are so fortunate to have you in our lives every day.
    Yes, I think I am finally getting it! Medium value, color dominant….now, to make it work.
    You are the best,
    a faithful fan,
    Pat

  • I love this post. I have changed my hair colour from a deep natural looking brown to a lighter red coloured look (to hide the greys better). I had worked out from your blog that I had gone from value-dominate to colour-dominant and that I needed to change the way I dress. Seeing the difference in outfits on other people really helps understand how to apply it.

  • Imogen,
    I’m loving all of these contrast posts. They are so incredibly useful! I’d like to know – I have a warm coloring, and I am low color contrast and medium-high value contrast (all dark brown features). I was the one who wrote about this a month or two ago and got an article about Princess Mary written for me (you are so great!) It was so helpful for putting together many of my outfits, but I still find myself struggling to complete my wardrobe for all aspects of my life, as many of the photos showed Princess Mary wearing dresses. I do wear dresses to work sometimes and am pretty easily able to do the monochromatic (or neutrals plus 1 color) look when I do, but even then, many of my work outfits are pretty business-casual, as I am a schoolteacher (and my outfits are even more casual outside of work – think tee and jeans with some Converse and a moto jacket). I like to wear pants so I can crouch down and work with the kids, but to look professional still – and especially in the colder weather – I like to put a cardigan/sweater over my blouse sometimes and maybe even a scarf. So then that means I can only have one thing in my outfit be a color – my blouse, my scarf, my cardigan, or my pants – and the neutrals all have to be brown since I have a very warm, golden, deep coloring. The more layering elements I have in my outfit, the harder it becomes to put an outfit together, and the more defeated I feel. This is especially so, because of my warm coloring – my neutrals do not include black, white, and gray, but rather warm browns, olives, and camels. These are all beautiful neutrals, but olive and camel are both “color neutrals” and therefore create a color-dominant outfit when paired with other colors in my palette that are not of the same hue (i.e., pairing a wine color with olive). So I feel like my only true neutral is a dark chocolate brown. Warm, medium-toned browns look good, but again – I have a pretty dark coloring, so I always have to add in some dark shades. And I just find it so hard to include all the brown, especially because black, white, and gray seem to be really easy to find and brown (a warm chocolate brown, especially) so hard to find. My question for you is can you share some more examples like you did with Princess Mary but of more casual outfits that include a lot of layering for cooler weather?

    Over time, I have been able to locate a few examples of what I’m looking for, but there is always some “off” for me – either the colors aren’t dark enough for my coloring, there are too many different colors in the outfit, or cool neutrals like black and white are included in the outfit (which is something I don’t want to do because I just hate those colors on me). I have pinned some of these outfits on my Pinterest boards, which I’ve linked below:

    OLIVE GREEN
    Link: https://www.pinterest.com/elemenoeg/olive-green/
    Problem: No dark brown neutrals (only oatmeals or lighter neutrals that wash me out) or too many colors in one outfit.

    CHOCOLATE BROWN
    Link: https://www.pinterest.com/elemenoeg/chocolate-brown/
    Problem: All beautiful combos, but most are too formal (skirts, dresses, and tights) for my teaching job and especially for my tee and jeans non-work lifestyle.

    Here is a board that contains pictures of my overall style (both business casual and casual): https://www.pinterest.com/elemenoeg/step-into-my-closet/

    I know it seems like I’m going in circles, but I keep buying things and returning them, because I just can’t find the right elements to create outfits that look good on me. I am so lost. Thanks!

  • Always fascinating and I love the posts using Celebrities…
    I have tried for many years to master dressing my Medium value and low contrast level and have never worn Black and rarely white. The lack of colour in my colouring I found incredibly boring and wore lots of colours to make me more exciting. I also love clothes so I want to draw attention to them.

    BUT now I’ve just messed with it all and dyed my hair purple roots with bleached ends… I love my new hair but am frozen in what to wear with it. Previously I was light brown hair, very fair skin and deep brown eyes. Now I’m finding that wearing colour makes me look very busy and so I’ve been doing a monochromatic navy look.

    BUT reading this to flatter myself I would be best in light value clothing (Skin and Hair) with a pop of colour (purple roots) and a pop of dark (eyes) …. Argh the laundry…
    Also and I don’t know if anyone else has found this who’ve dyed their hair a colour is that all my purple clothes – which I had loads of, look silly with my purple hair. This is annoying as my winter jacket is a gorgeous purple. I look like a demented pixie.
    Should I just wear the purple clothes anyways? Or does anyone have suggestions on what would be some key purchases when you change your colour and contrast levels…That would be a fascinating post Imogen.

    • I suspect personality comes heavily into this decision. You may feel now you have added an extra colour that too much repeating colour makes the purple too obvious and you don’t want to be identified as a ‘purple person’ or it may just harmonise nicely.

