• Style Smarts Personal Styling
  • Style Smarts Personal Styling


  • Lori Thomas

Colour: how to figure out what looks best on you

Let's talk colour - does it bring a smile to your face too? Colour can positively impact both mood and energy level. I'm all for that!

Finding yourself on video more these days? Maybe for work, or social connection with family and friends? Colour also comes across beautifully on camera.

Interested in a quick way to look more well-rested and improve the overall appearance of your skin? I don't know about you, but the older I get the more unpredictable my sleeps are, and my skin isn't quite as bright as it used to be. I've definitely trying to practice good sleep hygiene and I am always in search of the perfect skin regime. Some days are better than others and, given the current situation we find ourselves in, getting a good sleep seems harder to come by.

Through working with many clients, I've seen firsthand the impact wearing the right colour for the skin tone can have on overall appearance. Don't get me wrong, you can absolutely wear ANY colour you love (there are so many ways to make something work!). But knowing the right hues that flatter can work wonders - instantly brightening and enhancing facial features.

And, wearing the wrong shades next to our face can make us look tired, washed out, or even a little ill. Yikes.

You know those days when people comment on how good you look? Most likely one reason is...you are wearing the right colour.

Because we have some extra time at home these days, I thought I'd share some tests you can try to help you figure you your optimal colour palette.

The key to knowing which colours flatter us best starts with knowing the undertone of your skin. You can appear to have a very similar colour of skin as someone else, but if your undertone isn't the same, the hues that suit will be completely different. And, fair skinned people can be cool or warm as is the case of those with darker skin.

Your skin could have either a cool (pink or bluish undertone), warm (yellow, golden or peach undertone); or some people are neutral which is a mix of warm and cool.

Here are some quick ways to test your undertone:

Reaction to the sun:

When you are in the sun, does your skin tend to turn pink or burn first? No surprise, that is me. That suggests a cool undertone. Or, are you an easy immediate golden-brown? That points to a warm undertone.

The Vein Test

When you look at the veins on the inside of your wrist, do they appear quite blue (mine do!). That suggests a cool undertone. If they look more green than blue, you are most likely a warmer undertone. This is because you are seeing your veins through a skin tone that is more yellow.

The Jewelry Test:

Take turns holding gold and silver jewelry next to your face or against your chest. Does your skin appear to glow more (or look brighter) with the silver or gold? Silver corresponds to cool and gold to warm.

Keep in mind you can definitely wear both silver and gold jewelry no matter your skin's undertone. However, if silver looks better next to your face this is another sign that hues with a cooler undertone will flatter you best (and the reverse is true with gold/warm).

For me, the silver brightens my skin tone more, so it is good for me to keep in mind with accessories I wear next to my face (like the silver hoops I am wearing here). I absolutely love gold and will continue to wear - such as my engagement and wedding rings. And, yes, you can most certainly mix gold and silver together within an outfit. Please do.

The Neutrals Test:

Does your face look brighter when you are wearing neutrals next to it such as pure white, navy and black (cool), or are you glowing more in off-whites, cream, tans and shades of brown (warm).

Remember, you might fall somewhere in between on these tests which could suggest that your skin tone is neutral and you can wear a mix of cool and warm hues.

Try your own version of colour draping:

Ever hear of (or remember) that 1970s trend of determining your best colours through the draping technique? I remember my mum and her friends talking about it.

When I did my style training in New York, I learned colour theory as well as this draping practice. It may seem old-school, but it works. If you are ever keen to give the drapes a whirl, feel free to reach out...I love using them with friends and clients. It is such a quick and clear way to compare a range of colours and figure out your optimal palette. Plus, it's pretty fun!

However, since in-person appointments aren't happening at the moment - this is something you can easily play with at home. Go into a well lit room with a mirror (I find the bathroom usually works well). Pull your hair back and wear something neutral (white t-shirt or cover with a plain towel etc.). Then start to hold up different pieces of clothing in a range of hue and look closely to any changes you notice in skin tone, eye brightness, the impact on circles under your eyes etc. You won't get the same depth of knowledge as you would with drapes as you most likely won't have all the colours in range of undertone, but you'll certainly collect some good info in the process.

Still uncertain which colours suit best?

Jewel-tones (such as: emerald green, sapphire blue, ruby red, amethyst purple) are always a safe bet as they work well on a wide range of skin-tones. They are often said to be universally flattering. But, you might find, some work better on you than others. They are definitely worth giving a try AND they present beautifully on camera!

What to do if you love a hue that doesn't align with your skin tone?

You can absolutely wear any colour you love! But, if you want to get optimal benefits from the colour of our garments, it's good to choose those we wear next to the face wisely. Those that naturally flatter. Here are some ways to incorporate a colour you love if it doesn't fall within your optimal palette:

- wear in an accessory such as a shoe, handbag or belt

- wear on your bottom half (skirts or pants)

- incorporate within a print where the dominant colours of the print align with your most flattering colours

For me, knowing my optimal colour palette has helped with the overall cohesiveness of my wardrobe. It's also helped me make wiser shopping choices.

Want to dig a little deeper into figuring out your colour palette? I'm not meeting in-person at the moment (due to social distancing measures), but am always happy to support you in a virtual appointment. And, I'll wear some colour!