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Best Wearable Colors: What Are Yours?

Updated on December 14, 2017
TeriSilver profile image

As a journalist, Teri strives to educate and disseminate information. She will always tell you, "there's more to the story."


Department stores and clothing boutiques are full of sale and clearance items -- it’s easy to go through the racks and pick out pieces that catch the eye. But are these items dyed in colors that are right for you? Colors we gravitate toward may not mesh with skin tone, hair and eye color and a favorite lipstick. Learning more about yourself will help you choose the best colors to complement your features.

Colors Do NOT Fit All

The first thing to do is trust your own instincts. Fashion magazines give us many ideas but, just like the clothes themselves, “one size (and color) does NOT fit all.” We receive many messages from advertisements, promotions, the media, friends and relatives about what is fashionable and “looks good.” The mannequin in the store window is wearing a strikingly beautiful, bright yellow dress; hey, that’s sharp, try it on! You head for the dressing room (and its fluorescent lights). The pretty frock fits wonderfully but it does not look good on you. The dress color and your color -- skin, eyes and hair -- are just all wrong for each other.

Personal Features

Women (and men, too!) with light or dark brown hair, brown eyes and medium beige-to-olive skin wear colors differently than blonde, blue-eyed gals. The shades of your skin, especially if you prefer direct sun or artificial tanning, determine which hues look best on you. Ethnicity and your own genetic makeup are parts of the equation; eyes, skin and hair have various shades, undertones and color. Skin tones are made up of three pigments; carotene (yellow or light gold), hemoglobin (reds) and melanin (browns). Your unique skin tone comes from a blending of these pigments.

Colors by Pantone
Colors by Pantone

Color Palettes

Fabrics have their own color charts, similar to ones seen in paint and home-improvement stores. One type of chart is called Pantone ©, owned by a company that markets color software. Pantones are color charts for clothing, cosmetics, paints, graphic arts and home furnishings that come in many shades related to the “main” color of the palette. Choosing shades from palettes that suit your own skin, hair and eye color will help to enhance personal beauty.

Royal Blue: a "Winter" cool-season color
Royal Blue: a "Winter" cool-season color

Seasonal Styles

Color analysis was developed many decades earlier but it was in the 1940s when fashion designer Suzanne Caygill created seasonal palettes for her clients. In 1942, she had this revelation (according to “Human beings, the highest order of nature, carry information about their personality and style in their own natural coloration -- the pigments in their skin, hair and eyes -- and these colors are related to the color harmonies in nature.”

Seasonal style palettes can be classified in any way -- “A,” “B,” “C” and “D” for example -- but are also called Winter, Spring, Summer and Autumn. Subsequently, women and men can be classified as Winters, Springs, Summers and Autumns but the seasons of personal coloring do not coincide with the actual seasons of the year. Theories (and authors) vary as to which palettes are best for individual skin and facial features, however, the basics are quite similar.

The four seasonal styles do not mix and match; you are either one or the others. But … does that mean you cannot wear colors from other palettes? You can, depending on how well your hair, eyes, skin tone and cosmetics blend with your wardrobe. Cool-season colors of winter and summer have similarities, as do autumn and spring’s warm-season palettes.

Ivory: a "Spring" warm-season color
Ivory: a "Spring" warm-season color
Pink: a "Summer" cool-season color
Pink: a "Summer" cool-season color

The Breakdown

“Winters” -- with skin undertones of blue, rosy pink, beige and white -- often thrive in vivid, contrasting colors and black with frosted overtones. Winters typically have hair that is light brown to dark brunette or black. Eyes are brown, hazel, gray, green, black or dark blue. Clothing dyed in cool-season fabrics of royal blues and purples, solid reds, hot pinks, sharp emerald-greens, bright whites and ebony-black bring out the vibrancy of those who wear them. But Winters should avoid these colors: orange, rust, beige, light and medium brown and yellow-greens. If the color is muted or dull -- forget it!

“Springs” -- whose creamy, ivory, pink and peachy skin undertones include amber or gold -- are generally enhanced by pastels and light colors. Hair coloring for Springs is typically bright to medium blond, honey, red and golden-brown. Eyes are green, blue, golden-brown or topaz. Warm-season colors for Springs include salmon, peach, pink and coral. Light tints of orange work well but black is not recommended for Springs. Try shades of periwinkle, aqua and turquoise.

“Summers” -- who have pale skin with shades of light pink and blue undertones -- wear cool-season colors well; roses, reds and pinks, for example. Bright lemon-yellow may be quite striking but not for all Summers. In general, soft hues are best (such as watermelon, lavender, light plum and mauve) but you may find compatible shades in the sharp, hot, cool-season colors of Winter's palette. Stay away from bright white (unless you have a suntan), basic black, orange and faded yellows.

“Autumns”-- with yellow, gold or bronze skin characteristics -- are suited for warm-season colors but the palette is quite broad. Earth tones are especially recommended; browns, tans, beiges, rusts, dark yellows, oranges and deep reds. Dark and yellow-greens are suitable for warm-season Autumns, as are gold tones, muted neutrals and jades. Colors that Autumns should avoid include black, blues, grays and pinks.

Gold: an "Autumn" warm-season color
Gold: an "Autumn" warm-season color

What is Your Color Palette?

Mirror, mirror on the wall, am I winter, spring, summer or fall? Find out if you are a Winter, Spring, Summer or Autumn by comparing cosmetics, fabric colors and your own physical features. In natural daylight (with no suntan or makeup), look at your skin tone and original hair color -- before dyeing.

Do the colors within your skin contain warm-season (Autumn and Spring) or cool-season (Winter and Summer) tones? Try neutral shades of tan, orange, red-orange, peach, coral and russet. Compare lipsticks, blushes and eyeshadow to cool-season colors: solid red, plum, dark pink, rose and burgundy. Which colors bring your face to life?

In natural daylight, compare fabric colors to each other and then to your own skin, hair and eyes. Rummage through your wardrobe to see which colors look best on you (because we ladies tend to be biased or short-sighted when it comes to this, get a second opinion!)

Cover your hair with a white scarf (and, if necessary, the rest of you) so that the colors compare only to the skin on your face. Remember, varying opinions are subjective and the colors you absolutely love won’t necessarily be the colors that bring out your personal beauty. Drape the fabric on your face -- if it makes your complexion look dull, gray, sallow and blotchy or if the material's color stands out more than your skin, it is NOT the hue for you! Hang on to colors that soften the look of your skin, minimize shadows, lines and spots and bring out the natural glow of your face.

True Science?

Is palette-matching to skin tone a true science? In short, no -- so, again, we must trust our own instincts (and the opinions of your good and honest friends). In the end, only your opinion counts but women and men, no matter how old, are targets for self-improvement. Fashion, cosmetics and skincare advertisements are meant to manipulate the way we see ourselves, but trendy makeup and clothing that looks cute on a twenty-something may be absolutely horrid for a fifty-something!

Further Reading

Books and classes are available to help you determine which colors, prints, fabrics and accessories may be right for you.

  • The Color Essence of You by Suzanne Caygill (Celestial Arts,1980)
  • Color Me Beautiful by Carole Jackson (Acropolis Books Ltd,1980/Ballantine Books,1985)
  • Color Me a Season by Bernice Kentner (Kenkra Publishing,1979)
  • Color Your Style by David Zyla (Plume, 2011)

© 2015 Teri Silver


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