The Plus Size Guide to Warm and Cool Colors

Posted by Jen Anderson on

The Plus Size Guide to Warm and Cool Colors

We plus size women get judged on our appearance more than slender women. Actually, that's not entirely accurate. All women are judged by our appearance, but our body sizes put us at different starting points. You know how it is - when a thin woman runs out to the store in pajama pants, it's cute. But if a plus size went to the supermarket in PJs, that would be considered so slovenly that onlookers would snap pictures to share online.

Obviously, the opinion of people who would do that doesn't actually matter. Everyone's entitled to their wrong opinion. But everyone has unconscious preconceptions and biases, and we actually do care about what our bosses, clients, employees, and friends think. At the very least, we don't want them to be distracted by trying to figure out why you look a bit off today. 

When we wear the "wrong" colors for our skin tones, we all look a bit not-quite-right. It's not fair, but people tend to notice that more when we're plus size.

Warm vs. Cool

We've discussed this before, but I'll sum up. Look at the veins on the inside of your wrist. If they look blue, you look best in cool colors. If they look greenish, warm colors look better on you. Rainbows start out with warm colors (red, orange, yellow) and then move on to cool colors (green, blue, purple). But wait - some purples are warm, and every single neutral shade isn't exactly neutral in the battle of warm vs. cool.

This is where it gets complicated. Depending on how well you understand the nuances, this can be frustrating or liberating. 

The way to tell if a certain shade of purple or brown (for example) is warm or cool is to think in terms of red/pink/orange and blue. Amethyst is a cool purple. It definitely leans towards blue. Warm purples lean towards red or pink. Chocolate brown (like Navy blue) is dark enough to be truly neutral, but we've all seen shades of brown that are orange-y.

"Kinda" is a useful word here. Grays can be neutral or kinda-pink-but-not-exactly. The kinda pink grays are warm. Warm purples are kinda-red, and warm browns are kinda-orange. 

Prints Can be Both

Prints sometimes use only warm or only cool colors, but many prints use both. If you want to categorize a print, glance at it and name the first color that comes to mind. Or go by which color is dominant in the print - that could be the color that appears in large patches or it could be the color that's used more than the other colors.

That doesn't mean you can only wear warm or cool prints. You have a lot of wiggle room here. If a print seems warm, but has "enough" cool shades to balance it out, then cool toned women can wear it. ("Enough" is in quotes because you get to decide what enough is.) Or a cool print with warm shades up by the neckline may be right for a warm-toned gal.

The Scarf Trick

If you look unwell in a certain color, you can still wear it as long as you pair it with a neutral scarf. Arrange the scarf so that comes between your face and the rest of your outfit. You can also do this with a print scarf, especially one that uses both warm and cool colors.

You Get to Decide

You don't need to memorize color theory. Just figure out which shades are for you and ignore the rest. If you wear cool colors, see a warm shade of brown and say, "nah," you don't need to explain why. If you don't think you look any different in warm vs. cool colors, then just wear whatever colors you like. 

Check out our other posts about plus size style.

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