Conversant In Color: Separates

(I am sorry!  I tried posting this two evenings in a row, my wordpress would not upload photos!  I got up early this morning to try publishing, that seemed to do the trick. Except half my photos disappeared after publish.  Had to re-insert them..  Sorry!)

Previously in Coversant In Color, I focused on fabric shopping and learning to reach for solids over crazy prints for reliable sewing outcomes. Let me be clear- I don’t hate crazy prints. I don’t hate whimsy either, whimsy is my best friend.  It’s just that whimsy and I are separate people.

Bold, high-contrast stripes… I want this!

Today, I want to talk about color, separates and personal coloring.  It might be helpful to have read the other posts in this series:

This is another more “practical” guide than a conceptual post.

Separates In the Wardrobe

A “separate” refers to a top and a bottom.  A tee with jeans, a wrap top with a circle skirt, a blouse with a pencil skirt, a chic knit top tunic with skinny cut pants.

Simple wardrobe, for “contrast” dressing. Click for source.

These serve as the main garments worn on the body, but are usually accessorized with belts, bags, shoes and jewelry.  I think it’s pretty easy to overlook accessories but they often make the difference between “putting on clothes” and “dressing.”  I do both, and I would guess you do too. But that’s a topic many others besides me have covered.  (Favorite accessories links in comments?)

Putting together separates that will work well together isn’t cut and dried, and depends on Instead, I recommend thinking about your personality, personal coloring, and the statemen while you consider three “Colored Separates Types.”

Type 1: Contrast and Drama

High-contrast personal coloring craves a wardrobe with sharp color contrast between separates.  I read this in a book called Color Me Beautiful.  That concept stuck in my head because it explained to me why I found it hard to wear a pastel top and khaki pants.  Or tones of one color.  It never seemed to work well for me.

Click for source

My own coloring is dark hair, light skin and light eyes.  If there’s a big difference between the shades of your coloring (natural or otherwise), chances are you’ll look most “put together” in separates that contrast with one another.  I understand that “high contrast” dressing also works well for those who have very dark skin because the whites of the eyes contrast beautifully with darker skin tones.

Click for source

In fact, as far as I can tell from observation, I think those with very dark skin can pretty much wear any colors they like.  (Tell me if I’m wrong!  I’m curious, so I’ve been looking around.)

Click for source- great blog post about ways to wear black skirts and white tops.

This doesn’t mean the colors chosen for the separates have to clash.  Dressing for contrast means that each garment reads as a separate color when you look in the mirror.  You might want a belt to finish off a look, but you don’t “need” it to create a focal point for the outfit.

click for source

Suggested prints: bold abstracts, including wide stripes in contrasting colors, geometric shapes, or prints on a high-contrast background.

High-contrast dressing is also recommended for those with somewhat dramatic personalities- if your coloring isn’t high contrast but you have a big personality, go ahead and try it!

Type 2: Blending and Calm

For those with coloring that blends together, you’ll look nice in separates with colors that “blend” into one another.  This echoes the harmony in your own personal coloring.  It doesn’t have to mean wearing one color from head to toe.  Instead, it’s choosing colors and prints that blend together without contrasting too sharply with one another.

From Style Bubble- Click for Source

This doesn’t mean blending into the wallpaper!  Take your knowledge of what colors work well for you and find the “families” you like within those colors.

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For example: If brown is a color you can wear, you’ll look great with a deeper dark chocolate color on bottom and a caramel colored top.  A deep red skirt with a same-toned deep pink top could look effortlessly understated.

Click for source

Suggested prints: Abstract prints in “tone on tone” colors.  Stripes and other geometric shapes are also great, look for smaller shapes and colors that harmonize gently.  Florals usually work very well for this type of coloring.  Floral prints often don’t have enough “punch” for high-contrast coloring, but suit blending and calm dressers quite well.

Click for great article on “monochromatic” dressing- I consider this “blend” dressing. Monochromatic is next…

This look is also useful for “going incognito”- if you want to fly under the radar, blend in and go about your daily life.  Use of color is key here- neutrals for “in cognito” and the colors that suit you best for “understated”.

