We often hear the wise query “Is beauty but skin deep?” True, that one must look beyond the skin to really appreciate anything with depth. With my chosen field of fashion styling, however, I confess that skin and its various types and colours are of much importance. They are perhaps second only to sizes when designing clothes for a person—be it a man or a woman.
For a long time, a notion prevailed that fair-skinned people can wear or rather pull off any colour of garment. Fair was the preferred skin colour. This has changed gradually but surely; today, wheatish or dusky is largely looked at as glamorous in the field of fashion. But I believe that the colour of a person’s skin is not the only deciding factor in fashion.
And I advise people to wear more of a particular shade in garments based on their personality in totality than just their skin colour. A darker man with a vibrant personality, for instance, may carry off a bright orange sweater with more ease than a fairer man with a calmer, subdued nature.
A whole lot of social conditioning goes into subjugating people of darker skin tones into being wary of wearing brighter colours like yellow and red. It is only a matter of perception. Feel free to experiment with any and all colours of the palette in casual wear. And soon you will find the colours that work best for you. How? By the number of compliments you get or by the general disapproval of your close friends and family members.
Your shade card
When deciding on the colour to wear, you need to consider: the occasion, time of the day, season and finally, the colours in vogue.
For the day: For day-wear, opt for a lighter palette—pastel shades like off-white, peach, pinks or pale yellows, blues and aquas are perfect as they suit any skin colour. For corporate wear in particular, pastels work well as they can be teamed with the darker shades of suits, skirts, jackets and ties.
The darker skin, however, looks better in solids and tonals. That means you wear a tie or a jacket that is perhaps only a few shades removed from that of your shirt or formal blouse.
So, if you are wearing a sky blue shirt, a medium charcoal grey suit is better than a jet black one. Your tie in that case can be a navy blue or a maroon even, but in the same key. This helps you maximise on your richer skin hues and keeps the attention more on you than on your clothes. Fairer people should ideally wear more contrast. Like say, a sky blue shirt with a navy blue suit and a yellow and navy tie. This is because their lighter skin tends to blend with the light clothes.
Post dusk: For evening or party wear, as a rule, darker, richer or jewelled tones work best on all skin tones. By jewelled tones I mean striking colours like bottle green, deep purple, turquoise, deep red and so on. This is because such events are lit with chandeliers, candles or fairy lights and this kind of light is great for these colours.
Fabrics too play an important role in selecting the colour that suits your skin best. If you pick black as a safe colour to wear to parties, then imagine the same black in velvet, silk, satin, cotton and wool. Ditto any other colour. Select fabrics on your comfort level with a particular feel.
The earlier conception that men should wear rougher fabrics like tweed, wool and flannel is now being challenged. Women are experimenting with worsted woollens and men are sporting fine velvet jackets—both to great effect and to the tacit approval of us stylists.
Again, the selection of fabrics depends more on the occasion than anything else. The finer or richer fabrics like silks and satins are best flaunted at evening events like weddings, parties, balls and galas. Breathe-easy fabrics like cottons and linens are better suited to the day events like the Derby or a brunch at a fine dine place. Comfort and practicality was perhaps top of the mind when formulating these unwritten rules for dressing.
As per body type: Above all, common sense is paramount when deciding on what to wear. If you are short, stout and fair, choose a medium-key colour—like a basic blue or grey—even in a slimming print like a vertical pinstripe, or small all-over print.
If you are tall and dark but slim, wear lighter colours that will add dimension or body to your frame.
It’s in you
Our eyes are sensitive to colour at its most basic level and how people perceive us depends largely on our choice of colours. Follow your head and heart to arrive at your own unique palette and you will see the difference it makes to the way you look.
Psychology of colours
Colours affect your moods and in some cases your efficiency levels, or even romance. Generally, warm colours like reds, orange and yellow are said to be vibrant and colours that excite action or positivity. Therefore, uniforms for sportsmen are mostly in these colours.
And cool colours like pastel blue, greens and lavenders calm you and are good for introspection or tranquil moods like a romantic rendezvous and such.
Purples and reds are also associated with authority and power and one mostly sees royalty or persons in positions of power wearing these shades.
Whites are associated naturally with purity and divinity, whereas black stands for nights and revelry as well as evil.