One of the most important ways to stay visible as we age is by wearing color, especially wearing it near our faces.

The right color can bring brightness and vitality to our overall look and give us a healthy glow. But choosing the right color becomes a little tricky over time. That’s because sometimes our coloring fades a bit, making the more saturated shades in our ideal color palette turn us a little sallow, or if we tend toward rosacea, overly red.

So, what are the ways in which we make color errors, and how do we correct them?

Color Influences and Palettes

One of the primary mistakes many people of any age make is that they over-emphasize a color that is only a secondary or tertiary influence for them. Here’s what that means. Your skin tone, hair color, eye colors and bone structure suggest two or three seasonal color “harmonies” for your ideal color palette, not just one.

For example, let’s say someone has auburn hair, a more structured (than rounded or oval) face and hazel eyes. She might have a lot of the autumn – warm and rich colors in her closet – but also a few brighter spring-like colors, and a mere splattering of the softer summer season colors.

But when she wants to “hide” or play with an image she thinks might be more attractive – likely because she admires someone wearing a particular color or garment – she goes to a secondary or tertiary seasonal color. What happens then is that she tends to disappear. In an attempt to look different we can sometimes lose our essential personality, the very thing that makes us unique.

Don’t Confuse Color for Style

Another way we can make a mistake is to confuse coloring for style. In the style archetypes I write about, there are some natural associations between certain archetypes and certain seasonal colors.

People with a lot of the winter coloring are often thought to be Dramatic in style whereas someone who has a lot of the spring coloring can be considered as rather Youthful or High Spirited in nature.

A refined type with Subtle Blended summer coloring might be Classic or Angelic. And a voluptuous autumn type is sometimes considered Romantic or Natural.

But here’s the rub: our individual style and our personal coloring may not fall that easily into these categories. One of my clients has very Romantic features and body, but her personality is quite High Spirited. And her primary color harmony is winter. Striking. If she wears something that is rich and warm in color, thinking that it reflects her voluptuousness, she will completely miss the glorious intensity of her winter coloring.

Also, a garment that was lovely and flattering to our skin tone when you bought it may have faded in the wash over time. Unless the lighter faded color is also part of your ideal palette, you can either dye the item back to its original color or relegate it to your gardening attire – or to the rag pile.

Pattern Mixing Can Be Fun

Then there are patterns of mixed colors. When you find a pattern that you like, check to see that the colors that jump out most are part of your primary color harmony. If so, it will likely work for you. Pattern mixing can be another great way to include multiple colors, and is a real attention getter when done right.

The key there is to make sure that the patterns you wear together stay in the same color family – cool with cool, warm with warm – and that the scale of each of the patterns works together. Two larger patterns with multiple colors simply confuse the eye.

Color Contrasting

Finally, contrast level is crucial. If your coloring is highly contrasting, your colors, particularly in prints, must strongly contrast with one another. Think color blocking, for example, too. If your overall coloring is more blended and there is not very great contrast between skin, eyes and hair color, your patterns should avoid any severe color contrasts. I had to reject a gorgeous scarf in one of my favorite peach colors because the border was a stark white and completely dulled my skin.

But we all make mistakes from time to time. Wearing more makeup can sometimes save face – literally and figuratively.

What was your biggest color purchase mistake? How did you make it work? Have you tried pattern mixing? What are the fun ways you include color in your wardrobe? Please share in the comments.

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