Type 3: Monochromatic

“True” Monochromatic, at least by my reckoning- Style Bubble Again, click for source

Monochromatic dressing fascinates me.  It’s often spotted on female politicians and world leaders.  I consider “monochromatic” to mean the same color from head to toe, even accessories in most cases.  Wearing different tones of the same color belongs to Type 2- at least to my way of thinking.  Monochromatic dressing is an assault of a single color.

Click for source- silly article

Hilary Clinton- very often seen sporting brilliantly colored suits.

The Queen’s Pantone Chart!

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  • Angela Merkel- Usually wears a bright blazer, often a suit.

  • Yulia Tymoshenko- Former Prime Minister of Ukraine, often seen in 1 color head-to-to, usually a quiet shade.  Also sports avante garde fashion.

Apparently, monochromatic dressing can make you look slimmer, taller, and by now it probably cures cancer.  Here’s what I like about it- monochromatic dressing makes a very strong visual statement of power and self-confidence.  A long block of any color will always draw the eye- even black (and sometimes, especially black!).

Many of these female politicians work in pretty masculine settings.  Men who wear black suits, sometimes blue.  Against this masculine backdrop, the female politicians clad in bright colors stand out even more than they might without the sea of dark suits.  They’re not lost in the crowd, the crowd of powerful men is their backdrop.

Some of Thatcher’s suits from the 70′s just sold for $31,799

While these women might dress to make a visual statement (so people can easily spot you in the crowd/on tv/ in the news), they don’t seem to be dressing this way to look slimmer or taller.  I suspect they’d use different cuts in that case.  In some cases, these colors aren’t necessarily “their” colors.  These women leaders transcend fashion rules because they influence the world in other ways.

(I know some critics bag them for it, but I just can’t listen to anyone badmouth a smart, hard-working woman on the basis of her clothes.)

Can I talk about age?  I’m only 27, but I hang out with a fair few women older than me and I hear things.  They’re interesting people, I keep my ears open.  One thing I’ve heard about repeatedly is the invisibility that comes from being a woman of a certain age. You feel like no one sees you, you are unnoticed and therefore unimportant.  Color will get you noticed, and if the Queen can do it and still be a lady, so can you!

I don’t think Hilary Clinton is the only strong, confident older woman in the world.  Why not use color to signal confidence and power in your dressing?  I really like the monochromatic look on an older woman, and have long puzzled why it tends to suit older women so well.  This look isn’t limited to pants suits, either.

It’s Power.  Wisdom.  Confidence.  That’s monochromatic dressing for you, when done well.

click for source

If you’re a younger person dabbling in monochrome, I’d suggest keeping the cut simple and cleavage/legs to a minimum.  Monochromatic dressing is powerful, eyes will be drawn to you.  If you’re also showing some skin, you may look like you’re trying too hard to get noticed.  Skin + monochrome = “look at me!  look at me!  look at meeeeeeeeee! No one paid me enough attention when I was 4!!”

Your Turn!

Which type do you tend to follow?  What do you think about monochromatic dressing?

I have some ideas for the next posts exploring color and wardrobing, what would you like?  A discussion and guide to choosing tones and shades on intensity?  A look at the Hippocratic method (please, please!)?  Accessories and color?  Or something else?

Also— OH!  So excited!  I got Annele’s package from MakeBra!  She slipped me an extra!  One size is my “size” according to the traditional measurement method.  The other two are sizes taking into consideration my bust-proportion issues.  The larger underwires are exactly the shape I need, so I’ll try those two first.  The cup sizes should be the same, with different bands.  I’ll get to dabbling a bit in the evenings this week, and be sure to let you know what happens!  I’ve never sewn a bra before!!


61 comments

    • Thank you, Kristin! :) I can’t wait to try the patterns… Might go for 80F first, then the 75G for comparison. The underwires are exactly the same, so I think I’m maybe on the right track…

  1. I am high-contrast as well (although not so much as you) and I prefer to wear contrasting colors most of the time. My best combination is some version of blue and red/turquoise and pink. Sounds frightening but, on me, is instant makeup. BFF, who wears the same color season, is “blending” and warmer even… she looks *amazing* in peach and coral piled on top of one another.

    I try to play with my high-contrast tendencies and keep them in line with my knowledge that 1) neutrals are your friend if you want your clothes to look expensive and 2) proportion proportion proportion (aka no red belts on my wide waist).

    Speaking of beauty books, have you read “Dressing Rich”? It’s another old one but I think it’s got a lot of very useful advice.

