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How To Style Yourself With Color

How To Style Yourself With Color

Color is one of the most effective ways to say to the world, “Hey, look at me!” While it would be graceless indeed to walk into a room and command attention in such an obvious way, you can accomplish the same results more subtlety when you wear colors that reflect your personal coloring. Just as significant artists have a favored palette of colors they work with repeatedly, each person has a unique combination of skin, hair, and eye colors that make up their personal color palette. Building your wardrobe around these colors will make you more visible.

Describing Color & Exercise Illustration

Color has been described as a tool of attraction. The following exercise will help illustrate this point. I want you to envision yourself driving along a country road. As you are driving along the way, you see a shiny, candy-apple red Ford Mustang. Now, imagine that a little further down the road you come around a corner and see a field of blue tulips in full bloom. What is your response to the field of tulips? Even if you have not been dreaming about buying a candy-apple red Ford Mustang and yet if tulips are not your favorite flower, your attention would surely have been captured by the unexpected encounter with these vivid and beautiful colors! Both of these examples illustrate how bold, striking, beautiful, or unexpected color attracts our attention.

How To Style Yourself With Color (1)

Attracting Attention

Color attracts our attention through repetition. In the same way that repeating a thought or phrase adds rhetorical emphasis, repeating colors from your personal palette in the clothing you wear, adds visual emphasis. It is the natural, efficient, and most powerful way to make yourself more visible.

Once has color has gotten our attention it continues to influence our perceptions. Color can help sharpen the focus of our attention. In much the same way adjusting the lens of a camera brings a photograph into focus, adjusting the colors you wear can bring your image into a more explicit focus.

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Color Contrast

Coloring contrast is another powerful way to help bring your image into focus. Slight, visible or pronounced differences in color between eye, hair, and skin will determine a person’s personal coloring contrast. There are three types of coloring contrast low, medium, and high.

Low contrast people have, for example, brown hair, brown eyes, and brown skin. Or light skin, light eyes, and light hair. There is no way to measure contrast so you will have to develop an eye for it.

Medium Contrast skin tones will have more contrast between hair, eyes, and skin and the color of their teeth and whites of their eyes will be brighter. Compared to a low-contrast skin-tone someone with medium contrast has more light behind their skin and a more radiant smile. Medium contrast color examples include pink with red, cream with brown.

High Contrast implies that there is an excellent degree of contrast between hair, eyes, skin, teeth, and whites of eyes. A good example would be a woman with pale white skin, very dark black hair and deep blue eyes.

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By combining your knowledge of coloring contrast and these six ways to style yourself with color, you will be able to create a successful, compatible, and impeccable outfit. However, keep in mind, anything outside of these six methods creates an uncoordinated clash of colors. The six different ways to style yourself with color are:


Colors that are opposite each other on the color wheel are considered to be complementary colors. Because of the high degree of contrast use the colors to stand out and make a statement.



Analogous color schemes use colors that are next to each other on the color wheel. They usually match well and create serene and comfortable designs. Analogous colors are often referred to in styling as “monochromatic.” In styling, these neighboring colors are considered low-contrast.



A triadic color scheme uses colors that are evenly spaced around the color wheel. Triadic color harmonies tend to be vibrant, even if you use pale or unsaturated versions of hues. When styling triadic harmony successfully, colors should be carefully balanced – let one color dominate and use the two others for accent colors. In fashion, triadic color combining is used to create coordinated outfits.



The split-complementary color scheme is a variation of the complementary color scheme. In addition to the base color, it uses the two colors adjacent to its complement. Because this scheme creates high visual contrast, it is best worn on high-contrast skin tones.


Rectangle (Tetradic)

The rectangle or tetradic color scheme uses four colors arranged into two complementary pairs. This vibrant color scheme offers plenty of possibilities for variation in styling.

Rectangle (Tetradic)


The square color scheme is similar to the rectangle, but with all four colors spaced evenly around the color wheel. Use four colors to create visually exciting and coordinated outfits. Square combining is often seen in menswear and interior design features.


The best way to learn how to mix and match colors using the coordination and combination rules above is to practice, practice, practice! You can also take a look at photos online, magazines, and clothes hanging in a closet to contrast and compare the combinations that seem pleasing to your eye. Be sure to look for outfits that are compatible in one of six ways that are written above!

Until Next Time!

Andrew Castilleja, CIC, CCC, CMIC

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