Hands up who remembers being asked to ‘compare and contrast’ two poems in GCSE English? Just me? However, fortunately for me, that has absolutely nothing to do with today’s post. Something that comes up time and again is the discussion of contrast when wearing your colours.
Should you be wearing colours that tone together, looking like a tree in full autumn leaf, or a summer flower bed in shades of pink and purple, or should you be contrasting to the max, channelling dark pine trees on bright white snow or scarlet poppies in a bright green meadow?
The simple (and not necessarily entirely accurate) answer is that it is completely dependent on your season. The ‘muted’ seasons – Summer and Autumn – are best in tonal colours, without too much contrast within the outfit, while the ‘bright’ seasons – Spring and Winter – are best with plenty of contrast, either light and dark or bright and neutral. This is a great place to start and if you are just at the beginning of your colour journey your consultant may well suggest this as a starting point.
However, there are always exceptions that prove the rule, and you may be looking to explore this a little more as you become more confident with your colours. Dependent both on the ‘type’ of season you are, and your own personal style, you might prefer to wear your colours with either more or less contrast than just looking at your season may suggest.
For example, I am an Autumn, but I am (a) what is called a Blue Autumn (i.e. I have only-just-warm skin tone, and look best in the less warm, deeper end of the Autumn Palette – this has parallels with being called a Deep/Dark Autumn in other analysis systems) and (b) have a personal style that means I need to make a statement with my clothes (many consultants will offer personal style analysis as well as colour analysis – I highly recommend it for adding the finishing touches to getting your look absolutely right). Both of these factors add up to me looking far better with a good degree of contrast within my outfits – I will often pair navy or dark olive green with cream or bright orange, rather than wearing tone on tone shades of, say, forest green and teal.
As always, the person best placed to advise you regarding your personal contrast level is your own consultant, who will know exactly which colours and styles are your best. But as a starting point, I’ve summarised some of the situations in which dressing counter to your season’s ‘typical’ advice might be a good call (I’m adding as many caveats as I can here, it really is best to speak to a consultant in real life, but I’m aiming to give you a brief introduction to the idea)
- Some people who fall into the Bright seasons (Spring and Winter) but have a clothing personality that isn’t quite so ‘statement’ (perhaps those of us that prefer to fit in rather than stand out, or prefer a natural or elegant look to a very statement one) may feel comfortable with slightly lower contrast than their season typically demands, and possibly more clothes in colours closer to those that are found in nature (such as mole/stone/charcoal/silver for Winters, rather than stark black/white and electric blue, for instance). Note that they are still pulling their colours from their Winter palette though!
- Muted seasons with bolder personal styles (who like to stand out from the crowd or have a distinct ‘edge’ to their clothes) may feel more comfortable adding contrast to their outfits. A Summer with this sort of style, for example, might pair off white with sea green and cherry red, rather than toning navy blue/airforce blue and light blue.
- Bright seasons who fall (relatively speaking) ‘closer’ to the muted palettes in terms of which colours are their best within their seasonal palette may be better with slightly lower contrast than is usually recommended for a bright season. So we might see a Spring who is slightly ‘closer’ (I’m using inverted commas here as the Spring is still very much a Spring, not a Summer) to Summer wearing dove grey with peach and tan rather than with bright red and navy.
- Likewise, muted seasons who fall ‘closer’ to the bright palettes may be best off adding some contrast to their look. In this situation we have an Autumn like me who chooses to wear their cream with navy or forest green rather than with coral and khaki.
It is worth noting here that the contrast, whether high or low, should be happening within your own seasonal palette. So while some Winters might be looking to do a relatively low contrast, they will still need and look best with some degree of contrast, as naturally provided by their palette (drifting into Summer or Autumn colours in an attempt to tone down the contrast even more won’t work). Likewise, as an Autumn, I contrast dark olive and oyster – I can’t go all the way to contrasting black and white, it is a bridge too far for my own colouring.
I think the important thing to note when looking at contrast is that while your personal contrast level is likely to be the one typically recommended for your season both by HoC and by any online resources you may consult after your analysis, there might be more to it than that for you. So if you’re not feeling 100% comfortable with the way you’re currently putting your colours together, it may be time to discuss your seasonal type in more depth with your consultant, and perhaps consider a personal style analysis to assess whether your clothing personality affects your own best personal contrast level too.
Let me know how you get on, and do comment with any questions or experience you have with contrast in your wardrobe.