    • Yes, I think you and I have very similar coloring… I also love love love blue and red//pink and aqua… Also black and white. And “icy” pastels with black looks nice….

      Hmmm… I think maybe fabric quality has more to do with “expensive” than neutrals… Maybe… To me, cheap fabric always looks cheap, even when it’s made up well.. But quality fabric, that stands out… But then, I don’t think I’m typical… HmmM!

      I like dark belts of any kind… “dark” meaning “dark as a contrast to whatever I’m wearing” which is sometimes white… Are red belts one of those “widening” things? I never knew…

      I haven’t heard of that book, but I’ve often told students in fitting classes that fit is worth learning because if your clothes fit properly, people look at you and think you must be rich or smart. Rich because you can pay someone to tailor your clothes, smart if you can do it yourself… But now I kind of think maybe people don’t have that perspective, instead they see a well-fitted garment and think the person must have really great proportions… Hmmm…

      (I mean… a great example is Pippa Middleton’s famous backside. She doesn’t seem to have much of an actual backside, the look in “the dress” at her sister’s wedding was achieved by a clever draper and good fit…. Part of it is Pilates and Pippa, but she had a lot of help…)

  2. Oh, Steph, thank you! This post was a real revelation for me. I am definitely a high contrast person, although I never realised it until I read this post. I have similar colouring to you and have often tried to wear things (as you describe) like a pastel top with khakis. It doesn’t work! If I put a bright red top with those same khakis it works. I tend to stick with fairly saturated colours, even in softer shades. In winter I might chose a slighty dirtier or muddier version of a bright (if that makes any sense) but it will always be pretty strong. I keep getting sucked in by wardrobe plans I see that incorporate colours I like but shouldn’t be wearing. Now, armed with this new piece of knowledge, I will view my wardrobe planning in whole different light. Perfect timing, too, as only last night I sat down and wrote a little sewing plan that I was thinking of making in grey and red. I’ll revisit my greys now. Funny thing about colouring, too. Although I am naturally very dark, I am now sporting a platinum blonde cut (in the style of Annie Lennox) that I thought would preclude me from wearing some of the colours in my wardrobe. Not the case. Instead, I find myself drawn to brighter and higher contrasts and am wearing a lot more clashing colours than I might have in the past. I agree with the comment on women of a certain age being ‘invisible’. Every single day I assess myself in the mirror and wonder if I look like I’m trying too hard. I don’t want to look like mutton-dressed-as-lamb. Mind you, a couple of weeks ago I went to see Tim Freedman at my local pub and shortly after I arrived a much younger man came up and told me I looked ‘sensational’ so it seems, on that occasion at least, I had chosen the right outfit!

    • Oh cool! :)

      Yeah… I have to have some contrast or I look really ick. Even if I can wear each color individually…

      Ooo! Such glamorous hair… :D

      It seems to me that as you age, you have a little more license to wear what you like. I mean, sure, I can pretty much wear what I like now (and do) but I also take a fair amount of “crap” from people…. Usually older female acquaintances who think I’m being a trifle dramatic and it’s their place to “take me down a peg or two.” Those people get disregarded, but it’s kind of irritating and I imagine as I get older I’ll get less of that….

      Woohoo! I love a little random validation, too! :)

  3. I have no idea about colours for me, yet another reason that may explain my disaster of a wardrobe. Maybe I need to read the Colour Me Beautiful book – or better still you could offer a colour consultancy and just give me a little set of paint swatches from Bunnings of what I should buy and what I should avoid!

    Can’t wait to see the outcome of your evening dabblings!

    • Heh heh heh. I could do that, but I would just be scamming your money. I’m not entirely convinced that color matching systems are terribly useful when taken too seriously… Dead serious. I think finding a palette is a very individualized process, it’s much like learning to fit the body you have… I don’t really trust the slick packaged methods for finding colors… Too much of color and the best use of color in a wardrobe depends on personality, preference and environment as much as hair/eye/skin color.

      Just start with the warm or cool question… Read the post. Don’t obsess over it, if you have a particular question do write to me… Then do the observation and preferences post. Then think about your environment (you live locally to me, so our light is similar!), then think about how to bring that to your fabric choices. Next thing you know, you’ll have some great colors to choose from. Just start with the knowledge of 1 or 2 colors you know always look well on you, use a few neutrals, and start playing. Baby steps.

