After last week’s post about value contrast levels, a reader named Valerie emailed me a photo of her outfit and asked for input. I though the ensuing discussion might interest the rest of our group, and Valerie agreed to share it.
Valerie described herself as high-contrast, with a preference for black-and-white and bright colors. The outfit in question consists of dark-wash jeans (obviously not visible in the headshot), a soft white tee and light blue long vest, popped with the bright scarf.
My first reaction was that her contrast is perhaps a bit less extreme than she is used to thinking. She was probably categorized as a Winter back in the day. And if I only had 4 categories to pick from I’d call her a Winter too. But fortunately we now have more personalized conversations about color, and realize that very few people are truly optimized by those extremely bright colors or the ultimate black/white contrast.
I layered a high-contrast fabric and a mid-high contrast one over her photo. (You may recognize those fabrics from the original Color Value post.) Do you see how your attention goes to the extreme black and white fabric in the left photo, but goes more readily to her face in the just slightly lower contrast fabric on the right?
SIDE NOTE: That example emphatically isn’t about BROWN, it’s about lowering the contrast level. If Valerie wanted to move toward brown as a Key Neutral in her wardrobe, it would need to be a very dark ash brown without golden tones – but that really isn’t the main point here. And her variant of white would be pearl or winter white, not warm cream.
Then I noodled around with other scarf options, looking for choices that still create a focal point near her face while slightly reducing the brightness of the print, thereby tweaking the contrast level between the print and the white top. The 3 options below all keep the outfit within Valerie’s optimal contrast range and simultaneously repeat her gray-blue eye color.
They also have points of connection to the garments in the outfit – shades of blue plus pale neutral. I call that a linking accessory – making the outfit look more integrated as well as more related to the wearere. Two birds … one stone, as they say.
They all look good. My personal favorite for Valerie is the subtle plaid one bottom right. Which combination do you like the best?