(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.
Today, I want to talk about color, separates and personal coloring. It might be helpful to have read the other posts in this series:
- Warm or Cool?
- Observation As A Color Tool
- Harmonizing with Your Environment
- Fabric Buying 1
- Fabric Buying 2
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
Hilary Clinton- very often seen sporting brilliantly colored suits.
- Queen Elizabeth of England- Pantone made a Queen Color Chart to celebrate that she’s a Queen of One Color.
- 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.
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.
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!!”
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!!