      • heh heh heh – and yes it could be a scam on your part but I think of all the money I’ve spent on incorrect choices over the years and shudder!

        But thankyou – you make it seem so easy. I spent way to many years on boring navy / grey / black / white corporate land – OK so they are neutrals but in abundance they become boring!

        Off to start baby steps and to do some serious reading! And yes I’ll be sure to write if I get stuck :)

  4. Yes, I dress high contrast because of my high contrast complexion/hair… I’d be happy with a completely black and white wardrobe, really… if I had to choose, that’s what I’d be wearing… I like the pops of colour… although I tend to avoid anything that screams “lookatme!” for the same reason you said… I don’t want my clothes to become a sartorial tanty.

    Great article again, lots of good information. I found Colour Me Beautiful helpful and classic when I read it… 20 years later the information holds true for me. Although I cannot count the number of times I’ve run into someone who has been misdiagnosed, and are convinced they are a summer/autumn. Here in the US it’s generally poo-pooed I think, at least from what I’ve read/seen/heard. Not sure why that is.

    • Mmmmm, sounds like my dream wardrobe, too… But then, I also like bright jewel tones and I’d miss those if I lived in black and white…

      A sartorial tanty- well put indeed.

      Yes, that’s part of why I don’t really like color “systems.” It’s too easy to get stuck in a rut that doesn’t necessarily suit the person either… Hmmm… I’ve read most of what I can get my hands on about color, color and sewing, color and wardrobes, color and style, etc etc… But most of it is kind of “grain of salt” type reading…

  5. What an interesting discussion! I’m a little torn… by rights, I should be a “blending and calm” sort of person (I have low-contrast hair, and I love florals)… but I can’t help but read it as “BLAND and BORING!” I like florals, but i choose bright and bold high-contrast prints just as often as I choose mid-toned tone-on-tone prints. I also love a high-contrast striped shirt, but I look awful in low-contrast stripes.

    I guess I always thought of monochromatic, high- or low contrast dressing as a personal choice of style or mood, not something dictated by my colouring. I can see how you might be right (and of course, rules are made to be broken, and I know you aren’t presenting your ideas as gospel! :) I’ll mull it over and reflect!

    • How interesting! I think it’s important to factor personality in, as well… Blending/Calming might feel boring to some, and those are probably the types who are better served by Contrast… :) But neither is “better” than the other.. Just different…

      I always figure that those who present their ideas as gospel had better be Jesus… Because, honestly, people make mistakes or oversights and to pretend otherwise is quite silly.

      • The thing I love about sewing is that it has made me think about my wardrobe far more than I ever did before, and in a very different way. Before, I would have thought about fleeting fashions and wanting new things… now I get to take part in much more meta discussions like this one about why suits me and how my wardrobe reflects my personality! It’s much more empowering.

        I’m loving this series – Please keep up the great work!

        • Oooh… An empowering meta discussion. I love that.. hehe. But I know what you mean, learning to sew changes your mindset about a LOT of seemingly unrelated issues…

  6. hmm. I’m not sure how contrasty I usually am.. I have very fair skin, but my hair is blond/brown (to dark for blond, too yellow for brown!).. and I’m really not sure what level of contrast clothes work best. I’m going to have to ask my mum next time I see her, since my husband will just look panicked and ask if its a trick question.
    My fair-skinned-blond-haired-blue-eyed daughter definitely suits low contrast clothes though.. which is good, since her current obsession is dressing head to toe in bright raspberry pink. At least I can’t lose her at the supermarket.
    Husband suits low contrast clothes too, actually.. which I woudn’t have guessed since he has super dark hair.. but I guess maybe his skin is dark enough to make him not high contrast, especially in summer when he tans if he so much as thinks about sunlight.
    Definitely need to think about this some more.

    • Hmmm.. Probably medium, it depends according to the colors you put together… ;) I’d lean towards low contrast with fair skin and blond hair, even darkish blond.. Merely my opinion…

      LIttle girls are so lovely and funny with their clothing, aren’t they? I love it.

