I love colour (as regular readers will be aware) and I don’t have a naturally high colour contrast (ideally I’m physically more in the neutral plus 1 colour camp). But I like to wear more than one colour in patterns as they are often more versatile than a colour plus neutral print, and have found that for those of us who don’t have that high colour contrast can still do it in a way that works.
How to Wear a High Colour Contrast (when you’re not high colour contrast)
Wear the multiple colours below the waist.
I find multicoloured skirts are the easiest way to wear a high colour contrast outfit, without it looking like I’m overdoing the colour. It’s easy to wear a neutral top with a coloured and patterned skirt so not looking like a clown wearing lots of colour all at once.
By choosing one colour from the skirt and wearing it in my top, or a neutral plus 1 colour (below – pink top and neutral jacket) this stops the multiple colours from overwhelming my less colour contrasted appearance.
This jacket is a high value contrast (black and white) which is why I need the brighter medium value pink to create the necessary “step” in between that allows me to get away with a higher value contrast as well as a higher colour contrast (breaking all my rules here!). Again I repeat my top colour in my lipstick to tie my colour choice to my colouring.
Wear the multiple colours in small proportions
Take one colour as your main colour, then add your other colours in much smaller proportions.
Here I’ve taken two colours from this scarf, the green and pink (which are complementary). The green is the main colour and the pink just peeks out and so is a small proportion of the outfit.
Wear the multiple colours in an accessory
Here the multiple coloured item is the scarf which is dominantly blue with touches of pink in the cherry blossom and bird pattern. Because of the smaller proportions of the triadic colour the outfit doesn’t feel “too coloured” for me. I also replicate the pink colour in my lipstick which adds that extra coloured element to my features and ups my colour contrast.
Tie the multiple colours together with a scarf
In this example, I’ve tied the teal top and purple cardigan together with a scarf that is dominantly teal with a touch of purple.
Wear an analogous colour scheme with your multicoloured item
I fell in love with this skirt fabric (made it myself) as I could so much potential for wearing it with different coloured tops.
With an undertop that is blue (just peeking out from underneath my jumper) and a green jumper as the dominant colour, the teal scarf sits in between and creates an analogous colour scheme that doesn’t shout too loudly and tone down the high colour contrast of the skirt.
This whole outfit is also analogous with teal, blue and navy flowing together around the colour wheel making them the perfect foil for the multicoloured scarf.
Go Monochromatic When Combining Colours
I tried some other coloured scarves with this outfit and decided that anything that wasn’t’ monochromatic was just too much. The pink and scarlet come from the same monochromatic family and are both included in the pattern, making it an easier outfit to wear for me.
Wear it in a Small and Non-Dominant Pattern
This shirt has blue, red and green birds and leaves on a white background, so is naturally quite high in colour contrast, but because the neutral background dominates and the colours are smaller in proportion it doesn’t feel so colourful and is easier to wear.
If you’d like to know more about the colours that suit you and you’d like my professional opinion on your colour contrast, this is something you get as part of my 7 Steps to Style program (plus so much more).
More on Understanding Colour Contrast with Celebrity Examples
Hi Imogen, thank you for the fabulous inspiration for wearing colour. It’s hard to find many examples of people wearing outfits that are predominantly light-medium in value, let alone wearing multiple colours.
P.S. I think there may be a typo just under the second photo. It says “This jacket is a high colour contrast (black and white)” – should it say high value contrast instead?
Oh, Imogen, I feel as tho this article was written just for me! I love my new Spicy colors but struggle to find combinations, or ways, to bring more color into each ensemble without overwhelming my H body frame. Your wonderful examples, and explanation, helps me utilize my color family more fully.
Thank you so much for all you do and who you are.
Your faithful fan,
Thank you so much for this post. I was soooo frustrated when I figured out that my ideal is neutral plus one colour. It sounded so boring and not me as I love wearing bright colours. I will be putting all these ideas into practise.