There are many reasons why you might want to start injecting more colour into your wardrobe – perhaps you want to express yourself more, stand out from the crowd, or add some cheer to your day.
However, finding the confidence to wear bolder pieces can be the tricky part, and is the reason that many of us reach past that brilliant blue blouse or that emerald green tie, and opt for black and grey instead. Though dressing with colour and confidence can make for a liberating experience, it can sometimes feel safer to stay within your comfort zone and dress in a way that allows you to blend in, and draw as little attention as possible.
If this sounds familiar, and you’ve often thought, “I like that, but I’d never have the confidence to wear it”, then the good news is that there are a few things you can do to break free of these self-limiting thoughts, and start dressing in a way that’s more true to your personality.
From exploring which colours suit your skin tone best to knowing how to work a bold pattern, here are 10 tips to help you dress with more colour and confidence – and hopefully feel fabulous as a result.
1. Start small - add a colourful hair accessory, tie, belt or bag
Making the decision to start wearing more colour doesn’t mean that you have to wear it from head to toe. Adding small pops of colour to everyday outfits can have a transformative effect, whilst giving you a chance to get used to the idea of wearing brighter things.
For instance, if you have a tendency towards wearing black, then perhaps you could still wear your black outfit, but add a colourful bag, belt, hair accessory, or tie. Or maybe you could opt for a piece of clothing with a black and white print, that has just a splash of colour included in it. If black clothing is your default, then perhaps you could also try swapping it for a lighter neutral tone, such as a navy, grey, khaki or stone colour instead – as this can help you make a gradual transition towards wearing brighter tones.
Adding colour to your outfit in small ways will allow you the opportunity to experiment with different colours, and decide which ones make you feel good, and which you want to steer clear of. It’s also a good way to help normalise wearing colour, and start to break the cycle of automatically reaching for colours that help you blend in – without sending you running for the hills!
2. Focus on fit first, and colour second
While it’s important to make sure that you like the colour or pattern on any outfit that you wear, it’s just as important – if not more important – to be happy with the fit. Wearing clothes that are too baggy may leave you feeling frumpy or bigger than you actually are, while wearing clothes that are too tight can result in you feeling exposed and vulnerable. Adding colour into the mix in both of these situations may cause you to feel even more self-conscious, and put you off wearing colour, prints (or anything else that might draw attention) altogether.
Sometimes, we might try and compromise on the fit of an outfit because we like other things about it, such as the pattern or colour. But this can mean that we spend our time constantly pulling at it and readjusting it, and may even get the urge to change or cover up as soon as we’re able to. If you don’t feel fully comfortable in your outfit, then it’s also easy to assume that everyone who looks your way is thinking something negative – even if that’s not the case.
For this reason, it’s important to choose clothing that fits you well, and makes you feel comfortable and confident. That way, if you find that more people start to notice and compliment your fashion choices, this will simply reaffirm your own positive feelings about what you’re wearing, and hopefully give you a confidence boost.
3. Choose colours that complement your skin’s undertone
If you want to incorporate more colour into your personal style, it can help to consider not only which colours you’re instantly drawn to, but also which colours in particular complement your skin’s undertone. When we talk about skin’s undertone, we aren’t referring to how light or dark our skin is, but to the warm, cool or neutral colour that shines through underneath.
If you have a cool undertone, then your skin is likely to have hints of blue, red or pink, whereas if you have a warm undertone, your skin will have a more peachy, golden or yellow complexion. Skin that has a neutral undertone will have a mix of cool and warm undertones that are roughly the same colour as your actual skin tone. It’s important to remember that skin undertones aren’t connected to the colour of your skin: fairer skin can still have warm undertones, and darker skin can have cool undertones.
You can determine your undertone by doing things like identifying what colour the majority of the veins in your arms are, assessing whether gold or silver jewellery suits you best, and thinking about your hair and eye colour. Have a read of this article from Healthline to find out more.
Knowing what your skin’s undertone is can guide you when it comes to making wardrobe colour choices. Warm undertones look particularly good against colours like coral, honey or cream – or earthy or rusty tones such as deep greens, reds or oranges. Cool undertones on the other hand, are often complemented by frosty blues, purples and pinks – and neutral skin tones are often suited to a more muted version of bright colours like jade green, lagoon blue or cornsilk yellow.
Though skin undertones can be a helpful guide when deciding what colours to inject into your wardrobe, there’s no reason why you can’t experiment with an array of different shades to determine what makes you feel happiest and most confident.
If you love a particular colour, but you think that it doesn’t suit your skin undertone, then you could consider wearing it on your bottom half, rather than up by your face – for example, by wearing a red belt instead of a red scarf, or a pair of blue trousers, rather than a blue shirt – or choosing garments that only have flecks of your favourite colour.
4. Explore the different ways to wear colour
Pair pastels with neutral colours
Part of wearing colour well is about knowing how to wear it, and what to pair different colours with. For example, by pairing pastel colours with neutral tones like blacks, creams, nudes and grey, you can create a playful, yet sophisticated look, and avoid your outfit looking too ‘sweet’ or ‘sickly’.
Wearing too many pastel colours at once can also leave some people looking washed out – so breaking outfits up with neutral colours helps to balance them out and avoid this.
Experiment with prints - but keep it simple to start with
Once you start wearing colour, you might find yourself wanting to experiment with different prints too. Leaf prints, abstract flowers, stripes, polka dots and animal prints are just a few of the patterns you might want to try out.