  7. Great thoughts on color. (I’m one of the older crowd, btw, and I enjoy monochrome black fairly often. ;-))

    But what I’m really excited about is……. I got my package from Make Bra today also! I have never made a bra, but I have saved old underwires and other bits and pieces from old bras, in hopes of making one. I believe you linked to Make Bra, which is how I found the site. It is the first bra pattern I’ve seen in my size! I got a 75J and I can’t wait to get started!
    Looking forward to seeing your bra progress also.

    • There’s several places locally that (weirdly) stock good quality lingerie makings… So I’m not too worried about finding them. Besides, Annele’s prices are nice and cheap even with shipping…

      I charged in and made my first bra today from purple jersey and black elastic… Except one of the elastics I ordered was the wrong color, so the whole bra is… Well. Very ugly. Not Makebra’s fault- entirely mine because I’m learning. Also found it a bit scary to start, and had to hunt around for the details I needed as a beginner but I can see that after making another 1 or 2 the process will be quite easy and I won’t mind that because I won’t have to look. :)

  8. That’s interesting! I definitely dress high contrast. I had never thought about it that way, and that clarifies a lot – I have trouble picking my pallette because I somehow feel that all my clothes are nuetral, because they’re all bases that I work off to create contrast! I use black, white, navy or red as a base, and then build on that.

    The invisible thing is one reason that I hate most store’s plus sized fashion – it just screams ‘please don’t look at me!’ Some days I want to just get on with my day and not be especially noticed, but I never want to hide and be invisible. Although I do love a good monochrome black outfit, with bright red accessories!

    • Ah ha! The more you know, right?

      Hmm… Can something scream “don’t look at me”? I think so… It’s so “not look at me” that you have to look just to be sure of what you saw… It’s tough that so few stores/brands cater to plus sizes, but I wonder if part of the problem is that people who would buy the plus sized clothes have come to accept a low standard for construction, fit, fabrics, etc and have kind of “given up” so don’t try new brands when they come out? I never did get a 50″ high bust tester for Tira, and in the past I’ve gone to plus sized sewing boards and other similar places to beg people to test larger sizes for me… So… I dunno… It’s tricky.

      • Yeah, I’ve definitely stopped looking in a lot of places. You hear all the time about plus size lines ending, and I think… why didn’t I know it was there! I would have bought that! But would I? I’m picky about construction and fabric quality, which often means something is more expensive – and often plus sizes are more pricey because of limited runs etc, and I get cross that my version is almost twice the price and don’t buy things – even if I can actually afford them, or they are my style. Thus perpetuating the cycle! It’s also frustrating that there even IS a plus size – target is notorious for having great stuff in straight sizes, and boring black sacks in its plus size department. It feels like a bit of a fat ghetto, in the dimly lit back of the store, sometimes. Hard to feel good about what you’re buying in those circumstances!

        Anyway, I’m clearly on my high horse! It’s definitely tricky, and I understand why it’s tricky from a producer’s point of view. Clothing people is hard work!

        • Yes… I can really see that, which is why it’s important to me to do what I can with larger sizes. Really, really.

          Just one little thing, and please don’t get cross! But on a technical, practical level- larger clothes require more fabric to produce. It costs more to sew larger clothes than smaller ones, it just does.

          That said, no, I don’t think it’s a very good idea to dress people in sacks. There’s a really insidious and nasty social pressure at play with a lot of that, and I don’t approve because I’ve known far too many intelligent, kind, funny, interesting people for whom dressing was a major source of angst due to size issues. I just think it’s ridiculous and a shame. So what can I do about it? I don’t know. Maybe something. I can try.

          • That’s certainly, undeniably true. And something that I rue at the fabric store! :P Sometimes I argue that if a size 20 is going to cost $20 more than a size 18, then why isn’t a size 10 so much cheaper? But then, that’s not how the world works. And besides, I whinge enough about ‘plus sized’ clothes that are just made bigger, rather than adjusted properly for larger bodies. I should acknowledge the effort that that adjustment takes. Plus sizes ARE different to grade for. Again, I know this from personal (teeth gnashing) experience!

            I also try to remember that pretty much every woman (person?) has trouble finding things that fit in ways they like, at prices they like, in fabrics they like. The larger amongst us have our own special dramas in that area, and it’s definitely harder and more emotional, but it’s never perfect!

            Have I said before how much I appreciate that you are putting so much effort into being inclusive? I can’t speak for anyone else, but I really, really do! :) Not only in the actual practical terms of wanting to sew your patterns and being able to, but just having those difficulties acknowledged. It’s really lovely! So, thanks!

