I Tried A Color Analysis Test To Determine The Clothing Shades I Should Wear
It was surprisingly helpful.
Every night before bed, I try to read a few pages from my book to decompress, but in most instances I end up mindlessly scrolling on TikTok. My algorithm feeds me animal videos, home renovations, the Montessori method (I’m never quite sure how I end up there as I don’t have kids, but I digress) and random fashion videos. That’s how I became engrossed in color analysis Toks from stylist and color expert Mariana Marques of The Outfit Curator. Marques helps people determine what colors look good on them through in-person and online consultations — and she often shares this process with her clients on social media.
Although this fashion practice is not new — Carole Jackson, author of Color Me Beautiful, brought the idea of personal color analysis into mainstream fashion back in the ‘80s — it is getting renewed attention from a fresh crowd: millennials and zoomers who consume Marques’ TikTok videos. (One seven-second clip has 2.2 million views, and counting.) She started providing this service three years ago and noted that the concept is very popular in her native home of Brazil right now.
“The approach to thinking about [color analysis] has changed since the ‘80s,” Marques tells me. “In Brazil, for example, the two major companies who specialize in this — Studio Immagine and Resolva — [target] young and fashionable [people]. In the U.S., I think color analysis was tied to image consultants [like the older generation], but now this is changing with social media.”
“One thing that I realized when asking my clients about why they wanted to do a color analysis, is that a lot of them are having a change in their lives,” Marques adds. “They lost a lot of weight, had young kids and now are starting to shop again, or they’re getting married ... [Color analysis] gives them the information about what looks good on them, so they can change their closets.”
Truth be told, even though I work in fashion and wear whatever I want, I never understood why colors like maroon look better on me than, say, a neon green. If there was a science behind this, I wanted to know, so I met up with Marques while she was in New York City to get my own personal color analysis completed. (She offers in-person consultation services in NYC, LA, and Miami — or you can book an appointment virtually).
“We’re testing four things: lightness or darkness, the saturation of the color [on you], the temperature, and the contrast that you have. After we get these four things, we see the final color palette that you have,” Marques tells me. The color palettes are categorized into seasons: winter, spring, summer, and autumn. And within these seasons, the shade ranges are further broken down into cool winter, clear winter, deep winter or soft summer, light summer, and cool summer, etc.
Below, Marques explains what each of the four categories she tests for mean:
“Refers to how light or dark a color is. It measures the relative degree of black or white that’s been mixed with a given hue. Adding white makes the color lighter (creates tints) and adding black makes it darker (creates shades).”
“Refers to how pure or intense a given hue (color) is. One hundred percent saturation means there’s no addition of gray to the hue. The color is completely pure. At the other extreme, a hue with 0% saturation appears as a medium gray. The more saturated a color is, the more vivid or bright it appears. Desaturated colors, on the other hand, appear duller.”
“The perceived warmth or coolness of a color. Warm being yellow based color and cool being blue based colors.
For color analysis, when we say temperature, we’re looking at the undertone of the skin. Skin tone and skin undertones are two different things. Your skin tone is the color you first see in the mirror — fair, light, medium, dark, deep, or somewhere in between. Your skin tone can change depending on factors like sun exposure. Your skin’s undertone is the permanent, underlying color that your skin tone casts (i.e., a warm, cool, or neutral tone).”
“It’s the difference in color depth (light versus dark) between your eyes, hair, and skin. “It is important because, in personal coloring, we work with the concept of harmony: the idea is to repeat the natural contrast that the person already has in their clothes and makeup.”
Now, we put a few of these categories to the test:
Soft (L) vs. Bright (R)
“The soft colors make your face more dull while the bright colors make it appears more ‘healthy.’ Your cheeks are pinkish, your lips are also more pink. The bright colors brighten you up,” Marques says.
Warm (L) vs. Cool (R)
“The warm brings a yellow appearance to your skin. Meanwhile, your teeth looks whiter with the cool one. Also this [cool color] brightens you up,” Marques says. After 30 minutes of endless fabric swatches and going through the four main testing categories, we’ve determined my seasonal color platte: I’m a cool winter.
“The winter is a palette with cooler, brighter, and darker colors,” shares Marques. “The cool winter would be mainly cool, the brightness is medium to bright (no soft/muted colors), and the darkness is medium to dark (no light colors). People with this color palette usually have medium to high contrast, or dark-low contrast (dark skin, eyes, and hair). Usually we don't have people with light-low contrast (light skin, eyes, and hair) that are winters.”
The Break Down:
The Cool Winter Hues:
Before I clear out my entire closet of clothes that don’t fit into the cool winter category, however, I remind myself that this test was less of a strict “you can’t wear these colors at all” and more of a guidance into selecting colors that work with my complexion rather than take away from/or fight against it. (Gold jewelry apparently doesn’t suit me because the color is very warm and people with a cool undertone look better in silver. But this is one area I won’t concede to, so if I look off in gold baubles — so be it!)
“You have a high-contrast side because your skin is fair and your hair is darker. Your eyes are darker, too” says Marques. “So in order to have the same contrast from your clothes and face, you should wear clothes on high contrast. For example, darker floral prints on a light background or black/white, which is the highest contrast.” Meanwhile, a monochromatic outfit wasn’t the best combination for me because Marques deemed it low contrast.
Marques shares that one way I can incorporate colors outside of my seasonal color palette, that I love, is to work the pieces in at the bottom or into my accessories, since they’re not next to my face. “If you want to wear lighter colors, you could try to put the lighter colors on the bottom and the darker on the top because remember that we see that the darker [color palette] was better [on you].”
Since I’ve received my test results and downloaded the ColorApp — a digital way I can easily pull up my cool winter palette while shopping — I’ve heeded Marques’ advice and tried to purchase pieces within those shade ranges. I feel more informed as a consumer and as a result, this makes me less inclined to chase after seasonal style trends that might not look the best on me. And for this, I have Marques, and my TikTok algorithm, to thank.