The key to introducing prints to your wardrobe at any age is to keep it simple, and not overdo it. This means opting for staple pieces with a print, like a fitted blazer or shirt, a pair of heels, or a pencil skirt, and teaming them up with complementary block colours. Blocks of neutral colours are often best if you want to balance out a print, and tone it down – or if you’re feeling particularly bold, you could pick a colour from the print and wear it as a block colour somewhere else in your outfit.
If you’re not used to wearing prints, then to start with it can help to stick to classic fits, and avoid any fussy extras like ruching, which can make the outfit seem much busier. The size of the print can also have an impact: larger prints are often bolder and more eye-catching, whereas smaller prints can be more subtle, while still adding depth to an outfit.
Consider wearing a monochromatic outfit
If you’re looking for an elegant and eye-catching way to wear colour, then you could consider wearing outfits that are either all one colour or different shades of the same colour.
Monochromatic outfits can create an uninterrupted line from head to toe, and make you appear taller and slimmer. They’re also cleaner and simpler to put together and can offer some relief from some of the more frenzied outfits in the world of print and colour.
For more tips on how to wear colour...
5. Explore how different colours make you feel and what they say about your personality
The colours you choose to wear can convey different messages and say different things about your mood and personality. A lot of people wear black because they think it makes them appear chic and sophisticated, but it can also have the effect of making you appear less approachable and more serious – which may not reflect who you are.
If you want to use fashion as a form of self-expression, then it can be useful to consider what different colours might say about you. For example:
Blue can be soothing and tranquil. It also exudes positivity and can make you look intelligent, independent and trustworthy.
Purple may be well suited to compassionate, creative individuals. It’s also rich and royal.
Red is typically seen as the colour of confidence. It’s bold and fierce, and exudes dominance and passion.
Pink can be playful, romantic and fun.
Orange is unique, ambitious, creative and lively. It can reflect a sociable, bubbly personality.
Yellow may be well suited to optimistic, intelligent individuals who have a zest for life.
Green is a calm, healing, natural colour. It’s thought that it’s often worn by people who are strong-willed, kind and loyal.
6. Find an inexpensive way to incorporate colour into your wardrobe
There can be some trial and error involved in the process of adding more colour to your wardrobe. It might take you a while to find your colour groove, so it can be wise not to commit to too many big spends while you do this.
To save money during this phase, it can be helpful to visit charity shops or websites such as eBay that sell second-hand clothing – or to buy a few cheaper staple pieces, like colourful t-shirts and scarves. Perhaps you could even borrow pieces from friends and family.
For some people, thrifting starts as a way to save money but then becomes a regular hobby. There can be something quite exciting about the idea of hunting through forgotten treasures and giving a preloved piece of clothing a new lease of life. Thrifting is also a great way to be kind to the planet and to enjoy fashion in a sustainable way.
7. Ask an honest friend or family member which colours they think suit you best
If you find that you want to wear more colour, but are having doubts about whether something suits you, then it can be helpful to get an honest opinion from someone else. Whoever you choose to ask, whether it be a friend, family member or a shop assistant – it should be someone who will give you a straight answer, and not just tell you what they think you want to hear.
If someone tells you that your outfit suits you, then hopefully this will offer you some reassurance, and make you feel more comfortable wearing it. However, if someone tells you that an outfit or a piece of clothing isn’t really for you, and you agree, then it’s worth asking them what colours or patterns you think would suit you instead. They might have totally different ideas about this than you do – perhaps you’ve never considered wearing yellow or red before, but would be curious to try it based on their recommendation.
Often, it’s our own beliefs about the way we look that heavily influences what we consider wearing, so seeing ourselves through someone else’s eyes every now and then can be quite insightful. But try to remember, that ultimately, it’s what you think about an outfit that matters most.
8. Choose your timing
For those not used to wearing a colourful ensemble, taking those first steps towards a brighter wardrobe can be a little daunting. Therefore, it can be helpful to consider the timing. If you feel more relaxed and at ease at weekends, then perhaps you could start by wearing some colour when you head out shopping, or meet up with friends. Or perhaps you could buy a colourful shirt or skirt to wear out to dinner one evening.
As you get more comfortable wearing colour, you might feel that you want to start introducing more colour to your work outfits, or to your typical everyday attire.
9. Get inspired
One of the best ways to get some fashion inspiration is to take note of outfits that you admire, worn by others. You might not want to create the exact same look as someone else, but you might be able to recreate something similar. Brigitte Marie Foret, Trinny Woodall and Josephine Lawlon are examples of women who regularly dabble with colour. While men who can often be seen wearing colour include Lono Brazil, Irvin Randle and Martin Kuhlman.
10. Remember confidence is key
Fashion isn’t something that should instil fear or worry. It’s something that should be fun and enjoyable – and it often can be, once we get over the first hurdle of worrying about the reactions of those around us. Injecting some colour into your wardrobe might require you to step outside of your comfort zone and go beyond the realms of what feels safe and normal, but you can unlock a whole new world once you do. For many people, experimenting with fashion can become a hobby, a powerful form of self-expression, and a confidence booster.
It’s normal to feel worried about what people might think or say when you start wearing brighter outfits. Or, to feel that you need time to adjust to and accept the idea that people might notice you more. However, you might be surprised at how many compliments you receive or how many more people are drawn to you once you start wearing colour.
If you’re feeling unsure about switching up your look, then it’s important to trust your instincts, stay true to yourself, and be ready to laugh things off if you make a fashion faux pas. And try to remember that the most attractive thing that you can ever wear is your confidence.
We’d love to hear from you!
Do you wear much colour? Does wearing colour make you feel confident or self-conscious? What’s your favourite colour to wear? Join the conversation on the Rest Less community forum, or leave a comment below.