Choosing colors to go with your complexion

To begin with, I’m not entirely convinced that you can’t wear just any color to go with your complexion. A human skin is a living organism with various energies; its color is adaptable to the surroundings, regardless of the color. It isn’t the same as matching two colors of cloth.

But since some people do say that matching clothing color with skin color matters, I wanted to get the vox populi on which clothing colors go with which skin colors the best.

For example, I found these pashmina shawls at a huge discount, and in a vast array of colors. I want to impulse buy, but first I have to choose a color. I wear all-black a lot, so it would be a waste of pashmina to get a black one; I need a color to accent the basic black. I fancy Amethyst. However, would Amethyst look good on me? This is internet shopping, so I can’t try it on.

My complexion is a Medterranean medium olive. I’m Sicilian but I think I look Libyan. Any ideas?

It’s hard to say what looks good on what skin color. There’s so much to skin color that there’s not any good hard and fast rule. My mother can wear deep reds and jeweled blues beautifully, however I can’t wear them at all. And we have pretty much the same skin tone. I look much better in earth tones and natural colors (what I think of as food colors - mangos, avocados, etc.) She’s Thai, and I have, for the most part, inherited her coloring.

The best way to judge is just to try it on and see if you think it looks good. That’s all that really matters anyway, right?

I have tawny brown skin (I look yellow at times…my mom is basically a very pale shade of yellow and my father has traditional brown skin) which basically means brown with an undertone of yellow. I cannot wear forest/hunter green. Whatsoever. So far this is the only colour I"ve discovered that I can’t wear. I feel like a pine tree. I haven’t found much else that looks bad. Even the grossest of limes and oranges looks good against my skin tone-but then again, I think the yellow facilitates that.

Sorry, I missed the line about internet shopping :smack: So you can’t try it on.

Possibly go to a store and check out colors that do look good on you, and then use those as a guideline for when shopping online? If an amethyst blouse looks good on you at the store, chances are a scarf of similar color will also look good. IMHO.

Avoid colors that are too similar to your skin tone.

If you’re pale, avoid wearing colors that will make you look sickly.

Aside from that, it’s fairly subjective.

I would disagree with that last statement. Skin color is not static (otherwise, how would tanning booths make money) but it is not endlessly adaptable, either. In many ways matching clothing to skin color is like matching two colors of cloth.

The difference, though, is that when seeing two wrong cloth colors together, I often shudder and think that the colors just didn’t work. When I see the wrong color on a person, my first thought is that they look ill, sad, sickly, tired, washed out, or just “odd.” (Conversely, the right colors can do wonders for a person)

If you have friends who owe you - hit the stores sometime and go to one of those racks where they’re selling the exact same t-shirt in 80-something colors. Get one of each color, head to the dressing room and try them on. Have your friends pick out which colors look good on you and which really, really don’t. Remember, you’re not going for fit or size or comfort, just color. And then you’ll be able to tell what colors (e.g., reds) or groups of colors (e.g., pastels) tend to work on you and which don’t.

TellMeI’mNotCrazy, you’re not crazy, OK? After reading that your mother and you are the same skin complexion but can’t wear the same colors, I guess I give up getting any advice online about what goes with my Mediterranean complexion. It would seem to depend on each individual’s uniqueness, not the actual skin color.

Years ago, I was told by a white American lady that I should wear light colors because I’m so dark. When I was in South India, they told me I should wear dark colors because I’m so light.

I admit I have noticed how excellent all-white looks on people of Mediterranean looks. Exhibit A: Algerian chanteuse Souad Massi. OW! I want to be her! She is about the same color as me, if that gives you any idea.

Shall I just go ahead and get the amethyst? I’ve been wearing purple and I think I wear it pretty well, I got compliments on my purple cashmere winter coat. When it was winter. Today I went out in a white pleated skirt and lavender blouse. Maybe I keep buying all these purple clothes to match my eyeshadow. It’s “Eggplant.”

Does anybody still do Color Me Beautiful? I remember it being quite the rage in the Eighties. Everyone was having “Color Me Beautiful” parties. I alos wonder all the time what colors I should be wearing. The notion of having a clearcut system really appeals to me. Does it work?

