Reader Question: I have light colouring so light colours work best. So what should you do when you’re overweight and feel that light colours make you look larger. Black is the most slimming colour, isn’t it?
Retailers sell lots of black because it’s easy as they’ll tell you “black goes with everything” (it doesn’t, it’s just you’re used to seeing black with everything) and “black is slimming” maybe, but not necessarily so, and black is sophisticated (well only if it’s in a garment that is beautifully cut and constructed (see my post on What Chanel can teach you about wearing black).
Fashion has been selling black as the antidote to all fashion woes for many decades now, since Chanel turned it into a fashionable colour (before that it wasn’t). There is so much misinformation about black and it’s properties out there I want to help you think differently about this colour.
Now not everyone wants to look slimmer, but if this is something like my reader who asked this question, that concerns you, read on for my tips.
Busting the Black is the Most Slimming Colour Myth
Ah, the “black myth” rears its ugly head (again and again). There are a few reasons why we believe this “black is the most slimming” myth to be true:
Black Absorbs Light
If when we see colour we are seeing reflected light rays, when we see black, all those light rays are absorbed and so light is not being reflected so this makes us look, slimmer, right?
Well yes … and no. Now yes black absorbs light so doesn’t reflect colours back, but it does reflect shadows, which highlight lines, wrinkles and double chins and make these look more obvious.
Dark Colours are Receding
If dark colours are receding and black is the darkest colour, doesn’t it mean then that black is the MOST receding and slimming colour?
Yes, it’s the darkest, but it doesn’t take into account the INTENSITY of the colour black, and because black is a BRIGHT colour and BRIGHT colours advance, then black actually pops forward and is more noticeable. Darker colours that are more muted and smoky are more slimming than bright dark colours!
All Photos of Me in Black are More Slimming
This is because a camera lens has little ability to define and see contour in darker colours – in fact, cameras make all dark colours look darker and remove contouring. Now, we have amazing eyes that have an ability to see way more nuanced features than cameras and photos show us (plus you’re looking at small versions of photos – not life-size ones, so a lot of the detail is obscured in them. Unless you’re a celebrity or model and spend all your time having your photo taken, I’m assuming you’re actually going about your day and interacting with people in person (lockdown’s permitting) and so actual eyes, rather than camera lenses are what you are being observed with.
Black Frames Your Width
Because black is so dark, unless it’s nighttime and you are in the dark, black clothing actually makes our edges appear more obvious, rather than less as we tend to be in lighter, brighter environments. Whites are the most popular wall paint colours and you are always being silhouetted against light backgrounds most of the time.
Black Adds Weight
That’s right, black things look heavier than lighter things. Do this quick thought test
Imagine there are two boxes on the floor in front of you. Same size, but one is white and the other is black, which is heavier?
The black one! We associate dark things with more weight than light ones (more airy) and so particularly if you have light coloured hair, your black clothes will be adding the feeling of more weight.
Black has a Cool Undertone and Deep Value and Bright Intensity
If these are in line with yours, cool, deep and bright, then black will be a great and slimming colour for you.
- If your undertone is warm, black is not for you.
- If your colouring is light – then black is not for you.
- If your Intensity is softer – then black is not for you.
There are many other more slimming colours than black available to you – and which they will be will depend on your palette and ideal value.
What’s Your Ideal Value?
Ideal value relates to how light, medium or dark your hair is. If you have light hair (blonde or a light grey or white) then light colours will look better on you than dark ones. If you have dark hair (darker browns and black) then dark colours look the best. If you have medium hair (dark blonde, reds and light brown and mid-grey) then medium value colours will be optimal for you.
When you have overall light colouring, you’re better in more light colours than dark colours. Most people who have light colouring don’t suit black. It’s just too dark and harsh on their complexion and it wears you, rather than you wearing the colour.
If you understand the concept of Ideal Value (which I’ve written about here) then you’d get the idea that ideally, a black bottom with an overall ideal value that is light (particularly when it’s very light) is just not as good as a lighter bottom.
Why is this? Well, it stops the eye as it scans the body, and then creates a focal point where there is dissonance between your natural colouring and the colour that is not related to you.
According to fashion magazines, as black seems to be the darkest colour, it should recede the furthest and be most sliming. Actually, black is a bright colour so those ‘slimming’ black trousers will actually draw attention to your problem areas and focus attention (not what you’re after since you’re here to learn how to be a style magician).
Light pants can feel very exposing. Many pairs of pants can be pretty unforgiving because the fabric is see-through and doesn’t provide coverage of your undergarments, because poor quality construction and shoddy fabrics are more obvious in light colours, it can be hard to find a very light pair of trousers that is flattering.
Whenever I’m trying to find a pair of white jeans, I try on about 40 or 50 pairs to find some that are thick enough and don’t show every lump and bump.
Instead of going super light – you can wear something more medium-light to medium, which because they are darker than your skin and hair, will still have the appearance of being receding as they are darker than your features!
Remember that you’re looking for darkER than your skin (not necessarily dark).
What trousers should you wear to get the best slimming illusion?
It’s about finding the perfect combination of the right fabric as well as the right colour.
Firstly, choose a thicker fabric or fabrics that are more opaque. Anything that’s more see-through more sheer is going to be harder to wear. A thicker fabric tends to hide more of what is going on underneath, particularly in trousers if you are concerned about cellulite showing through. Shiny fabrics draw attention and make an area look larger, so trousers made from matte fabrics will make you appear slimmer.
Secondly, consider that even with light colours which are more naturally advancing, just a small difference in value will make one colour less obvious and more receding than the other. So if you have a lighter overall value, rather than wearing clothes in really dark colours, consider about medium colours.
This could be a medium value grey or taupe if you’ve got cool colouring, and if you’re warm, a, chocolate brown or olive green will both be far more slimming than any black pants ever could be for you.
When you think about how colours communicate, what they say before you open your mouth, I want you to realise what black communicates. It’s not friendly, it’s very ominous and threatening (think the Nazi uniforms, Darth Vader and the badies in old cowboy films always wore the black hats). So if you want to appear more friendly or approachable, black and really dark colours are not helping you achieve your goal!
Your Right (and Most Slimming Colours)
Colours that are related to your overall colouring are always going to be more flattering than an unrelated colour. By wearing a slightly darker neutral on the problem areas and a signature colour on your best features, you’ll look best. This is why in your palette you will have a selection of neutrals that you can base your wardrobe around that are so much better than black for you!
The colours that make you shine, that harmonise with your colouring and relate to you will always make you look slimmer as they create a face focus rather than a body focus. I can’t tell you how many clients after a colour analysis have told me that when they start wearing their right colours people always ask if they’ve lost weight.
Want to Discover Your Colours?
Colour is the first thing I look at when shopping, as I know if the colour isn’t flattering, it doesn’t matter how great the style of the garment is, it’ll never look as good as it could, and won’t make me look as great as I can look. This is why you have me choose your best colour palette with an online colour analysis or as part of my 7 Steps to Style program.