Tania Tonello is a fashion stylist, personal shopper, and regular contributor to STYLE Canada based in Downtown Toronto. On #WardrobeWednesdays, she gives you fun yet practical tips and tricks to mastering the art of dressing and expressing yourself in a functional, economical, and more sustainable way. You can read last week’s instalment here.
Has anyone ever mentioned that a colour looked really good on you? Or has someone asked if you’re tired when you had a refreshing eight hour sleep? First of all, I hope you’ve experienced the former and second, there’s more to these questions than you think. A garment colour can play a significant role in brightening you up or washing you out. I believe the majority of us would prefer a colour lift so let me help you achieve that.
Skin Tone Versus Undertone
Before we get into garment colours, let’s differentiate between skin tone and skin undertone. I’m sure you’re familiar with your skin tone – it’s the colour of your skin in natural daylight and falls under fair, light, medium, dark or deep. The more important consideration is your skin’s undertone – the colour that sits beneath the surface. Unlike skin tone, which changes with sun exposure, your undertone remains the same. It’s also the reason why some garment colours have an illuminating effect while others dull you, since they reflect off your skin’s undertone. There are three undertone categories: cool, warm and neutral.
Now that we understand the difference between skin tone and undertone, here are three quick self-tests that will help determine your undertone:
1. Vein Check
In natural daylight, examine your wrist veins and determine whether they look bluish or greenish. If they fall within the blue family, you have a cool undertone. Picking up on more of a forest vein vibe? You have warm undertones. If you’re having trouble deciphering between the two, you likely have a neutral undertone.
2. Metal Check
Get your hands on a silver accessory and a gold accessory, then hold them up to your neck. Which one makes your skin look more radiant and healthy? If it’s silver, consider yourself cool. If the gold accessory is the winner, you have warm undertones. Again, if you’re really struggling to choose whether gold or silver flatters you more, you’re probably neutral.
3. White Paper Check
Find a white piece of paper and hold it to your chest in natural light, wearing a neutral coloured top or better yet, no top (hello, neighbours!). If your skin looks red or bluish in contrast to the paper, you’re cool toned. If you’re looking yellow or greenish, you’re warm toned. Be sure to use your neck or chest as a comparative rather than your face, since it naturally holds red tones due to hormones. Can’t decide where you fall? You know the drill.
Best Undertone Garment Colours
With a better understanding of skin undertones, we can now look at garment colours that flatter each. Put simply, garment undertones that match your skin undertones look best.
Colours that compliment cool undertones range from frosty shades like sky blue or light pink to stark white, deep purple and sapphire. Keep in mind that a secondary colour like green is not ideal for just one undertone, since there are cool and warm shades to this hue. For example, greens with blue undertones like emerald will be better suited for someone with a cool undertone.
Warm skin undertones look best in earthy colours like yellow, gold and brown. Some other colours that compliment this undertone are navy, ivory, cream, and peach. As noted with cool undertones, a colour like green can flatter all, so long as the undertones of the hue compliment yours. Greens with yellow undertones like lime or neon green will help illuminate the warm.
Babaton Agency Blazer, $275
Though it might’ve been challenging to determine that your skin has a neutral undertone, the good news is that you theoretically wear any colour. A variety of hues and shades will compliment the myriad of colours composing this versatile undertone, however, some will pop more than others.
Sage Green Denim Western Shirt, $79.95
Pro-tip: Go through your wardrobe and place each piece by your neck in front of a mirror. See which items have a stronger illuminating effect and make note of them so you can incorporate more of those shades into your closet.
Similar to styling tips that help flatter different body types and heights, skin tone tips are friendly suggestions too. The most important factor to consider when it comes to clothing is whether or not a garment brings you joy, despite its colour. When you feel amazing in what you’re wearing, your inner radiance shines brighter than anything else.
Last modified: November 8, 2022