Style Guide: What's your colour wheel?

Published on 24 July 2017

Before I “had my colours done”, I always fell back on red, navy, black and green items in my wardrobe. I knew I looked good in them, and wasn’t sure about any other colours, so I never ranged far beyond those four hues. A few bad experiences with more adventurous colours, which made me feel unlike myself or made me look washed out, locked me into a four-colour routine while shopping.

About 18 months ago, I invested in visiting a stylist for colour analysis – a process which lets you know which colours suit your skin tone and hair colour, and most importantly, will also make your eyes pop. Since then, I’ve introduced pinks, greys and lavenders onto my coat hangers. I’ve banished yellow entirely, and I no longer covet mustard-coloured jumpers and dresses. 

Knowing your colours outright can do a great deal to boost your confidence in purchasing decisions and in social situations. Now I can walk into a store and ignore an entire rack of clothes if they aren’t in my (colour) wheelhouse. When I needed to buy an emergency bathing suit on holiday, I was able to pick out two in my colours from hundreds of options, try them on and select one I was happy with within 15 minutes.

It’s also been invaluable when it comes to beauty. I’ve taken my colour wheel (the stylist gave me a swatch of colours I can carry around in my bag) in to the hairdressers to find the right shade to dye my hair – it works every time – and I’ve chosen lip colours, nail polish and eye shadow based on them and reaped the results.

I spoke to style blogger Jemma Mrdak about her experience with colour analysis, her tips for finding your colours and what it can do for your personal style.

“I first encountered the concept of colour analysis a few years ago when I was studying fashion styling and PR overseas in Florence, Italy,” she says. “In the course, we had a few sessions learning about colour matching with fashion garments, and learning how to mix and match the right colours depending on the seasons, [a] person’s style and their colour types. I think it’s a really interesting concept, and one that makes a lot of sense the more you learn about it!” 

What a difference a colour makes

Even as someone with a lot of experience with styling, the course “had a massive influence” on the way she approaches styling and fashion, in general. “[Understanding colour analysis] makes me think a lot more about how a particular garment will look on a particular person,” she says.

Just like photography is all about getting the best lighting, for personal style, it’s all about getting the right colour spectrum. “Wearing the correct colours can dramatically enhance your overall appearance,” Jemma says. “It can make a huge difference to a person’s style as it all depends on whether they have a warm or cool skin tone.”

As you become more familiar with what suits you, your overall style will evolve as more of your wardrobe begins to match tonally. Jemma says, “Once you establish what tones you are, you will discover that your clothes will start to coordinate with each other – and you will be able to mix and match more easily.”

The four seasons of colours

You may have heard of the theory based around the seasons and their colour types. It comes from the book Color Me Beautiful by Carole Jackson, in which she divides colour into the four seasons:

“The Autumn is the woman who radiates in the warm, rich colors of fall, with their golden undertones, as crisp and colorful as the October leaves. The Spring woman blossoms in clear, delicate colors with warm yellow undertones, like the first daffodil that blooms each spring. The Winter woman sparkles in the vivid clear primary colors, and cool, icy colors, like a glittering snowflake. And summer glows in the pastels of June, the soft colors of the sea and sky, with their cool blue undertones.”

While it’s a great start, Color Me Beautiful is over 30 years old now, and you don’t need to pigeonhole yourself as a ‘cool summer’. Like working out what foundation you should use, Jemma suggests starting with your skin tone.

“If you’re warm then you’ll look best in clothes with a yellow undertone, brown, green, tan, gold, reds,” she says. “If you’re cool, then anything with a blue undertone, purple, lilac, pink, grey, blue and black will really suit you.”

“I definitely don’t suit and avoid oranges, browns and green colours, simply because I have a cool colouring – olive skin, dark brown hair and eyes. I suit more blue, grey, black and lilac colours.”

It can be hard to know sometimes if a colour isn’t right for you. Carole Jackson describes the colours that do “nothing for you” as ones in which you appear to “gray, dull and lifeless.” Meanwhile, when you hit upon the right colours, your natural colouring will appear to “glow”.

To find your colours, Jemma recommends going shopping with a friend, or even a friend’s wardrobe, and trying on lots of different colours – even if they don’t strike you as right at first.

“I recently bought a vintage Dior jumper that is in a bright lilac colour, and surprisingly it suited me,” she says. “It’s definitely not a colour that I would normally wear, but I was pleasantly surprised when I tried it on! This is why trying garments on when shopping is so very important, so that you can find exactly what works for you… Also, trying on clothes in good, natural lighting, with a large mirror helps too.” 

StyJemma’s colour analysis tips:

  • Start by working out if you cooler or warmer tones suit you
  • Try on clothes, even if you’re unsure
  • Make sure when you try on clothes in natural lighting, with a big mirror
  • Get a second opinion from a friend or stylist (a stylist will usually give you a swatch of colours)
  • Test out clothes of different colours – take note of which dull you and which make you glow

Interested in delving into your colours? Shop at TK Maxx, Be Seen, La Strada Boutique and Direct Shoe Warehouse for all your fashion needs and test your colour analysis today!