How to lighten up a colourful, but medium to dark wardrobe for low/medium contrast value. Help Please!
If you have overall lighter colouring but you’ve got an overall darker wardrobe, and realise that to look your best you need to lighten up your outfits – but you only have a medium value contrast – how to do this without having to replace your entire wardrobe? Overall dark outfits on someone with light hair (and colouring) can make the outfit look heavy and like it’s weighing you down.
Here are 5 ways to help you lighten up while still wearing your darker clothing.
1. Wear Your Ideal Value Closer to Your Face
Think about keeping lighter elements of your outfit closer to your face. This way you’re working with your natural features and creating harmony with them. You might want to invest in a great jacket that you can dress up and down in a neutral that is similar to your hair colour – this way you can put it over many different colours and it will harmonise with your colouring easily and quickly.
Yes my contrast isn’t quite right here (it’s a bit high) but because the larger proportion of the light value is on the outside (jacket) and dominates the outfit – it lightens up an otherwise dark value outfit. Notice too how the cobalt top is lighter than my dark jeans, so it’s starting that step from dark to light through a more medium (medium dark here) colour.
2. Wear a More Obvious/Brighter Medium Value Colour
Wearing a contrasting medium value colour in my tee pulls the focus – so even though it’s inside the darker jacket – it’s what you notice and so makes the outfit feel lighter as it’s the advancing colour in the outfit.
Here – even though the bottom is dark, the top is brighter and medium value (and in line with the depth of my eyes) which makes the outfit not feel so dark and heavy as it could.
3. Wear Your Ideal Value Contrast
Here again, I’ve used a medium value contrast with a darker outfit – but the medium value jacket has enough lightness to lift the outfit and because the value contrast is right – even though the overall ideal value isn’t as great as it could be, I can get away with it!
4. Add an Accessory that Bridges the Values
Here I’ve added in a scarf that bridges the values – it has light, medium and dark elements within it and so draw together the different colours in my outfit – the dark boots and jeans, the medium value tops and then adds that necessary light element close to my face.
5. Choose Signature Colours
You’ll notice in all the examples that colours I wear signature colours that bring out elements of my natural colouring – blues that make my blue eyes pop. Pinks and reds that are skin enhancers – by replicating my natural colouring, it’s much easier to create an outfit that is more flattering for you.
If you’d like me to choose your signature colours – I do this in a personal colour analysis and also in my 7 Steps to Style program if you choose to get your full colour palette.
Mixing and matching colours is so much easier when you have a refined palette of colours to work with and know your ideal value, colour and value contrasts – and even how to work with your existing wardrobe to make it work for you!
Getting Your Head Around Value and Contrast – the Celebrity Version
What to Wear: Prints and Patterns, Getting the Value and Contrast Right
Linking up to: Style Nudge, not Dressed as Lamb, Style Splash
Great article! 7 Steps has really helped me refine my style and this helped crystallise why today’s outfit with a too dark jacket still worked. Good colours, right value contrast, and a lighter brighter top. Thanks for helping make another piece of the style puzzle slip into place.
I love your illustrations, Imogen! You’ve moved me one step closer to utilizing a seasonless wardrobe. The natural inclination to wear a very light top with a dark bottom (to lighten up the overall feel) is precisely the wrong approach for many different body shapes, especially mine.
Again, “thank you” for the reminder to step through different colors, without a jarring contrast, and to highlight my portrait area with the lightest hues.
You are the best!
a faithful fan,
Wearing a lighter jacket makes so much difference, I find, even if a darker color is in my palette so would technically be okay. I got rid of a navy blazer for this reason — just always felt like too much dark — and got a new two new white toppers instead! Great post.
Always wondering,I can tell easily when its a bright pastel, like lemon and bright peach are light values, How do you tell when a bright color like true red, royal blue, fuchsia etc is medium value?
My own colorings are medium-light value with medium-high color contrast (triadic/complementary) as I’ve a very pale warm-pink skintone, dark blue eyes but colored blonde hair with orange-pink-red highlights, similar to a very light “spring” palette, with a peachy (not yellow) undertone, light and relative clear but not super bright because some muted colors flatter me better /my natural dark ash hair, I’m more muted and medium-dark value) I’ve dramatic-rebel-elegant style so color theory on my own clothing doesn’t matter much , but still find it interesting.
Muted/Smokey colors are easier to tell their value, but “chalk” colors are harder, because I keep confuse that they are all bright and high color contrast.
You can use a tool like https://insideoutstyleblog.com/2017/06/find-the-value-of-a-colour.html the one in this post – and in the end – it’s how you feel about it – do the blink test https://insideoutstyleblog.com/2008/09/eyes-up-eyes-down.html and see what you notice about the outfit and its contrast.
Great article. Would you write one, if you haven’t already, for dark value, meduim-high contrAst people with suggestions for what they can wear in summer ? I really look forward to wearing something lighter or some fun colours during the summer, but find it very difficult to do this with high contrast, an overall mostly dark look, in a soft summer palette.
Already done it! https://insideoutstyleblog.com/2017/04/spring-and-summer-looks-for-high-value-contrast.html
hi can ask how to do this for my shape, which is wide shoulders small hips, so if i wear a light jacket i look top heavy
Wear a light jacket and a even lighter or brighter bottom