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How can I make a "wrong" colour work?

by meibaola
(Rome, Italy)

Hi Jane!

I really like what you do and how you do it, so I thought maybe I could ask this to you.

I am a deep autumn: dark brown hair and eyes, light-to-medium warm complexion with freckles, and quite obvious olive undertones.

In short, when I'm buying something, I ask myself: does this go well with green? If it does, it'll look great on me. That's how much of a Grinch I am...

However, while I manage to stick to this approach when shopping for tops, I have to be more flexible with pants. I'm more than 6ft tall, with large hips and thighs, chubby knees and calves, and a well-defined waist: finding pants that fit is a hurdle for me. And at a reasonable price? -_-

So, when I found a pair of Max Mara trousers that fit me to perfection in a discount shop last week, I couldn't resist. I was in bad need of trousers that could transition me from Spring into Summer, and those were perfect, but for... the colouring.

It's a beautiful medium grey with blue undertones. I don't know what the tissue is: I think it's some kind of cotton, but it has a shiny finish, that gives it a silvery look.

In other words, these trousers have got nothing to do with my colour palette...

I want to wear them at work: I'm a government official and my uniform is blazer+pants+loafers/pumps. I choose to dress like this because I find it convenient, but there is no strict dress-code, and I feel free to express my personality with accessories. My style personality is dramatic bordering with classic on working days and natural in the weekend.

I've already reviewed my collection of loafers to see which ones could work with these grey trousers: black, tan and washed-out cherry red all look nice. I think navy blue accessories would also work great, but I don't own any.

So what would you suggest? How can I make these trousers work with my colouring? Is there hope? ;-)

Thank you for reading so far and keep up the good work!

Jane's answer... Maibaola, thank you so much for your kind comments and for your great question!

Your Colours

You don't say whether you were colour coded by a professional, or whether you have worked out your best colour range for yourself. Either way, it sounds as though you may not have a colour swatch to go shopping with?

Deep Autumn colours are also known as warm, muted and dark which describes the majority of colours in this range.

While warm and muted greens look great on people with Autumn colouring. There are versions of green (and every other colour family) that suit every person's colouring. It will depend on the temperature of the colour hue (how warm, neutral, or cool), the intensity of the colour (how clear or muted), and the colour's value (how light or dark). The fabric texture and surface (how shiny or matt) will also affect whether a colour looks good on a person.

What is a grinch?

I had to look this up! Wikipedia tells me that it's a fictional Dr Seuss character and that the term has come to be used to indicate someone who is...

  • Opposed to Christmas celebrations

  • Coarse

  • Greedy in attitude

Then I read a bit further and found that the animated film, and now all media, show the Grinch as green. So, I'm guessing this is what you're referring to ;D!

Suggested colours for tops

At 6ft tall I can understand why you buy bottoms based on fit, rather than colour! There are a few examples of stores that stock tall women's clothing, in answer to a previous question, here.

I wish you had included a photo to show the colour of your trousers. However, I'll give some suggestions based on your excellent description.

As I think you realize, the most important place to wear your best colours is close to your face. However, with bottoms in a less than ideal colouring and fabric surface (shiny is not good for Autumns) it can be challenging finding colours that suit you and work with the wrong colour. Most likely not all your colours will work -- which I think is what you're experiencing?

The medium colour value, makes it easier. The shiny fabric makes it harder. I think you'll find that colours in your range that are clearer, brighter and/or cooler will most likely work best. Of course, for work you won't want to go too bright.

I do think that a version of navy will work well (make sure it's muted and not really dark), as long as it doesn't make your top half look smaller/narrower than your bottom half (it sounds as if your horizontal body shape may be triangle?), although you could correct that with a blazer.

You may also find colours will work better if the material is not too matt, or too textured.

how can I make a wrong colour work

I've shown some of the lighter brighter colours in the Deep Autumn range against a cool, medium grey in the picture. I hope this helps.

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This is working great!
by: meibaola

Hi Jane and everybody! I just wanted to share that your suggestions have been very useful and I am getting a lot of wear out of my wrong-color pants. Not to mention that I managed to restrict additional shopping to a single purchase (a very cheap but pretty grapefruit-pink tee), by digging my wardrobe for the "right" colors to match.

For example, today I'm wearing the pants with a top in the fuschia you recommended (a garment I've owned for some 15 years), my staple black blazer and pearls and...I'm feeling very good-looking ;.) Thank you again!!!

It's working alright!
by: meibaola

I just wanted to add that this is working great! I'm getting A LOT of wear out of those pants, simply choosing tops in the kind of colors you recommended.

And the best part is that this has implied a single purchase (a cheap grapefruit-pink tee): for the rest, I simply dug my own wardrobe. For example, today I'm wearing a cotton sweater in the fuxia you suggested. I've owned this specific top for 15 years already and it looks like a completely new thing on the grey pants. Yay! :)

Thank you!
by: Anonymous

Thank you very much for answering my question! *_* I can't wait to put it into practice :-)

Can you do palette for fair person for same grey?
by: Anonymous

Hi Jane
Found your answer really interesting. I have a dress in that same grey that you showed, but am blonde, blue eyed and pale in colouring. It's a v neck dress , sleeveless dress that goes in at the waist and then full skirt. I can't find a colour cardigan to match that colour grey that you have shown. What palette would you recommend to go with that grey for someone of my fair colouring, please.

by: Jo

Jane, your reply to the question about what to wear with 'wrong' colour trousers was inspiring. Hard to tell on the computer, but the rust colour and the amber one (second and third in the row) would look really chic.

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