Customer Watch: A Study of Contrasts

While colorful florals are a key fashion trend this spring (can’t you just hear Miranda Priestly snarling at her editorial staff: “Florals… for spring… groundbreaking”), there is, as usual, a countervailing trend for women who can’t see themselves wrapped in posies.


That trend is neutrals which, in their purest form, means variations on khaki and beige worn head-to-toe. The January 2008 issue of Marie Claire magazine has a ten-page spread of examples of this use of neutrals in tone-on-tone dressing. These chic styles are influenced by trench coats and safari styles but go far beyond the classics. Jewelry has a strong presence, particularly in the use of chunky bracelets and beads of clear or neutral hues.


Notice how Marie Claire shows these pieces on a model with very low contrast between the colors of her hair and skin. The model is extremely fair with straw-colored hair, and her personal coloring is echoed by the light, neutral colors of the clothing and accessories she wears.


      [Photo by Joshua Jordan.]


The amount of contrast between a customer’s skin and hair is a consideration she should take into account for her optimal choices in apparel and jewelry. Everyone can be categorized as high, medium or low contrast:

  • The high-contrast customer has light skin and very dark hair, or dark skin and very light hair.
  • The low-contrast customer has dark skin and very dark hair, or light skin and very light blonde, grey or white hair. 
  • Many people fall somewhere in between these two categories and have coloring of medium contrast.

The more contrast in a customer’s personal coloring, the more contrast in the hues she may want to wear in her apparel and accessories. Repeating the level of contrast creates a pleasing visual balance between the wearer and what she is wearing.


Thus, the high-contrast customer will want to wear light hues plus dark or bright hues together. Black and white worn together is the ultimate classic high-contrast combination, of course, but less extreme versions work well, too. This customer is likely to take the neutral tone-on-tone dressing trend and make it her own by adding bright touches of color to make the look work for her. Colored gemstone jewelry is an excellent way to achieve this.  


For the low-contrast customer with light skin, choose white metals or soft yellow or rose gold (depending upon whether the woman’s coloring is cool or warm) set with gemstones, pearls or crystals that are colorless or of low intensity hues. For the low-contrast customer with dark skin, adding the color of the whites of her eyes somewhere near her face helps put her features into focus. Using white pearls in a necklace, brooch or earrings is an effective way of achieving this. This technique also works well to flatter anyone with large eyes where the whites of her eyes are noticeable.


Tone-on-tone dressing is a chic, expensive look, and jewelry can and should be an integral part of this look. Show your customers how to use jewelry as an accent to achieve this look or to adapt it to suit her personal coloring, whether low, medium or high contrast.

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