          • Hey, thanks for that. I’ve been kind of down the past few days, wondering if it’s all worth it. Inclusion and accessibility are really really important to me, even if I don’t necessarily bang on about it all the time, and so I’m glad to know that gets through. :) Thank you, you made my day.

  9. I’ve really enjoyed this post Steph! You’ve presented some thoughts on colour I hadn’t considered before. I think I am low contrast, so I am going to pay attention to what I think looks nice on my and ponder whether these are low contrast, calm combinations.

  10. I like that you consider dressig not just for what flatters but for effect as well (I’d like to add mood, cultural aspects…). That is why I wear all kinds of things although I know low contrast/blended dressing suits me best. I first noticed this regarding not color but texture. I “have texture”, i.e. freckled skin, different colors in my hair and eyes. Fabrics with a subtle texture that incorporates different colors such as tweed suit me especially well.

  11. really interesting. i am a high contrast person too, with similar colouring to you and i have never thought about it in that way. but i always choose bright colours to wear, never pastels. i actually had my colours done by colour me beautiful when i was about 15 as i am a cool winter, so as it turns out, bright colours/ jewel tones plus black and white are good for me, and charcoal grey is my best neutral. CMB say that the colours you are drawn to as a child are often the ones that suit you well. definitely useful input to my autumn/ winter wardrobe planning!

    what is the hippocratic method? something about doing no harm?

    • How interesting! I do like to wear pastels, often with something… contrasty… like black. But pastel and black doesn’t really look right where I live, so I usually leave it.

      I was always drawn to yellow as a child. My first dresses I sewed for myself were yellow, yellow yellow. It’s really not a good color on me… :)

      Hippocratic draws on his theories of humors and personality and ties it to color, very interesting if somewhat arcane…

  12. I had my colours done recently and went along expecting to be diagnosed as an autumn, based on what I’d read about it but discovered that they had changed their system and as Sew Little Time points out CMB do say that you tend to be drawn to colours that suit you (that might explain my life long dedication to red in all its glory)

    under CMB’s new classifications I am a “Clear”, and my dominant look apparentlu is “clear and contrasting”. I haven’t actively done anything about my wardrobe since I had my colours done…but fortunately I have been dressing in dark colours with small amounts of dramatic bright colour anyway…it’s just now I might have a bit more confidence to try a larger palete of colours other than black and red…still not convinced about green though…

    • Well. Ease into it. I know it can be weirdly hard to wear “new” colors, but you’ll be pleasantly surprised if you draw colors from your palette and use them. I’m forever in the debt of my best friend for forcing me to wear teal when I was 20. Amazing color, she was so right even though I fought her tooth and nail. The same for a certain shade of stormcloud blue I like to wear… I recognized that it looked good on me and trained myself to look out for that color, even though it took a while for me to look at it and get excited.

  13. I think I’d be considered high contrast as well–pale skin, dark eyes, and more or less auburn hair (depending on how recently I re-did my henna!) Maybe that’s why I’m always drawn to bolder colors? Anyway, this series has been very interesting so far, and I’m looking forward to seeing what you do next!

    • The colors themselves don’t have to be bold, just the fact that they contrast with each other is enough… :)

      I LOVE henna hair treatments. There’s nothing like it, nothing. I like to get my hands done, too, it’s been a while.

  14. I’m not high contrast nor am I blended. I’m somewhere in the middle. I like and wear a more medium or middle range contrast, I love navy with a deep rose pink or navy with lavender. I also do blends but with a pop of color. I love color and so have very few pastels.
    I really enjoy your blog it always gives me food for thought.
    Annette

  15. An interesting post! I love thinking about colour, however I’m still confused about what suits me best. I’m definitely low contrast, pale skin, dark blonde hair, greeny grey eyes, but like bright colours as well as muted ones. Maybe like Annette, I’m middle contrast.

    • Experiment, notice, experiment, notice, experiment, notice. :)

      Another thing that might be useful is to keep an eye out for bloggers (sewing, style, makeup?) who have similar coloring to you and notice what works for them and what doesn’t…

  16. I’m gravitating toward the blended scheme. My existing wardrobe (until I’m able to make some new basics) has tended toward high contrast. I don’t think that was deliberate – more an issue that the colours available in rtw were a bunch of ones that sucked, plus black or red. Or black and red. And at my house, red is a neutral.

