Reader Question: How much of each colour should you wear – what are the proportions when putting an outfit together?
Balance and Harmony
You want to create a balance between the inner you, your personality, and the outer you, your appearance and natural colouring. You want to feel like you when wearing your colours as they can work in concert with one another, bringing out your true beauty, and also reflecting your authentic self.
Someone with a more dramatic personality might add more colour or brighter colours or bolder combinations. Someone with a more relaxed personality or more classic personality might wear less colour or neutrals.
Colour contrast tells you how to put colours together for you to wear in outfits that flatter your natural colouring. Your colour contrast is defined by how many colours you have naturally occurring in your colouring and how different they are from each other. You can discover your colour contrast here.
The more colourful you are the more you can play with adding more colours. Multi-coloured patterns, scarves and necklaces can be used it. Don’t forget accessories such as coloured shoes, coloured belts, and coloured bracelets can also add a pop of colour to your outfit.
If you have low colour contrast such as monochromatic colouring or grey hair and neutral skin but with coloured eyes, start with a larger proportion of a base neutral and then add in a couple of colours that are more similar to each other but in smaller proportions so that you are not overwhelmed by too many colours at the same time
The most harmonious look balances the percentages of you. You need to take into consideration your hair, skin and eye colours.
Your hair is the most dominant feature; we notice it as a colour or neutral, followed by your skin as the second most dominant feature, also a colour or neutral followed by your eyes.
In interior decorating, there is a concept of the 60/30/10 rule – that is percentages of different colours to use in a decorating scheme.
- 60% of your outfit is the main colour or neutral – similar value to your hair and should form the largest proportion of your outfit.
- 30% of your outfit is the secondary colour or neutral and should relate to your skin.
- 10% of your outfit is an accent colour.
Here is an overall light value outfit – this works for me with my light hair and fair skin. Then I have a medium-dark eye so the pattern with the darker pinks helps to repeat both my lip colour and the value of my eyes.
You can use my 3 Step Process for Discovering Your Ultimate Contrast to figure out what your contrast levels are. If you’d like my professional opinion on your colour and value contrasts you can get this as part of my 7 Steps to Style program or you can get it in an online colour analysis here.
You may wish to just wear 2 colours to create your ideal value or colour contrast. So you might choose to go with an 80/20 proportion (or even 80/10/10) instead.
Take an Outfit Photo or Two
Seeing yourself in a photo allows you to see yourself in a physical form with slightly more objectivity will help you notice what is and isn’t working, so you can adjust and tweak.
Collage your outfit photos and notice which are the most successful and the least in terms of your colour and value contrast. How can I repeat this in a different outfit? Discover where you are currently going right or wrong in your outfit choices more easily with outfit photos – they take the guesswork out of it!
Here is an example of two outfits that are higher value contrast than me. The one on the left – the dress is OK as it’s more light than dark, but the dark jacket makes the overall outfit look darker (particularly next to my face) and so is not as good as the outfit on the right, which even though it is more dark, because of the light value denim jacket, this makes what is close to my face more light than dark which works better for my light value.
When you are figuring this out for yourself (and I’ve got an excellent Colour Masterclass that includes a downloadable workbook, videos on tips on exactly how to do this for yourself) just think “I’m looking for the harmony … repeating what I see in my colouring in my outfits” and you really can’t go wrong!