A fashion and style blog for the over 40s covering body shapes, colour palettes, how to wear neutrals, style personality and capsule wardrobes. Come on in!


Kapow, Colour is Magic!

You know when something hits you, KAPOW straight between the eyes, well....

Walking passed Karen Millen about 10 years ago, I saw the most utterly gorgeous black buttery leather jacket which I just had to have - like now! So, I dragged the reluctant other half in to try it on - he has a wallet so was needed. Sod's law, they didn't have my size but the kind sales assistant said that their delivery had just arrived and she would pop downstairs to have a look. Excellent, and in the meantime, I tried on the tan coloured one. It was delicious! The cut was exquisite, the leather beautiful and the colour very uplifting. Oh I couldn't wait to get my hands on that black one. Five minutes later, it was mine. But oh the disappointment! After trying on the tan, the black didn't do anything for me. In fact it seemed to cast shadows on my face and let's not even talk about the bags under the eyes. Wow! There's something in this colour malarke.y I remember thinking.

Indeed there is! Did you know that colour is magic? Get it right and it's your best friend, your complexion looks clearer and more vibrant. Get it wrong and well, you really don't want to know.

Let's get a bit scientific....

Alfred Munsell, an artist, devised a colour system over 100 years ago which goes someway to understanding colour.

In a nutshell, he identified that every colour adopts 3 properties:

1. An undertone - how warm or cool the colour is (remember, warm colours have lots of yellow in them, cool colours are more blue based)

2. Depth - how deep or light a colour is (eg. Black is deep, white is light)

3. Clarity - how clear and vibrant or soft and muted a colour is (a shiny scarlet is very clear, a sludgy brown wool (urgh) is soft and muted)

We are all made up of colour! Kylie Minogue is a colour, Oprah Winfrey is a colour, the Queen is a colour. All very different but each will adopt adopt a characteristic from each of the categories 1, 2 and 3 above. So we'll all have an undertone, a depth and clarity.  But one category will be the most dominant one. For example the Queen has a strong vibrant look with her grey hair so is a Cool but she will also take on characteristics from 2 and 3.



Gosh we're getting heavy.

I am not even going to attempt to diagnose each and every reader suffice to say that Christmas is coming and Colour Consultants such as Colour Me Beautiful do excellent gift vouchers.

I do however believe that we should understand our own undertone. Wearing warm colours when you have a cool skin tone is cack to say the least. Look at this girl, gorgeous dress, gorgeous hair but gee I want to wrap an orange scarf around her neck. She looks so flat.

I love the dress, just not on her. It's from Great Plains (this season).

But oh, how different does she look here. Her hair seems more vibrant and the strength and warmth of the oranges balances her own rich look and compliments her skintone. Again, from Great Plains (love the blouse)

If you've identified yourself as a warm or cool from my previous post you can be exempt from the next bit. However if you fall into the deep, light, clear or soft palettes, a reminder here, then let's try to work out your undertone - it really does make a difference.

Ok, have you ever bought paint from one of the Dulux mixing stations? Have you seen some of the colours that go in to the base colour. These make the resultant colour either warm or cool (or maybe neutral). Take a pastel pink. Lots of white, a glug of red and a smidgen of blue. Ha-ah a cool colour as they've added blue - correct. Put pastel pink on someone with a warm skin tone and it just doesn't work.

So, how can you work out your skin undertone. Drag a mirror to a window - you need to do this in natural light if you can. Choose a selection of colours from your wardrobe (actually anyone's wardrobe will do, husband, son, daughter - we're not interested in what it looks like on, we're interested in what the colour does to your face). Hold the garments up in front of you and concentrate on your face. What's happening? Is it draining you? Is it casting horrible shadows? It might be making you look a little blue? Chuck that in the not great pile. Now do it again with a different item. What do you see? Does it seem to be uplifting? Does your skin seem to be fresher. That's for the good pile. When you've done this several times, have a look at your pile. Are they warm based colours or cool based? And there lies your answer.

Want to know a secret....

Some colours are very neutral neither warm nor cool so everyone can wear them.

Charcoal grey and navy for example. So if I lost you midway, just buy a navy dress this season!! You can't go wrong.

Until next time.

11 comments on "Kapow, Colour is Magic!"
  1. I never knew that there was a 'one colour suits all'! How interesting. That makes sense as most people I know look great in purple. Glad to see charcoal grey is also in there :)

  2. That's because these colours are not too dark, not too light, not too warm, not too cool, not too clear and not too soft. They are bang in the middle Helen so will suit all x

  3. Gosh.....can't believe how much the blue transforms the Queen......so much better! This is fascinating stuff, can't wait to hear more about it! x

  4. Let's face it Michelle, the Queen is never going to look absolutely rubbish is she but you wouldn't look twice at her if she walked into a room with the yellow on (she looks like any old little lady) whereas in the blue, just wow! You should try holding colours upto your face. It's amazing what they do to your complexion. Definitely magic!

  5. Just those pictures of the Queen make you realise how colour is so important! I've seriously started to pay more attention to them thanks to you Donna! Ax

    1. I know, can you imagine her in beige - perish the thought!

  6. Sorry have to disagree with the colours re the redhead. She looks best in the first picture as the neutral pallet shows off her hair and colour but the second outfit which is awful, makes her face, features and hair disappear and get lost in the riotous colour combinations.

    1. Hi, thanks for your comments. I think we will have to agree to disagree on this one. I take your point that the top is busy but the overall colouring is far better than the flat grey. I have seen so many 'warm' ladies transformed by changing their colours. Greys totally drain their complexion in real life x

  7. I look DREADFUL in purple. It makes me look ill. I can't understand why, as until I moved to a hot country and my skin (eventually - I used to burn the moment I went in the sun) darkened and warmed up, I was pale greyish-blue-eyed and cool-skinned (people used to think I was wearing lilac eyeshadow when I had no makeup on) with hair that starts mousey and goes blonde via red in the sun. You'd think that having colouring that is bang in the middle hue-wise, purple would be ideal, but both before my skin turned darker and browner (i.e., warmer), and since, both lilac and deep purple look absolutely ghastly on me. It is a mystery. Any idea why I can't wear it? I also now can no longer wear magenta, though I could before the warming up of my skin happened. And if I wear navy it has to be a warm navy rather than a cool navy. But I can't wear many of the colours deemed good for 'warms' either. Any thoughts? (BTW, I have had my colours done, at vast expense, but he basically said that I can wear colours all over the map, so that hasn't helped at all. Complete waste of money there!)


  8. Hi Wendy. Do you recall what palette he said you fell into? It's kind of true what he said in that yes you can wear most colours but not EVERY SHADE of every colour. I can understand why lilac wouldn't suit if you were a warm skin tone as this is one of the coolest colours (and flippin hard to pull off). Magenta is also a cool colour as it has lots of blue in it. I also suggest that warm skinned ladies (if that's what you are) do warm up their navy by wearing colours with lots of yellow in (same with grey). You seem flummoxed! If you send me a photograph and a snapshot of your colour wallet, I'll have a look at it for you. And yes, purple should look fab on everyone although I'm talking about mid-purple. Anyway, get in touch (my email is under my contact details). Donna x

  9. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.