Saturday, August 20, 2011

High Contrast vs. Low Contrast

Here's a place in the color scheme that I've never heard discussed, but it's key to how well your colors end up looking on you.

Some people look best in high contrast looks - wearing their most intense colors.  Some people look best in their least intense colors, in a more monochromatic outfit.   You have to play with this to notice it, but if you're still feeling "off" about your colors, this is a place to check.  Go all-neutral (or all soft colors) and then spike it up to the power suit combo (a dark neutral with a bright) and see which looks better on you, which brings your features to the fore most effectively.

I think the reason that this is seldom discussed is because it's tied directly to age and complexion.  If you're getting a lot of exercise, and your complexion is naturally pink and flushed, you'll look younger than you are, but age does take its toll.  My mom is a Winter, and she spent her life in high-contrast looks.  Now, at almost 70, she's had to tone that down and wears pastels and ices most of the time.  That's because her skin and hair have faded, so her personal color intensity has faded.  In a similar vein, as a teenager I could wear flourescent green and orange... haven't been able to pull those off since I was 25! 

This doesn't change your base colors, it just changes what colors look best in the body of your outfit.  I can still wear a flourescent green print... in a scarf.  Mom can still pull off some pretty fierce accessories.  

Contrariwise, because I am in my 30s and have dark hair/ruddy skin/blue eyes, I wear high contrast colors.  if I wear an outfit made entirely of soft colors and neutrals, I fade out.  Even if those neutrals are "my" neutrals, even if all of the colors are "mine".... if I don't put *something* with some kick in there, I disappear.   BFF, who wears the same season that I do, glows when she wears the same set of colors that make me disappear.  It's very individual.

You will see celebrities do this all the time.  I've said that I won't name names, because I think celebrity culture is disgusting... but I assure you, if you keep your eyes on a few notable high-contrast and low-contrast women, and watch them when they step out of that character, you will quickly notice how it works (or does not).

The high-contrast and low-contrast are *not* about jumping into colors that don't suit you... and that color  pop (or not) doesn't even have to be near your face.  I can wear a neutral top and a bright bottom and it works well, and my "all neutral" look tends to have a bright accessory.  So this isn't about skimping on the colors that look well on you... it's about figuring out how much punch you need.

Of course every woman is going to have punchy times and unpunchy times... again, this is very individual.  It's something to think about when you're trying to perfect an outfit, not something to make into your uniform.

And speaking of uniforms, which we will do more at length later... do know that we all have lines and looks that suit us and those that do not.  It's not just color!

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Please keep your comments lovely. I encourage discussion, but I will erase ugliness. And let's not shoot fish in a barrel please - no picking on specific people, even celebrities.