Wearing colour is a tricky concept (we mean, it's why most of us are allergic to anything that falls outside the neutral palette, aka our comfort zone). The exhaustively extensive color spectrum alone is overwhelming, if not downright intimidating. But if you put mood, personal preferences, and what's on trend aside for a moment, the right colour—or the right shade, rather—has the power to give your look an instant shot of radiance. It's why one of Hollywood's most powerful stylists Cristina Ehrlich (who dresses Brie Larson, Allison Williams, and Penelope Cruz) places such a huge emphasis on colour for any given event.
"Colour is the number one most important thing to me when it comes to styling—it's what makes my service unique," Ehrlich stresses to us. "The first thing I do with a new client is study their skin tone and figure out what's going to look best. It's easy to wear black, but colour can be so beautiful."
Much like makeup and hair, figuring out what colour best flatters starts with your skin tone, which can be grouped into three categories: warm, cool, and neutral. "Many people have a natural proclivity to understanding which one of those categories they fall into because it's fairly obvious," says Leatrice Eiseman, the executive director of the Pantone Color Institute and author of More Alive with Color. "Beauty rules based on skin tone would also apply to what you would wear, which will make up the nucleus of your wardrobe."
But to go about finding out whether you fall under warm, cool, or neutral without the help of a makeup artist can be a touch challenging. There is no definitive test or hard-and-fast rules—which is fine, because this should all be treated as a guideline anyway. "You shouldn't have to slavishly stick to warm colours if you're warm or cool colours if you're cool," Eiseman says. "The goal is to enhance your natural colouring, but if you love a colour that isn't 'flattering,' wear them as an accessory (think: belt, handbag, or shoes) or an article of clothing that's far away from your face, like a trouser or skirt, so that it doesn't compete with your complexion."
We asked Eiseman to break it down for us. Keep reading to find which grouping you belong to, which colours you should gravitate toward, and which you should steer clear of. And remember—these are suggestions that aren't written in stone.
YOU'RE WARM IF...
Your hair colour: Ranges from dark brown to dark blonde hair.Your skin tone: Has a greenish or a yellowish (golden) undertone. Olive complexions also fall in the warm category.Your go-to colours in the warm colour family: Oranges, reds, golden yellow, amber, honey gold.Your go-to colours in the cool colour family: Warmer greens and blues, like olive, deeper turquoise, green moss, fern, pesto, red-purples (think: magenta and orchid shades).Your neutrals: Taupe, hot chocolate, creamy whites, winter wheat, latte.Colours that are tough for you: Icy shades, jeweled tones (amethyst, sapphire, ruby).Celebrity doppelgangers: Jessica Alba and Jennifer Lopez.
YOU'RE COOL IF...
Your hair colour: It can range from very dark (blue black or very dark brown) to light blonde.Your skin tone: Has a bluish undertone. It can also range from very fair to very dark.Your go-to colours in the cool colour family: Bright blue, royal blue, sapphire, emerald, amethyst, deep purples, lavender, lilac snow.Your go-to colours in the warm colour family: Shocking pick (versus hot pink, which is warm), cerise, ruby, bright rose.Your neutrals: Gray, navy, pristine white.Colours that are tough for you: Oranges and yellows.Celebrity doppelgangers: Cate Blanchett and Viola Davis.
YOU'RE NEUTRAL IF...
Your hair colour: Is a combination of colours—blonde with ashy streaks or brown with warmer tones.Your eye colour: Is hazel (most neutrals have hazel eyes, because it changes depending on what colour they wear).Your skin tone: Hard to determine—you can't tell if you're warm or cool.Your go-to colours: Neutral colours that fall in the middle of the colour spectrum. Look for light peach, dusty pinks, soft rose, peony pink (blush-toned pinks look best for neutrals), placid blue, jade green, cameo green.Colours that are tough for you: Anything too bright or vibrant that can overwhelm, reds and yellows (if you do a yellow, try a soft version, like cornsilk or buff).Your neutrals: Taupes, grays, off-whites (like vanilla).Celebrity dopplegangers: Angelina Jolie and Rachel McAdams.