It sounds kinda stupid, but it’s good to know your color “season” (which is what I think Color Me Beautiful is all about, but I could be wrong.) Picture a peaches and cream gal with golden blonde hair - Let’s see… Kirstin Dunst would be a good example of this type of coloring. She’s a summer. Imagine her in vibrant reds, deep purples and royal blues, and you can easily see how her very pretty face would simply disappear in that wash of color. Now take the same colors and put them on Sela Ward, and you know she’d look fabulous. (Sela has fair skin and dark hair - she’s a winter.)

Johanna, your coloring sounds much like mine. I’m also medium olive with dark hair and eyes (also from the Sicilian in my background.) I bet you look sickly in pastels, yes? I find I look and feel better in deep/vibrant colors - burgundys, amethysts, royal blues, black and pure white with no “ivory” (which is basically YELLOW) undertones. Greens are tricky with this complexion - you’ll need something almost grey-green or sage as opposed to yellow-green (spring green) or blue-green (teal). If you’re going with a purple, there are SO many shades… you’ll want to steer clear of anything that can be considered a pastel.

Well, you’re sort of right and sort of wrong about being able to wear just any color with your complexion. You can wear any color and look good, but you can’t wear just any shade of any color and look good. I, for example, cannot wear stark white, especially in the winter. My skin is really fair anyway, and white just washes me out to the point that I look like a 3-day-old corpse. Ivories and creams are very flattering, though. I can’t really wear clear yellows all that well, either, though I can pull off mustard yellows surprisingly well.

Remember, you’re not matching your skin, you’re flattering your skin.

Just as a matter of interest - many who do colors claim that colors that you’re instantly attracted to generally look good on you - hence the attraction.

I’ve had success with this myself - I would say if you really dig the purple, it’s probably a good color. (You sound like a winter, and amethyst is a winter color).

Of course, I haven’t actually seen you, or your shawl, so I’m mostly talking out of my ass.


Thanks for the tip, Podkayne! That looks like what I needed in one handy package. I’m going to try it.

LifeOnWry, maybe pastels don’t flatter me, I hadn’t realized that consciously, but I guess you’re onto something. Last month I loaded up on pastels I found on sale. They’ve been hanging in my closet since then, unworn. (Except for that lavender one I wore yesterday. It was a bolder shade, the pale mauve one hasn’t been touched.) Maybe that should tell me something.

One of the Amazon reviewers of Color Me Beautiful says: “NOT BUYING clothes that look good on the rack but don’t look good on you.” Now I get it. So, alice_in_wonderland, that goes with what you said, to trust your color instincts.

Another idea – pay attention to what you’re wearing when you get compliments. People probably won’t say “that’s a good color on you” – but if they say “you look great today,” the color you’re wearing may be a factor.

BTW – I’m dark hair, dark eyes, sallow undertone to skin, tan easily – I wear lots of jewel tones – purple, teal, magenta – but also look, ahem, “pretty in pink” – which I wear a fair amoung of, despite not being a girly-girl.

You should also be aware that the dressing room has awful lighting, so it may be deceptive.

But really, the deep-down point of all that “season” stuff is, do you look best in white or cream? Get one of each and look at yourself in natural light. Everything else tends to sort of go from there.

Hmm, I look “pretty in pink” too, but then… There are so many pinks, aren’t there? One shade of pink may suit you while another wouldn’t. Maybe there’s a pink for everyone. I know which pink is best for me, a strong, clear, but not hot, medium saturation pink. I bought a hot pink scarf I never wore. But the pink blouse of the right hue is one of my favorites.

The reason I’ve asking about color so much is that, paradoxically, I’m already conscious of my best color: black. An all-black look definitely actualizes my selfhood. The thing is, it gets too easy to wear nothing but black all the time, and that would be a lack of imagination on my part. So I decided to learn how to do colors to break up the monotony a bit.

I have to agree with all who suggested strong, bold, jewel colors for me. I’ve always liked those the best.

There’s a general guide that you stand in front of a mirror in natural light and hold a piece of gold jewellery next to your face, then a piece of silver. If the gold makes your complexion seem brighter, you should wear “warm” colours - reds, oranges, browns, if it’s the silver that does it for you then you want cool colours - blues, greens, turquoise, etc. FWIW, I think the darker your complexion the brighter, more vibrant colours you can wear. I have very fair skin, chestnut hair and blue-green eyes, and tend to stick neutrals and pastels except when I have a tan.