Identify Your Undertone

Building a cohesive wardrobe all starts with the age old theory of mixing and matching, and achieving this kind of unity in your wardrobe is much simpler when using a colour palette to guide you. All of us, depending on our skin colour, hair colour and ultimately our DNA, can be considered to have either a cool or warm undertone. So let’s start by discovering how your colouring is best classified.

Keep in mind this is a subjective analysis and how each person views colour will vary. Ultimately your colours need to align with your personal preferences and directly relate to your inner confidence. How they make you feel is the most important factor here!

The Details...

To start make sure you have natural lighting, this is key! Whether you are wearing makeup or not doesn’t matter so much, go with your usual day to day beauty routine. If you are wearing makeup it should be matched to your skin tone anyway so you will get the same result. Use one or all three of the following steps to decide your undertone: 

1. The first and usually most obvious indicator of your undertone is to decide whether a silver or gold sheath of fabric held around your neck and near your face is most flattering. Think of 'most flattering' as the colour that works more harmoniously with your skin tone and hair colour. Silver indicates you have cool colouring and gold indicates warm colouring. Visit your local fabric store if you don’t have gold and silver fabric available. However, if you prefer not to do this or you are unsure of which colour is most flattering for you then continue on to the next step.

2. Using the palms of your hands is another great way to help determine your undertone. Holding your hands flat with palms facing up decide if you see blue, red or yellow most predominantly. If you see mostly blue then you are cool or mostly yellow then you are warm. If red is coming through strongest then lucky you, this means you can swing between cool and warm. That being said, you will almost always have a slightly stronger connection to one or the other...continue on to the next step. 

3. Another indicator can be a simple question of whether you wear gold or silver jewellery? Even if you switch it up and wear both gold and silver jewellery it’s likely you lean towards one more than the other. If you're married, what colour are your wedding rings? Take a look at your collection of jewellery and see if one tone features more heavily. A preference for silver jewellery indicates cool colouring and gold jewellery indicates warm colouring.

Use these images to help clarify your colouring:

Cool Undertones.png

Typically you may have:

  • Ash toned hair ranging from dark brown or blonde to white or grey.
  • Porcelain almost translucent skin or darker skin with a blue tinge.
  • Eyebrows and eyelashes ranging from lighter blonde to brown.
  • Blue, green or clear brown eyes.
Warm Undertones.png

Typically you may have:

  • Deep brown of red toned hair ranging from strawberry blonde to auburn.
  • Porcelain skin possibly with freckles or olive toned skin with a golden glow.
  • Eyebrows ranging from reddish to dark brown.
  • Hazel or dark brown eyes.

Most importantly don’t forget this is all about you being comfortable and feeling great so go with your instincts and get that inner confidence shining!  The purpose of determining your undertone is not to make you feel limited in the colours you can wear but a great starting point to assist you in putting together your colour palette and building a wardrobe that works for you. Remember there is a shade of every colour that is flattering for your undertone, and ultimately you will identify these colours because you will wear them with confidence...if you feel great in a colour then it’s safe to say you look great too! Make a note of your findings in your Stylebook.

Create Your Core Colour Palette

Now that you’ve determined your undertone as cool or warm the next step is to identify if your colour palette will be predominantly soft and muted colours or bright and clear colours. There are many theories on determining this based on your skin tone and hair colour, some of which provide up to 16 different colour categories you could possibly fit into. 

Colour Graph.png

The traditional colour theory of the four seasons, which most of us are familiar with, is a great tool to illustrate how cool and warm undertones relate to bright and soft colours. 

Blue undertones are attributes of the cool colour seasons, Winter and Summer, while yellow undertones are attributes of the warm colour seasons, Spring and Autumn. 

Which season you fit into relates to your undertones combined with wether bright or soft colours are more flattering to your complexion.   

As well as colours being flattering I believe the second tier of colour analysis also depends a lot on personal preference. Bright and soft colours represent different personalities and therefore it is likely you will have a preference based simply on your personality traits and what you wish to portray in your clothing selections. For this reason I prefer the four seasons colour theory be used as a reference point only.

Have a think about your personality, who and what you want to present through your colour choices and look at the dominance of colours in your current wardrobe. What you gravitate towards most will presumably be the colours, bright or soft, that always make you feel amazing and full of confidence. 

The 4 Basic Colour Groups

To help you visualise the four basic colour palettes here is a representation of how all six primary and secondary colours could fit into each group:

Colour Palettes.png

As you can see by identifying your undertone, cool or warm, and then deciding on your tone preference you can start to narrow your colour palette into a group of complimentary colours. The key is to look for colours with blue or yellow undertones to match your own. Once again, you shouldn’t feel limited in the colours you wear, the focus here is on selecting colour groups in order to build a cohesive wardrobe...and of course you will have a handful of pieces that stray from the group which is fine! 

Start creating your colour palette...

First select your neutrals. These will be black, grey and white, however the shade/tone of these colours will depend on your preference. For example you might prefer charcoal to black and cream to white depending on your colouring, what you find most flattering and what is reflective of your personality traits.

Example neutrals:

Example Neutral.png

Then select three colours that you prefer to wear or tend to wear most often. Consider three shades from light to dark of each of your selected colours. This will expand your core colour palette to three tiles per colour and create colour groups.

Example blue colour groups:

Example Blue.png

You will end up with twelve tiles to summarise your colour palette. Of course you can include as many or as few colours in your colour palette as you wish however three provides you with options while not being too broad. Colour shades can be as close to one another as you like, keep in mind how light or dark you prefer to wear each colour. Remember this is a summary of your base colour palette and you are not limited to only wearing twelve colours!

Example cool colour palette:

Example Cool.png

Example warm colour palette:

Example Warm.png

You can use any online application with a paint function to create your colour palette, a simple google image search to source your preferred colours or visit your local paint store and collect swatches if you prefer a more hands on approach. You can also use your Stylebook to record your preferences by colouring in the tiles or simply making a note of the colour names in each tile.

Keeping your colour palette in mind when shopping and knowing the undertone that works best for you is the first step to building a wardrobe with intent and purpose. It is a great tool when selecting prints and accent colours to work back with your wardrobe. With this consistency your wardrobe will easily translate into multiple outfits, not just pieces that sit alone, and the days of thinking you have nothing to wear will slowly become a distant memory!

"The best colour in the whole world is the one that looks good on you!" - Coco Chanel