The importance of choosing the right colours for your self-made garments

This is me with the summerwinter colours.

The summerwinter colours.

One of my reasons for sewing my own clothes is that I want to wear clothes that fit. A well-fitting garment flatters and will also make you feel better when you are wearing it. That was not something I often achieved with RTW clothes but I think I’m starting to get there with the clothes I make myself.

The colour of a garment is another aspect that influences how flattering it will be on you. A dress that fits perfectly but is in a colour that makes you look pale will not flatter you all that much. I will even go as far as saying that a dress in a colour that makes you shine but isn’t fitted to perfection will get you more compliments than a perfectly fitting one in completely the wrong colour.

Picking the right colour fabric for a garment is as important as picking a pattern that is the right style. It has to work for your body. If you pick a pattern that doesn’t flatter your body type you will end up disappointed with the finished item. The same holds true for the colour. If you pick a colour that is unflattering you are not going to like the garment when you are wearing it and you’ll probably not wear it very often.

140603_Coloured squares

They’re exactly the same shade, but A looks darker than B because the area around A is lighter. The surrounding colours influence how a colour comes across. The colours around your face also influence how your face looks.

It’s not always easy though to decide what style and colour will work best for you. I don’t think I was making really disastrous colour choices but I did feel that my choices could probably be improved upon and that I perhaps should be a bit more adventurous to get a more versatile wardrobe. When I make a garment I want to be relatively certain at the start that I’ll be happy with the end product so I make safe choices with the colours that I use. I know blue and purple usually look good on me so I have a lot of blue and purple clothes. I also always end up buying more fabrics in those colours even when I decide at the start of the fabric trip that “this time I am going to get something completely different”.

My sistere with the autumnwinter colours.

My sister with the autumnwinter colours.

I wanted to get a bit more knowledgeable about which colours look good on me and decided to get some professional advice. One of my sisters also wanted to see if she could add some more colours to her wardrobe so we went together to in Leiden.

Marjolein works with the 10 seasons system and she uses 10 sets of coloured pieces of fabric to determine which colours work best for you. The fabrics were draped over us and we could see in a mirror what the different colours did to our face. I found it really interesting. Some colours made me look like I was about to come down with the flu while others really made my eyes come out. She also compared similar colours from different seasons to show us how subtle differences in colour could sometimes have a quite large effect on how they made us look.

To look good you should make sure to always wear at least one of your good colours next to your face. It doesn’t have to be the complete top though, a tank top under a cardigan or a shawl is enough. What colour you wear on your bottom half doesn’t really matter (as long as it works with what you’re wearing on top that is…) so that’s where you should put those colours that you really love but that don’t work next to your face.

140603_colourcardIt turns out I am a summerwinter type and should stick to cool bright colours. These are the colours with a blue undertone. I don’t look too good in the warm spring and autumn colours that have a yellow undertone because they either make me look unhealthy pale or are so strong that I disappear. I also finally got confirmation that I was right all those seasons I was utterly annoyed that someone had decided pastels were “in” and finding a t-shirt with a bit more colour was like looking for a needle in a haystack. I need more colour!

When I wear jewellery silver is better than gold. It’s a good thing I prefer silver anyway. Stones should preferably also be from the summer-winter colour palette. I don’t wear jewellery often, I don’t have a lot of it and when I am dressing I usually forget that jewellery is something that you can also add to your outfit. Perhaps I should get some in my good colours?

We also got some make up advice and while I don’t wear any make up I suppose it is good to know what to look for if I ever change my mind on the topic of wearing it so I’ll at least make a good choice and not have some salesperson try to force a warm colour lipstick on me.

chartreuseMy sister was a bit more difficult to figure out. She looked really good with some of the autumn colours, but not so great with some of the others. Especially the darker colours worked well. Just look at her with this dark chartreuse. Her eyes, just amazing. She has to make sure to get a garment in this colour soon! She also looked good with some of the winter colours. Eventually the autumnwinter type worked best overall. It was fun to see that there is some overlap in the colours that work for both us but that there are also some clear differences.

We were both already going in the right direction with our colour choices but I can definitely add some raspberry red to my wardrobe because that is a colour I don’t really wear right now but I look pretty good in it. My sister was already mostly wearing dark clothes with a lot of navy and black and she certainly did look best with darker shades. Besides the chartreuse she is also going to add dark eggplant to her wardrobe because she doesn’t have any clothes in that shade right now while it really worked for her. We got a colour card that we can use when we go fabric (me) or clothes (my sister) shopping. I think the card will be helpful to steer me away from my usual choices.

I did have some fun with my stash of solid (quilting) fabrics and took pictures of myself with different colours and made a collage of them. They were all taken at the same time so the lighting should have been more or less equal in each picture, I took a single picture per piece of fabric and didn’t do any photoshopping. I’ve arranged them somewhat per colour. If you study them you’ll notice that with some colours the first thing you see is my face and with others the first thing you see is the colour which is not what you want. With some colours my eyes and lips become more prominent. I think you’ll agree that some of these colours are definitely more flattering than others.