  • Love this article, I’ve read it several times! I really appriciate that you put so much effort into tis! I wonder about a few things: When I have medium contrast with fair skin and eyes and medium dark hair, that means that I should wear clothing with medium contrast. Should the contrast be between light and medium dark colours like my own colouring, or could I wear medium dark clothes with dark clothes, which also give a medium value contrast? I also have a question about colour contrat: I’ve read one of your really first articles where you write about colour contrast. Here you say that brown hair should be seen as dark orange and blond hair as yellow. Does this mean that dark blond/light brown hair should be seen as coloured or is it neutral? Or does it vary with the shade?

    • You can wear either the light and medium or medium with dark – but you will find light with medium is your ideal contrast level so is better – but life would be boring without some variety! If the brown hair is more mahogany or reddish, then treat it as orange. If it’s more neutral ashy, then treat it as neutral.

  • Great post and examples thank you 🙂 How about Thandie Newton and Lucy Liu as examples for future posts? Oprah?

  • You mentioned that hair color plays an important role in Michele Trachtenberg’s analysis. My all around coloring closely resembles hers – (skin and hair neutral and eyes are blue) but my hair is naturally slightly lighter, a medium ash brown. Would that make me a medium high value contrast and do you have any examples of that? Would a celebrity example of medium high value contrast in this color range be someone like Elizabeth Hurley or Paulina Poriskova? Does that change their value or would the value still be deep? Also, I color my graying hair, but color it closest to my root color as possible. Does it still make me a neutral because I color it a medium ash brown color (and try to avoid any gold/brassy tones as they don’t jibe with my complexion) or does it make me colored because I color it?

    • Ashy brown is neutral.
      If your hair is lighter – then it would be medium deep value not deep.
      that would then reduce your overall value contrast to medium deep too.

      You can work out your value with the three step process that is linked to in this blog post.

  • With snow white hair, fair skin, and blue eyes, and being now happily in my 70s, but LOVING fashion, the only Hollywood celebrity I can find who mimics my coloring is Judi Dench. As part of your 7 Steps program you told me I was medium value contrast and should wear a neutral plus one color. I am also In the Intriguing color family of swatches. I notice that Judi wears a great deal of white or ivory. I am adopting soft white, bone, silver grey and light honey beige as my neutrals. What I have trouble with is the addition of a color to the mix. Should I plan my outfits with a lot of one color or its shades, and just a small amount of one of my neutrals, or majorly a neutral and just a little color? I notice this latter choice seems to be the way Judi goes. While it is easy to overpower me with color, it is also easy to really blah me down with too much neutral.

  • I also strongly support a post for women with darker skin! Your style advice is unparalleled. How about Kerry Washington? Zoe Saldana? Gabrielle Union? Sanaa Lathan? I’m curious about 1) how you think about value contrast with darker skin: I’ve seen others explain that dark hair, brown eyes, and dark brown skin always equals medium-high/high value contrast (e.g here: https://www.seamwork.com/issues/2015/05/design-a-personal-color-palette and here: https://effortlessgent.com/contrast-clothing-combinations/.. Would you disagree? 2) Is it ever possible for women with this coloring to have brownish eyes that count as a color (v. neutral)? For example, light/rusty brown or amber eyes against dark neutral brown skin? Thanks!

  • Hi Imogen

    I don’t understand why Emmy Lou Harris has low value contrast with some medium pops of color and Gwen Stefani is high value contrast. I love learning this. Maybe one day I’ll get it right for myself!

    • Gwen Stefani has very dark eyes and very light hair and skin – She is overall light value with pops of high contrast dark. Emmy Lou’s eyes are not that dark.

  • Hi Imogen,
    Great post, your effort really shows! I have a question about the deep value, high contrast. In every picture black is used. I have coloring like Anne Hathaway, but don’t like wearing black. Does it really have to be that dark? The brown picture on the left of Juliette Binoche she has a brown top, does it need to be dark brown top instead, or could it work if she used that oxblood jacket instead?

    • It doesn’t have to be that dark – it depends on your colouring. The darkest element of you is your ideal darkest colour. So unless you have black hair it doesn’t have to be black. Brown, deep aubergine, deep greens etc can all work if your darkest element is not near black.

  • Thanks Imogen. I think now my coloring is more Emmy Lou than Gwen. I have pale porcelain skin, heavy highlighted blonde hair with some dimension, medium to deep hazel eyes and medium dark brows. So now it makes sense.

  • You’ve done such a great job with this Imogen! Really well explained with lots of examples. I recently put together a presentation on this topic so thoroughly enjoyed reading your fabulous effort!

