How to match make-up and nails to your outfit

Published on: 24 Aug 2017

Styling themes also need to be considered as a miss-matched make-up style could dilute a perfectly balanced clothing collaboration. Examples of this cringey aesthetic misconduct could be along the lines of black lips teamed with a bohemian dress or glitter eye shadow and a conservative suit.

We may not all have been born with effortless creative ability and/or the ‘eye’ for colour matching but this can be learned nonetheless with the aid of some age old tools and guidance.

The colour wheel

Legendary mathematician, astronomer and physicist, Sir Isaac Newton intelligently interpreted the notion of an optical colour spectrum. The colour wheel is today used by many leading artists, painters and designers to creatively combine, primary, secondary and tertiary colours. The colour wheel theory can be applied to make-up, nails and clothing so it’s of the utmost benefit to those that wish to imitate their style saviours (such as Kate Moss) and parade around with polished clothing and beauty colour palettes. The Primary colours are red, blue and yellow. Secondary colours are green, orange and purple and the Tertiary colours are a mix of shades between the primary and secondary colours. The Primary colours can all be worn together (as with the Secondary colours) and black and white can be added without fuss to both of these designs.

The colours placed in an opposing position on the colour wheel are complementary colours and as the title does suggest these more daring hues do have the capacity to blend with balance. The complementary colours can be utilised for the pairing of make-up/nails and fashion for that stand-out special occasion. Flamboyance can initially be lightly incorporated for us learners. Analogous colours (next to each other on the wheel) can also merge to form a well suited yet low key aesthetic. There is often one dominant colour and the method is more applicable to tasteful daytime attire and for those looking to create a more subtle form of sophistication. (Further information and colour wheel schemes, including split complementary, triadic and square can be sourced easily online.)

Warm and cool colours

The ‘warm’ colours are placed on the right hand side of the wheel (yellow to violet) and ‘cool’ colours on the left (blue/violet to yellow/green). The warm colours are worn to induce confidence, energy and vitality and the cool colours to emanate a carefree and more grounded calm. To determine if you have a warm or cool skin tone and to check out your trend temperature, look no further than the colour of your veins in your wrist. Blue veins = warm, green veins = cool. Darker skin also tends to be warm and a fairer complexion cool.  Make-up, nails and clothing can therefore adhere to warm and cool guidelines to accentuate skin complexions and our god-given physical assets. The colours also have a psychological meaning and can be worn as an extension of our innermost intentions (e.g. red can be worn as an uninitiated shade or yellow as a symbol of joy).


Fabrics need to be considered when matching clothing colours as the overall effect needs to be precise and in proportion. A chunky knit jumper and lightweight chiffon skirt for example is likely to look more jumble sale than colour block chic. Clothing items should also be in a similar condition for the colour shades to be of an even contrast. Make-up and nails should reflect the clothing material's surface, so a sheeny fabric such as silk could be enhanced with a glossy lipstick.

Spring/Summer trends 2017

Eighties-esq super bright colours are set to sabotage spring/summer fashion and the British high street. Fashionistas can go all out with buoyant colour blocking and experimentation. The brave can dabble with bold (warm) eye shadows and nail varnish which can only add to the creative chaos. Neon florals are also said to be all the rage and natural make-up and the analogous colour wheel shades can tone down this potent print and colour collaboration. Cool colours and rosy make-up add salvation alongside the minimalist utilitarian spring/summer collections which are suited to the more understated amongst us. Primary and secondary colour stripes also have the makings for a gutsy style statement which retains artistic accuracy. Cool colours, lip and eye sparkle can emphasise metallic evening wear ensembles.

Further make–up and nails rules

Themes should always be considered when matching clothes, nails and make-up. It’s common sense that a simple feminine dress needs a natural beauty finishing, and edgy rebellious attire can be further amplified with make-up that stands out (e.g. thick black eye-liner) get the picture. An easy way to pick a nail varnish to finish your look would be to match it to your accessories (which would have been accurately selected using the colour wheel technique!) If you are wearing lots of prints then the varnish should also be one colour to avoid a clown-like clashing look. The basic french manicure and pale pink varnishes will also go with any outfit choice. You can buy make-up sets which include the correlating nail varnish tones. There is no crime in precisely matching make-up with dress (red lips/red dress) but a different varnish shade would moderate this matchy matching and at the same time up the imagination factor.

The most important thing when putting the colour wheel theory into practice and deciding what to wear is to have fun and relax. Colour blocking can even be practised in a group setting amongst friends. Clothes, make-up and nail varnish can be shared and swapped to preserve the pennies. Dress should however feel comfortable and always include authenticity with everyone’s individual and unique spin on style.


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