How do you choose the colour for your next garment sewing project?



21 comments on “The importance of choosing the right colours for your self-made garments

  1. katechiconi says:

    Yup, definitely better in the brighter shades! But I do find the light you live in makes a difference. When I lived in Europe, darker shades suited me better. Here, in the brilliant sunshine, I can wear really bright colours and the darker ones look sad.

  2. Wanda Dotson says:

    Great tips. I agree some colors just look better on you.

  3. onedabbles says:

    I think raspberry red looks great on you – definitely a colour to explore – and the stronger colours look so good.
    Years ago I was typed (with some difficulty) as a summer/winter but I think I was perhaps more winter. This was early days in colour typing when there were fewer subtleties and it was quite dogmatic. I’ve recently been looking at Dressing Your Truth – and colour favourites are falling into place.
    Enjoy experimenting with the colours. Look forward to seeing future projects : )

    • Emmely says:

      I’m not going to throw out everything in my wardrobe that doesn’t quite fit the summerwinter colours. I see this set of colour as a guidance to make better choices but I will be flexible. Not every colour from the other seasons looked horrible on me. Some just did more to enhance my features than others.

  4. Carolyn says:

    This is really interesting! I just did a short color exercise myself, so I’m excited to see your more in-depth analysis. How fun to get a professional color workup with your sister. Sounds like a good day. :)

    I agree that the bright colors look great with your face. Wouldn’t it be fun to make a super colorful garment with *all* the colors at once? Ha!

    It’s definitely hard to reign oneself in when fabric shopping, and I’ll be curious to hear how useful you find the color card. Looking forward to seeing your future fabric choices!

    • Emmely says:

      Colour certainly seems to be in the air. It was a fun day and I can really recommend doing something like this.
      Such a garment would certainly be way out of my comfort zone!

  5. CurlsnSkirls says:

    Great post, full of useful information – thank you! And the photos at the end really proved your points!

  6. Selma says:

    I was always struggling with my colours as well. So a couple of weeks ago I had a colour analysis done. She used a four season system. I guess that’s less precise than the ten season system.
    Anyway, turns out that the colours I thought looked bad on me, actually are the ones that work best for me. So coming home half or more of my tops, shirts and scarves are the wrong colour. So buying some new scarves was my fast solution. I gave most of the ‘wrong’ ones to my sister, she has a completely different skin tint than I have.
    I never wear make-up either, but since I had the analysis I did buy some basic stuff, just for the occasional wedding or real big party. Turns out that black mascara is easy to get, it comes in long, short, curly, thick, strengthening etc. etc. Brown mascara on the other hand is hard to come by, you can choose between regular and waterproof if your lucky.

    • Emmely says:

      Sounds like you got a lot more surprises than we did. You probably never even tried the “good” colours on before because you already thought they would be wrong. The upside is that you can now legitimatly go fabric shopping because your stash is seriously lacking the good colours!

      • Selma says:

        Exactly. I always stayed away from yellow, orange and purple. Turns out those are the ones I need. So I added a lot of new fabrics to my stash last time there was a big fabric market. The fabrics with the ‘wrong’ colours will have to find there way into skirts or something that’s not clothing.

      • Emmely says:

        Yellow and orange don’t work well for most people so it’s not so surprising you thought that. They’re happy colours though, I wish they would work for me.

  7. Jilly says:

    I’m concentrating on sewing my core wardrobe in complimentary colors so I better get to studying. I think the green on you was really striking.

    • Emmely says:

      I found it really worth the time to learn more about colour. I think the green you’re referring to is one of the few dressmaking fabrics that I used so it will turn into a top of dress hopefully sometime soon.

  8. CurlsnSkirls says:

    Have been so interested in this post that I’ve forwarded it to a friend, and am re-reading the “Color Me Beautiful” book. But what I’d really like to know more about is the system your person used. Have tried to translate her site, without success. Does she have anything in English? Does this system have a name (so I could look it up)?
    Again, maaany thanks!
    del xx
    PS/Yes! Go jewellery shopping! I did that when I started in business centuries ago, and still have most of the pieces.

    • Emmely says:

      Her website is only in Dutch I’m afraid. I don’t know whether it has a different name than “the 10 seasons system” but I’ll ask her and get back to you.

      • CurlsnSkirls says:

        Thank you so much! I located a better translator & figured out what she’s calling her 10 seasons. The photos of her presentations look very beautiful and professional. Please tell her I’m very impressed, even if it is in Dutch!
        Thanks again ~
        del xx

      • Emmely says:

        She calls it the 10-seasons system and doesn’t have another name for it. I hope that is enough information for you.

      • CurlsnSkirls says:

        Thank you so very much, Emmely! I really appreciate these answers. xx

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