My undertone and other musings

The first advice you will come across when researching how to create a cohesive wardrobe is have a colour palette. The second advice you will have screamed at you is make it match your undertone.

Here’s a seemingly random thing about me: I’m a vegetarian. There are many setbacks to this lifestyle, but let me tell you what is not one of them: your options in restaurants are severely restricted. I’ll explain: unless you are in a vegetarian restaurant, when you grab a menu you already know you only have 3, maybe 4 dishes available. That’s it. Most of the choosing is done for you, so making a decision becomes easy. As an indecisive person, I appreciate this a lot. Having too much choice is tiring and draining and it has a name — Decision Fatigue.

Similarly, I hate shopping for clothes because I get lost in possibilities. That’s why having a streamlined closet is so appealing to me. My dream wardrobe has 1) a set of restrictions (colours, styles, etc.) and 2) an end. Meaning that there is a finite and clear number of pieces I need in it, making shopping easier AND reducing decision fatigue.


So to make my wardrobe a bit like eating at a non-vegetarian restaurant, I want to create a colour restriction that ensures every item goes together. Before going about choosing a colour palette, however, it is useful to know your undertone. Knowing your undertone will tell you which colours look best on you and thus which colours you should lean towards in your colour palette.

After many, many, many hours spent on internet blackholes of colour theory, season colour analysis, heated discussions against season colour analysis and a lot more drama than I ever expected colour to stir, I found this video which explains things fairly simply. The main steps are:

  1. Find out if you look better in warm or cold rich (saturated) colours.
  2. Find out if you look better in richer or softer colours in that family.

The process consists of draping different fabrics around your face in front of a mirror. You should have no make-up on and be standing in bright daylight. For reference on my skin, here’s a photo of my arm against a white sheet of paper:

yes, my fingers are weird.

It’s fairly clear to me my skin has a yellow tint. I also have green veins, which depending on who you ask may or may not mean I am warm (I am telling you, there are a lot of intense discussions).

Following the video, then, the first thing to do is to compare my skin against bright pink and bright orange. You will be surprised to know I own none of these colours, so I resorted to darker versions for this step.

Things to look out between colours include: does your skin look ashier? Does it look too yellow? Do your under eyes become more pronounced? Does your chin look lifted? Does the colour take attention from your face or compliment it?

I stayed in front of my window putting these two colours against my skin until I began doubting my sanity. I could see no difference. I would say neither flatters my complexion particularly well, but they are also not horrible. According to the video, if this happens, it probably means the person is lightly warm. This matches my lifetime perception, so I’ll take it.

I did continue, however, to drape different colours against my skin to be sure and to figure out step 2. Here are more examples:

blueish red
Orangy red

soft pink

bright blue
Dark green

Bright blue does seem to be the worst of the bunch, judging from the green shadows on my face. The soft pink (is it peach?) is probably the one that brightens my complexion more. All signs point to soft warm.

This means my wardrobe should be composed of light warm colours. Since these are not my favourite, I will probably go rogue and add a few shades to my palette that are out of this category. I am however very happy to have a menu-reducing stratagem in place.

Did this post make you want to drape some fabric around your face? Let me know!

To go deeper on this subject:

  • Both Daria and Merriam have wonderful channels about personal styling, and both are great for starting, even if they don’t always agree.
  • I did not mention hair and eyes. Some people take these features into account when deciding what colours to wear and some people don’t. Personally, I will consider them, as they are very prominent features on me.

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