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Bored of wearing black?

Tanya Arturi loosens the black safety net to find a whole rainbow of colours to suit you

Published on October 9th 2009.

Bored of wearing black?

As a Colour Me Beautiful consultant at Cheshire Image Consultants, one of the first questions most clients ask me is ‘can I wear black?’

Most women have a lot of black in their wardrobe because it’s a ‘safe’ option and over time we’ve been led to believe that it will go with everything, it's a wardrobe staple and that will make us look slimmer.

I often find that most women have a lot of black in their wardrobe because it’s a ‘safe’ option and over time, we’ve been led to believe that it will go with everything, it's a wardrobe staple and that will make us look slimmer.

Interestingly, when Body Confidential recently ran a competition to win a colour analysis, most entrants revealed that they wanted to win because their wardrobe is full of black and grey and they don’t know what colours suit them. You may not have won the competition but help is still at hand...

1. How colour works
When you wear colour near to your face, the light reflects it upwards. This can cast either flattering tones or dark shadows, depending on the mix of the colour and your skin tone. Colour Me Beautiful’s approach to colour is based on Munsell’s colour wheel (used in industries such as interior design and hairdressing). Basically, colours have three characteristics:- Hue (undertone)
Colours such as red, pink and green will either have a warm (yellow-based) undertone or cool (blue-based) undertone. For example, you will find warm olive greens (yellow-based) and cool pine greens (blue-based).

- Value (depth)
This refers to the measure of lightness or darkness in a colour. Munsell used a scale of 1 to 10, with black being 0 and white being 10 …and all of the shades in between. In hairdressing these numbers determine the depth of colour of a hair dye.

- Chroma (clarity)
This value links to the purity of a colour. Some colours are bright and vibrant and reflect light, while others are dusty or muted and seem to absorb light. The type of fabric will also determine whether light is absorbed or reflected, eg. satin reflects light but wool seems to absorb it.

2. Discover your ‘dominant’
A colour analysis will look at the undertone, depth and clarity of different colours against your skin, eyes and hair to determine your dominant type. This when leads on to producing a palette of colours that suits an individual. For the purposes of this article I will simplify things. Every person will be one of six dominant colouring types:

- Light
You have light blonde or white hair; light blue or green eyes and a porcelain and delicate skin (e.g. Joely Richardson and Denise Van Outen).

You have black to dark brown hair, your eyes are dark brown and your skin is anything from very dark to very pale (e.g. Nigella Lawson and Halle Berry).

- Warm
You have red hair tones (from strawberry blonde to auburn), your eyes are blue, green or hazel and your skin is freckled or golden (e.g. Sarah Ferguson and Nicole Kidman).

- Cool
You have ash blonde, black or grey hair; blue, grey or cool brown eyes and skin with cool undertones (e.g. Annie Lennox and HRH The Duchess of Cornwall).

You have medium to dark hair; bright blue, green or topaz eyes and a clear and fresh complexion (e.g. Liz Hurley and Courtney Cox-Arquette).

- Soft
You have mousy (often highlighted) hair, soft brown, green or blue eyes and a neutral complexion (e.g. Sarah Jessica Parker and Jennifer Aniston).

Your dominant colour will change with age and if you have a dramatic change of hair colour. Knowing what colours suit you is a huge part of dressing well and looking great. Most people wear monochromic colours, so we react very positively to people wearing colour (which is energising). It can also be used with great affect in the workplace, helping to portray confidence and individuality.

3. Can You Wear Black?
We now come to the million-dollar question. The bad news is that only half of the dominants can wear black near to their face (it’s ok from the waist down). However, the good news is that there are a range of neutral colours to choose from and a few simple changes can make the world of difference. Below is a guide, based on what your dominant type is (as explained above):

Light - Black isn’t in your palette. Therefore, next time you shop for darker neutral colours look for light navy, pewter and light or medium grey instead. Cocoa and rose brown are also good colours for you. If you have already invested in a black coat, wear a scarf or pashmina in a light colour over it.

Deep- -You can wear black. Other investment buys in colours that suit you are: black-drown, charcoal, dark navy, pewter and taupe. There is also a lot of lime in the shops at the moment (especially Per Una at Marks & Spencer), which looks great on you.

Warm - Your overall look is warm, so colours that have a warm (yellow) undertone best suit you. Therefore, black is a colour to avoid. Your investment neutrals are chocolate, charcoal, bronze and pewter. Now is a good time to buy a coat because camel is one of this season’s top tends and is a great colour for you.

Cool - Your look is cool and pinkish, so all of your colours need to have a cool (blue) undertone. Black is in your colour palette and looks great balanced with lighter and brighter colours (such as light aqua and hot pink). Good investment buys for you will be in dark navy, grey (all shades) and teal.

Clear - You can wear black and look best in a contrast of light and dark colours (i.e. wear a apple green or light aqua scarf with a black coat). However, avoid pastel shades because they will make you look washed out. Other neutral colours that suit you are: black-brown, dark navy, pewter and charcoal.

Soft - Your look is blended, so colours need to be worn ‘tone on tone’, with little contrast. Black isn’t in your colour palette but chocolate, rose-brown, light navy, pewter and charcoal is. If you are looking for a winter coat, the soft and muted shades in this season’s fur coats will suit you. So will damson and soft violet coloured coats (Hobbs and Laura Ashley are good shops for these).

4. A Few Small Changes
We spend most of our money on autumn/winter clothes because of the fabrics used and layering. Therefore, it’s important to make sure you buy items that suit you and make you feel good when you wear them. If black isn’t in your colour palette and you have a whole wardrobe of black clothes, here are some ideas to change your wardrobe for less:

  • When you next shop, look for the neutral colours that suit you and gradually start replacing black.
  • Use a clothes swapping site such as www.bigwardrobe.com to exchange black items for those in the right colour, without spending a penny.
  • If you are wearing a black dress, coat or top and it’s not in your colour palette, add a coloured scarf or piece of jewellery near to your face to break the colour.
  • If you want to buy a coloured top and don’t know what suits you, try on a couple of different shades of one colour (e.g. lime green, apple green and emerald green) and see what looks best. Always check the colour again in natural daylight. The artificial lighting in shops can sometimes make colours look different to what they actually are.
  • Think about make-up – the same rules apply, which is why some lipsticks can look terrible and black eyeliner doesn’t look great on everyone.

For more information on Colour Me Beautiful, visit cheshireimageconsultants.co.uk

If you interested in having your colours analysed, which includes make-up and a leather wallet with 42 fabric swatches in the colours that suit you, Cheshire Image Consultants are offering a £10 discount (the usual price is £85) to Body Confidential readers who make a booking before the end of October. To get your discount, please enter your details into the form below and a member of the team will get back to you.

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