Universal Colours – How Universal Are They Really?


There are some colours and neutrals we label as “universal”, in that they can be worn by all. That said, the version of each of these colours varies depending on the colour properties of the colour direction. For example, the colour may be brighter or more muted and smoky. It may be a lighter or deeper version. It may be a warmer or cooler undertone.

The universal colours are: teal and red-violet and true red and green. 

The universal neutrals are taupe, marine navy and soft white.

The thing with universal colour and neutrals, they don’t look terrible on anyone, but they may not be your most flattering colours either!

What are the universal colours


Let’s look at teal for example. Teal is a blue-green. Since green is a mix of blue and yellow, then teal is a mix of green and more blue, making it cooler than green which means that if you have a lot of natural warmth, it may not be a great colour for you as it’s closer to the cool end of the warm/cool colour spectrum.  

How about taupe? Taupe is a brown-grey. So it has elements of warmth, brown which has an orange base which is warm and coolness, grey which has a cool base. It’s a softer colour because of the element of grey in it.  So if you’re bright, then taupe isn’t going to be an amazing neutral for you.  

Taupe is often most flattering on those who are closer to the warm/cool mid-point rather than those on the more extreme ends as well.

How about soft white? It’s white with a hint of yellow to take the stark, clinical coolness out of the white, making it wearable by most people, but not a great colour for those who do have a lot of natural coolness in their colouring, and who need that bright cool white.

What about true red?  It’s great if you have naturally bright colouring, but not so if your intensity is anything but bright, it doesn’t suit a palette that is more soft and smoky.

True green?  Green, as it’s a mix of warm and cool (yellow and blue) again is better for those who are closer to the mid-point between warm and cool rather than those who are warmer or cooler, who need the more yellow or blue based versions of green depending on their undertone.

Every colour has three properties: undertone, value and intensity.  When choosing colours that work with your colouring you will want versions that match your own three properties and harmonise with them.

So if you’re looking for a colour that won’t be bad on anyone, for a uniform, or bridesmaid dress or the like, then choose a universal colour.   

It’s important to remember that colour palettes are generic – they are a collection of the type of colours that work for you that have colour properties in common with you.  You are an amazing individual and so from that, your signature colours will be selected that are your most flattering colours.

Should you always wear all the universal colours?  Not necessarily.  There may be much more flattering colours in your palette (and if you’re not sure what palette works for you, a colour analysis is part of my 7 Steps to Style program), to choose from.  Your signature colours are a great guide to knowing whether or not these universals are a good option for you – if any of them are in your signature colours, then perfect, go for it!  Just remember to choose the right version of the colour that works with your palette, rather than any of them.  But if they are not part of your signature colours, you may want to hold back on investing heavily in any of these universals as other colours may be much more flattering on you.

How to Discover Neutrals with the Right Undertone For You



I'm not sure if it's for you but how would you feel if you learned all about the colours and styles of clothing that suit your individual personality, shape and style? Just imagine what it would be like when you can open your wardrobe and pull together fabulous outfits that make you look and feel amazing every day? If you'd like to stop wasting money on the wrong clothes and accessories plus join an amazing bunch of very special women also on their style journey - then my 7 Steps to Style program is right for you. Find out more here.

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  • What an excellent blog post! I love these detailed explanations, so much has been cleared up (and now I finally understand why taupe is not flattering for me). So good to know the why’s.

  • Thank you for these explanations. I would like to try taupe. Gray makes me look ghastly, but I struggle to find the appropriate shade of brown. Taupe May be the answer for me as a change from my usual navy blue (which I love in the bright or smoky versions).
    I think I’m a blend of warm and cool, which is why I struggle to find flattering neutrals, and again why I choose navy. Thanks, Imogen!!

  • Thanks for the explanation. Since I’m a Rich palette (warm & deep) it sounds like I’m farther away from the point of the “universals” being a good choice? Besides red & warm green? I guess teal is really the only other I’d consider wearing anyway.

    • Most likely – everyone’s colouring is different – but I do notice that the universals look better on the whole on those who have an undertone that is less extreme!

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