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How do I know what colors match my clothes?

How do I know what colors match my clothes?

Figuring out what colors go well together when getting dressed can be tricky. Having a good understanding of color theory and how different shades complement each other is key to pulling together a stylish and cohesive look. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll walk through the basics of color matching, provide tips on finding colors that flatter your skin tone, and show you how to create color palettes that work for any outfit.

The Basics of Color Theory

Before diving into specifics on color matching, it helps to understand some core concepts of color theory. This includes:

  • Primary colors – Red, blue, and yellow. These are the purest hues that can’t be created by mixing other colors.
  • Secondary colors – Green, orange, and purple. These are made by mixing two primary colors.
  • Tertiary colors – These are made by mixing a primary and secondary color, like red-orange or yellow-green.
  • Color wheel – Arranging colors in a circle to show how they relate to each other. Complementary colors are opposite on the wheel.
  • Hue – The pure color without tint or shade added.
  • Tint – Mixing a color with white to lighten it.
  • Shade – Mixing a color with black to darken it.

Understanding these basics allows you to strategically combine colors in pleasing ways. For example, analogous colors that are next to each other on the color wheel tend to look great together. You can also use a darker or lighter version of the same color (a shade or tint) to create a monochromatic look.

Choosing Colors that Flatter Your Skin Tone

When coordinating an outfit, you want to select shades that enhance your natural skin tone. Determining whether you have warm, cool, or neutral undertones is an important first step:

  • Warm skin tones – Lean yellow, peach or golden. Look best in warm, rich colors like red, orange, yellow.
  • Cool skin tones – Lean pink, red or bluish. Look best in cool, soft colors like blue, purple, magenta.
  • Neutral skin tones – No strong overtone. Look good in most colors.

Here are some guidelines on flattering color choices based on skin undertone:

Skin Undertone Most Flattering Colors Colors to Avoid
Warm Orange, yellow, peach, coral, cream Cool blues, pinks, purples
Cool Blues, greens, magentas, pinks Orange, yellow, brown
Neutral Variety of colors from cool to warm Extremely saturated shades

Draping fabric swatches in different colors against your face is a great way to test what tones look most harmonious with your complexion.

Creating Color Palettes for Outfits

Once you understand color relationships and what hues complement your skin, it’s time to put together color schemes for your outfits. Some tips for creating harmonious color palettes include:

  • Choose one color as a baseline, then add complementary shades.
  • Limit your palette to 2-4 colors for a clean, polished look.
  • Add neutrals like black, white, gray as they go with everything.
  • Vary tones and saturation – don’t use all light or all bright shades.
  • Consider the color wheel – analogous and triadic combinations work well.
  • Match metals to colors, like pairing gold with warm tones and silver with cool.

Certain types of outfits lend themselves to specific color schemes. Here are some examples:


Using different tints, tones and shades of one color. This allows colors to seamlessly match.

  • Light pink shirt + medium pink skirt + deep pink jacket
  • Pale blue button down + indigo jeans + navy loafers


Pairing opposite colors on the color wheel. This creates high visual contrast.

  • Yellow top + purple pants
  • Green dress + red belt and shoes

Split Complementary

Using one color plus the two colors adjacent to its complement. Provides a subtle and vibrant look.

  • Orange shirt + light blue necklace + dark blue pants
  • Burgundy sweater + army green jacket + mint shoes


Using 3-5 neighboring colors on the color wheel. This gives a harmonious, easy-to-match palette.

  • Peach top + tomato red skirt + rust orange heels
  • Teal button down + forest green cardigan + seafoam necklace


Combining 3 colors equally spaced around the color wheel. The contrast catches the eye in an elegant way.

  • Crimson dress + mustard belt + navy shoes
  • Plum sweater + lime green scarf + tan skirt

Tips for Men’s Color Matching

Coordinating colors for men’s outfits follows many of the same guiding principles. However, there are some additional things to keep in mind:

  • Start with 1 key colored item, like a shirt or tie, then build around it.
  • Keep the color palette simple – 1 vivid color with neutrals works well.
  • Add lighter and darker shades of the same color for interest.
  • Aim for contrast between top and bottom pieces – don’t match directly.
  • Use accessories sparingly to add pops of color.
  • Choose patterned ties that incorporate outfit colors.

Some easy color combinations for men include:

  • Navy blazer + light blue shirt + khaki pants
  • Charcoal suit + maroon tie + white shirt
  • Black trousers + gray sweater + olive green scarf


Figuring out how to match colors for stylish, cohesive outfits follows some universal principles but also depends on your individual skin tone and personal style preferences. Master the basics of color theory, learn what shades enhance your complexion, and experiment with different color schemes. This knowledge helps turn getting dressed each day into a fun chance for self-expression. Soon you’ll effortlessly create color coordinated outfits that boost your confidence and convey your unique flair.