Is “False Harmony” Undermining Your Image?

By Sandy DumontSandy Dumont

Whether you are a woman just entering the workforce, the first woman to rise up the ranks and head your department or company, or one negotiating multimillion dollar deals, the impression that you make is going to determine the outcome. An important part of that impression is influenced by the colors you choose.

It’s hard to be objective about yourself when it comes to choosing colors that make you look better. Asking a trusted friend for help may not yield any better results. Evidence mounts to suggest the following about advice from friends:

  • They will dislike you in a color that they personally do not care for
  • They’ll almost always adore blondes in pastel pink or peach
  •  If you’re a redhead, they’ll choose rust, orange or coral for you
  • If you have brown hair, they’ll love you in beige and brown

What’s wrong with all those things you may ask? The answer may confound you. Both you and your friends are likely to be mesmerized by “false harmony” and can’t reliably evaluate what truly looks good on you.

False harmony is the term for the method used by nearly the entire world for choosing colors. False harmony occurs every time you:

  • Wear garments that match your superficial appearance. For example, wearing pale colors to “match” your pale skin and hair. It’s called harmony, but it’s actually monotony, and the face disappears into the garments because there is no contrast between face and garments. Opt for fuchsia and ditch baby pink!
  • Wear drab moss green garments because you have “matching” green eyes. This color is popular, but it’s unflattering to most people because of its drabness.
  • Wear pastels because you have a soft feminine “matching” personality. Pastels are often viewed as passive. Ramp up your colors and you’ll make more impact!
  • Wear rust because you have “matching” red hair. In reality, this color is one of the worst colors for a redhead, because it makes her skin look sickly pale. The garment also competes with the hair for attention – hair loses! It’s far better to wear royal purple and let the hair pop and the face glow with vibrant color.

False harmony has been around forever. It’s deeply imbedded in your DNA, serving to keep you from standing out too much – a real No-No for ancient, but ever present, survival instincts. According to sociobiologists, this instinct trumps every other instinct you have.

Fashion designers, makeup artists, stylists, and image consultants are all under the spell of false harmony. They rave over pale blondes in baby pink, vibrant strawberry blondes in coral, and brown-skinned beauties in brown-toned leopard prints.

Over the years, a lot of methods and “solutions” have been proposed for finding the colors that make you look better. The most infamous methods include: hair and eye color; freckle color; contrast factors between skin and hair; patterns in the eyes; the shape of the face; and even the personality. None of these are reliable.

If the goal is helping YOU look better, why is it you aren’t ever asked to look at the face for clues? The face, after all, is the focal point of every human being.

For example, “Tammy” has green eyes, pale skin, yellowy freckles, blonde hair, and an introverted personality. These characteristics tell her not to wear her best colors; bright cool colors like fuchsia, magenta, purple and cherry red. They suggest she wear warm colors that are bright, like lime green and coral; along with cool colors that are muted, including slate blue and sea foam green. In reality, the only colors that make Tammy look better are bright cool colors, such as the ones mentioned above.

When you make color choices based on what happens to your skin, you’ll be flabbergasted. Once you begin to notice what happens to the face in terms of shadows, circles, furrows and diminished luminosity, you’ll notice things you never noticed before. You’ll very likely see for yourself that the colors you fear or dislike the most make you look the best. You’ll also see that you look younger, prettier and more dynamic in those colors. The biggest “aha” you may have is the awareness that you don’t really know what you look good in.

Try the same test as Tammy. You’ll be just as happy. Another good test is with a muted slate blue and a clear bright royal blue. After a couple of tests, you’ll begin to notice changes with your face. You will know for an absolute certainty that you are on the road to looking better! Most often, the color changes are quite simple:

  • Switch from drab colors to clear primary tones
  • Switch from colors that blend with your superficial appearance to ones that give good contrast so your face pops.
  • Reconsider the tendency to choose colors that match your personality. For example, earthy tones for sporty types; pastels for shy or fair-skinned types.

Free yourself from the bondage of false harmony. It may sound logical and make you feel safe. It may not make you look better in the mirror. If you’re attracted to slate blue, make a comparison with royal blue. If you’re in love with rust, make a comparison with royal purple or even royal blue!

Sandy Dumont is an internationally recognized expert on color and color psychology. Her long-awaited book, “Color Me Correctly, Please,” the culmination of a lifetime of research, will be released late April 2012 and available at Amazon or her website, www.theimagearchitect.com.