    My hair is dark, skin is pale (if I wanted to be a goth, I’d be set!), and my eyes are grey-green. I suspect I’m a soft summer, for what that’s worth. I do like saturated colours (even though I’m advised to use washed out, greyed colours) but am trying to aim for ones that I think are more flattering: teals and berry tones.

    • How interesting! I hate the color-dictatorship of high street fashion.. Don’t even get me started… ;)

      Hmmmm… From what you say, you could be describing my coloring! :) Maybe my eyes are a little bit bluer green… But I do have that gothy snow white thing going and I’ve been classified as a “winter”…? Just mentioning! I also look well in teals and berry tones.

  17. I recently stumbled across your blog and have very much enjoyed going through your archives, as well as this Conversant in Color series. Such a wealth of information, and I hope you have future posts covering all of the subjects you threw out at the end of this one! :)

    I myself follow a slightly different ‘type’: low contrast dressing. For me, the difference between low contrast and high contrast dressing is more about value: in a black and white photo, a high contrast outfit would still read as very separate since it combines light & dark colours. Whereas low contrast outfits can still be two distinctly different colours but they’re closer to the same value, so in a black and white photo they’ll look similar. I have low contrast colouring myself (naturally med ash blonde hair, fair but not pale skin, medium blue-green eyes), so I tend to dress low contrast, but I don’t always keep my separates in the same colour family, which is what I think you’re describe under ‘blending.’ As long as I make sure that my separates are both fairly dark, medium, or light, I’m good and can mix different hues to my heart’s content. I can also often combine a dark with a medium or a light with a medium, just not a light with a dark. I hope that makes sense!

    Also, I love pastels, although unlike your bright & clear self, I’m a typical soft summer so have to find the muted ones and stay towards the cool side. I find colours like mint, ballet pink, sky blue, mauve to be just gorgeous!

    I don’t think I’ve ever tried your type three monochromatic dressing with colour separates, although occasionally I’ll do it with navy blue, one of my favourite neutrals. I do play with different shades of the same colour or neutral (e.g.: a mint top with teal capris, a dusty rose cardigan over a burgundy tank, a charcoal pullover with light grey tweed skirt), which I think is what you were describing under your blending type.

    And now I’ll bring this overly long comment to a close! :) I just love colour theory and how it intersects with style.

    • Thanks! I don’t really have any solid or hard and fast rules about color, I just write about the things in my head and hope for the best…

      Yes… You know, “low contrast” would have been a much more logical heading for that middle section I wrote about… Haha. It sounds to me like you know exactly what works for you, that’s so awesome!

      Overly long schmoverly long. Thanks for replying!

      • It definitely took some trial and error type experimenting to sort out what types of colours work best! And I can still be surprised: I recently thrifted a lovely raspberry sweater that seemed a bit bright but works wonderfully. I don’t follow strict rules but rather keep in mind guidelines, so that on days when I’m not feeling creative I’ve got a fallback formula. I’ve also noticed buying primarily muted, cooler colours means my wardrobe is very mix and match and looks lovely sitting in my closet. ;)

        Sadly, I can’t sew much due to health issues: little adjustments to thrifted stuff is all I can manage. But my tiny budget and thus reliance on thrift stores has probably let me have more fun creating my own style than if I could just buy from mainstream retail! For instance, I love fuller skirts that fit at the waist, but the only ones that are small enough to work are vintage. Not to mention I can easily afford lovely fabrics like silks and wools when they’re the same price as cheap stuff. And buying secondhand helps with a lot of my ethical goals.

        One thing I’d love to see you blog about, although it’s not colour-related, is the sources/origins of fabric. Of course, sewing at home cuts out any reliance on sweatshop factories that assemble garments (have you read Lucy Siegle’s To Die For? interesting, and although it’s not perfect, I found it far better than the more recent Overdressed), but how is the fabric itself created? I honestly have no idea, and it’s not something I think I’ve ever seen addressed in a book or blog.

        P.S.: I’ve started using an oatmeal mask after seeing your post about it, and it’s made such a difference on my adult acne-prone skin! Yay!

