And Why Does It Matter?
Happy day, dear reader!
Is your week rolling along smartly? This one feels a bit like the Keystone-Cops… Lots of busy-ness, but busy doesn’t equal accomplishment. We’ll have to see how it all plays out, and whether at week’s end anything got done. If nothing else, at least there will be another post!
When I drape a client for a color consultation, and we get into the nuts and bolts of evaluating his or her personal color, my client is often surprised that it’s not just about the palette! There is so much more to creating combinations that make you look your best than just the colors themselves. The personal coloring stool has three legs, the first is your Color Palette, the second–Value Contrast, and the third–Color Contrast. Getting your Value Contrast right is the biggest difference between you wearing your clothes and your clothes wearing you, and it also makes not-so-swell-for-you colors work better!
Since Contrast means “the difference between”, and Value (in color terms) is lightness or darkness, Value Contrast is the difference between the lightest and darkest parts of your personal coloring. Another way to imagine it is to think of yourself with a B/W filter. Although this is deceptive, because the apps correct for a more natural look… (For more color information check out the Color Primer, here.)
When I explain Value Contrast to a client, or at a workshop, I default to the Disney Princesses… Because the Disney ladies are iconic examples of contrast, and almost everyone knows their princesses. Even if you don’t know their names, you’ve probably seen them in ads, on store shelves, and running down the street on Halloween! To keep Value Contrast simple, we’ll start with Low, Medium, and High. There are, of course, people who fit between these three, but we need to start somewhere!
High, Medium, & Low Value Contrast
The princess of choice for High Value Contrast (HVC) is Snow White with her raven hair and fair skin. Her skin is 10 and hair is 1: 10-1=9. That’s about as high as Value Contrast comes! That’s why she looks like herself in her dark blue bodice, white collar, and light yellow skirt. If you are looking for a darker complexioned HVC princess, think Jasmine! (Or certain images of Mulan, but not this one!)
For Medium Value Contrast (MVC), we need lighter hair, and darker skin to create less of a difference. Belle is a good choice here! Her skin is about a 9 and her brown hair a 3: 9-3=6. Belle’s pre-transformation white blouse and medium blue apron dress create a flattering Value Contrast for her. I don’t think too much of her yellow ball gown, although I appreciate how it works beautifully costume-wise as a complement to the Beast’s jacket trim, creating a visual whole when they are together. And that’s the fairy-tale point, isn’t it? For a darker complexioned MVC princess, look to Pocohantas or (not pictured) Moana.
Cinderella’s light hair and light skin create her Low Value Contrast. Her skin looks like a 10 or 9, depending on the image! Cinderella’s hair is about an 8… 10-8=2, so her Value Contrast is Low (LVC). She looks just right in her varying shades of light blue. Tiana is a great example of a darker complexion with Low Value Contrast. I’d like to see an even darker princess… Maybe soon!
Why Value Contrast Matters
Value Contrast is one of those pieces that makes an outfit work. When our clothing is in harmony with our natural coloring, it doesn’t draw attention to itself, but rather draws attention to the wearer. When our clothing is in conflict with our coloring, it fights for attention, and draws the eye to it, and away from our faces. If you’ve ever had a sales associate say “You just need a bright lip and it will look great!”, that’s a clue that something is not right for you… Unless you are one of those who wears a bright lip every day! Then knock yourself out. For more thoughts on what makes an outfit work or not, read here.
Ways to Correct Value Contrast
Adding a bright lipstick is one way to raise your Value Contrast to match that of an High Value Contrast outfit. You can also lower the contrast of an outfit by “stepping,” that is, adding a medium value item to bridge the gap between the HVC pieces.
You can step from Low Value Contrast to MVC the same way…
A Medium Value Contrast is harder to change, but you can change it’s overall look from lighter to darker! I could raise this Value Contrast higher by changing the pink shirt to white, or by adding a black scarf or shawl to the pink and wine.
Hopefully this is clear. And not clear as mud! In the interest of transparency, Value Contrast was one of the most challenging bits to wrap my mind around during my color training… I was HVC in my younger days, with dark hair and fair skin. Since embracing my grey, my Value Contrast is lower and my personal coloring lighter (although my dark eyes keep it from going totally LVC). Now, I look better in overall lighter colored outfits. It took a lot of seeing myself through a camera lens regularly to help me grasp the difference AND how much better I look when I bring the Value Contrast down a notch. It takes time to retrain a lifetime style habit, but the effort has been sooooo worth it!
I think another Value Contrast post with some IRL examples is in order! Hopefully I can get to that next month. In the meantime, please feel free to ask any questions I may have raised… What do you think your Value Contrast is? Who’s your princess? Let me know in the comments below… I do so love to hear from you!