  • So does the same contrast level apply to makeup as well? Low contrast= medum to light blush and lipstick? Thanks so much–love this blog!

  • Imogen, you’re posts are so insightful. I have learned so much and just truly enjoy coming back over and over. I had been previously thinking that I was more of a neutral plus one color category with medium value contrast (the color being my bluish eyes). However, I see here that you have Emily Blunt’s hair as a color. My medium brownish hair looks quite similar (with coppery highlights in the sun) and now I am thinking that I might have more color to work with. Hooray! So much fun.

  • Love what you are doing here Imogen. Can you show an example of someone with high value contrast (almost black hair) AND high color contrast (eyes and skin)?

  • wow, thanks so much, Imogen. what a fantastic post!

    I’d have two main questions if I may:

    1. sometimes you wrote two neutrals plus colour, other times neutral plus colour. if I was like Zooey Deschanel (probably slightly lighter shade of brown hair though) it has to be one colour and two neutrals or one colour and one neutral is enough? also, I assume that as long as the colour is deep, i can have that as the largest proportion of my dress rather than a neutral? Zoe (or me) could wear a deep teal one colour dress with silver jewellery or would such an outfit lack contrast? http://www.stopstaringclothing.com/cocktail-dress-blog/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/zooey-050114-_4-1.jpg plus silver jewellery would work?)

    2. with regard to eye colour – I have blue-green-grey eyes , depending on the light, (probably teal if i had to pick just one colour) – I guess this does mean colour, right? (only confused as grey is not a colour.)
    I also ask because Kate Middleton has non brown eyes (green or grey depending on the photo)? so doesn’t she need one colour always? :
    https://jl10ll.files.wordpress.com/2013/07/kate-middleton3.jpg
    what non brown eyes count as neutral?

    one final thing, i noticed that those who are colour contrast dominant are more likely to have non brown hair (right)? except for Emily Blunt… but with what i believe might be closest to her natural hair colour – is she not more like jennifer connolly (except hair colour is not as dark)??:

    http://www.speakerscorner.me/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/emily11.jpg

    http://static.squarespace.com/static/53323bb4e4b0cebc6a28ffa2/t/538dd110e4b0f432bcf1c91a/1401803027438//

    • Neutral plus colour or two – doesn’t really matter – it’s more about not wearing multiple colours at the same time. If you are deep then wear deeper colour if that is the predominant proportion of your outfit. Silver jewellery would then create a high value contrast.

      If they read as colour – as in more blue or green – not pure grey – they are a colour. If they read as grey then they are neutral.

      I thought Kate Middleton’s eyes were neutrals – I think that photo is photoshopped to make them more green. They may be hazel – I’ve looked at a bunch of pics and they are hard to really see the exact colour. They tend to read as neutral in her photos which is why I put her this way.

      Most colour contrast dominant don’t have brown hair as that is a dominant neutral. If Emily’s hair is not red, than that reduces her colour contrast.

  • This is a wonderful, thoughtful post in terms of illustrating concepts, yet I am flabbergasted that you completely ignored women of color and all shades of skin that are not white. What about dark dark skin with dark hair, medium light brown skin with dark hair, white hair with dark skin, light brown skin with light brown hair, etc etc? Yet you have so many example of low value contrast high color contrast white women. This just feels incredibly excluding of so many women who would otherwise value and be interested and benefit from this information that is well presented. As usual, the non-majority, non-white woman has to read this and figure out for herself by analogy how the information applies to her, instead of having direct examples like white majority women, as usual, do.

    • Really depends on how it reads when you look at it – some skins look more coloured, golden, peach, pink etc., others more neutral – beige, brown etc. Hazel is a very “broad” term for eyes – it depends if they read as more green, or more brown.

  • I finally understand why I go through the day feeling awful when I wear all neutrals, or the wrong value contrast. I have pretty low value contrast, am color contrast dominant I now realize, and I am dressing all wrong for my value/coloring.
    I have always thrown an accessory into my hair to try to add interest back up to my face, as well as a pop of color in my jewelry, but gold tends to blend in with my skin.
    I have so much adjusting to do. First is to break up with my dependency on dark neutrals, and muted colors that make me look and feel sad.
    Thank you Imogen!

  • This is really helpful, thank you.
    Please can you clarify why Juliette Binoche can wear neutrals + one colour? I look at her and see neutral skin, eyes, and hair.
    Is it because the red jacket is also deep in value?
    I’m asking because I have similar colouring and would love to wear more colours! Thanks.

    • Everyone can wear one colour with neutrals – nobody is stuck in all neutrals. The value of the jacket is perfect for her ideal deeper value – this works really well.

  • Of everything you do, and you give some amazing info on your blog, these examples are the most amazing. I love analyzing them myself, and then reading your comments to see if I’ve gotten it right!

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