        • It’s funny how you can look at something (bright raspberry sweater) and say “uhm no…” only to find it works…

          Well.. I run across information on fabric production every now and then, and have worked it into posts in the past…. There’s the technical aspect (threads are spun, fabric is woven) and the ethical aspect (labor, environmental waste, etc..). I’m guessing you’re interested in the labor/environmental aspects? I haven’t read those books, they’re on my list!

          I’m so pleased the oats worked well for you! They’re kind of magical. I’ve also been using an eggwhite mask lately, it does amazing things too…

        • It is funny! & later when I was folding laundry I realised it has v subtle heathering, which is probably why it still works for me. :)

          I am more curious about the ethical aspect: I read your wool post so I’ll have to see if I can dig up others! And now I’ll have to try an eggwhite mask, although I imagine it wouldn’t smell as pleasant. lol

  18. As a rule, I’m a blender. As short as I am and as low contrast as my coloring is, high contrast dressing looks really wrong and disruptive on me. My one allowance is denim. I never go black because black is not in my vocabulary, but I do appreciate a dark wash even if it breaks things up more than I would normally. I figure if the fit is good, I don’t care much.

    • Hehehe. I was picturing you as a cartoon appliance for a second. :D

      Disruptive is a good good word for it!

      You’re so right, fit is a big big deal.

  19. Huh. That is definitely food for thought, although I’m not sure if I’m high-contrast or blended, and looking at my wardrobe doesn’t seem to give me hints, either. I’m also trying to put this together with the whole harsh sunlight/vibrant colors thing, as recently it’s been glaringly bright in LA! Thanks for these lengthy posts — I’m learning lots, even if I haven’t figure out the application just yet!

    • I would think you can wear whatever you like…. Coloring wise and personality wise. Would you like me to sell you a handful of paint chips, as sarah mentioned above? ;)

      Maybe one day you’ll be doing something or see something and then you’ll think “Ohhhh that’s what crazy Steph was talking about…” or not.. hehe.

  20. I have similar colouring to you but slightly darker eyes and I definitely look better in high-contrast clothing. Red and black is my favourite combination and I wear that often in either block colours or vivid prints. I also love cerise, bright purple, electric blue and peacock turquoise and I’ll sometimes mix those up if I’m feeling a little daring. Black is a great base for me though and I mainly wear a bright colour with that. It makes my skin look better to do that combination that to wear less-contrast clothing.

    I think that a lot of people don’t understand about these sorts of clothing/colour personalities. They’ve vaguely heard about the Colour Me Beautiful seasons but gone no further and I think understanding contrast or tone of clothing would help so many who are a bit ‘lost’ or confused about their style.

  21. The wardrobe photos reminded me of “SWAP”. Ever heard of it? It means Sewing With A Plan. Started by an article in Australian Stitches magazine. Then a Canadian fabric company, Timmel FDabrics, (now out of business) would sponsor online competitions for the best SWAP’s, and the prizes were, more fabric of course :)
    The sewing discussion board at Artisans Square, http://artisanssquare.com has a continuing thread about it.
    I couldn’t find the original article online, but the Wayback Macine came to the rescue. Here’s a link to Timmel Fabrics summary of the original SWAP.
    http://web.archive.org/web/20080102092855/http://www.timmelfabrics.com/wardrobe.htm
    I intended to follow the SWAP myself. I created a chart and storyboard, but life interfered, and I never did it. I sit here in my office/sewing room, looking at stacks of fabrics I bought when I was working, and can’t seem to find the time even though I’m retired now.

    • Yes, there’s heaps of variations of sewing with a plan, very useful and efficient way to sew. :)

      Well… What about taking a little chunk of your SWAP and pottering along with that? When I find myself overwhelmed by a big project I chop it into tiny pieces and then all of those bits are much easier to accomplish than the whole… ?

  22. hey, how did I miss this? I think about color all the time, it is a subject I truly enjoy. I love your perspective and the beautiful illustrations. You really know what you are talking about … so OK, off to read all the other color posts you’ve done lately. While I am at it, I LOVE your new Tiramisu and you you look fab in it!

  23. Pingback: The Tiramisu Circus: Guide to Stabilizing Knit Fabrics « 3 Hours Past the Edge of the World

  24. Pingback: Conversant In Color: Saturated Tones on the First Lady of the United States « 3 Hours Past the Edge of the World


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