Twitter logo

'Tis the season to wear red, but which one?


Yes, it's that time of year when red lipstick, work Christmas parties and Santa inspired outfits (no? Just me then) loom large.

Most of my clients mention two things at some point during the class. The first is, "Gosh, I didn't expect to be given so many colours, I have practically every colour in my season," (we always discuss that it's all about which shades of colours you can wear, rather than taking away lots of colours. Every palette has its own greens, blues, greys, and so on), and also, "Oh, I never thought I could wear red," (when we discuss how true red works for almost everyone, but that each season also has its own version of red that will look even better).

Red, for most of us, is inextricably linked with a certain confidence, maybe a tiny hint of vampiness or an elegance; think of the perfect red dress at the Christmas party, a vibrant red scarf zinging up a plain outfit, or the perfect red lipstick to get you through the festive season. No wonder that so many women want to wear it, and so many are disappointed, thinking that they 'can't wear red' after trying one that has the wrong balance of cool or warm tones. During a colour analysis class, getting the right red on a client is the moment when suddenly it all comes together, and they realise that actually they can embrace their inner 1950s movie star, dress for the festive season or simply add some authority to next week's job interview outfit with a dash of red lipstick.


Learning to identify your version of red will not just make you look your best, but really tie your wardrobe together, giving you the mix and match potential you've always wanted. Kettlewell helpfully sorts your colours by season, making shopping for your perfect red so much easier. See below for my top tips on identifying your best red.

A note about true red: remember that everyone can wear a true red - i.e. one which has no yellow (orangey tones) and no blue (burgundy tones) added to it. However, finding a true bright red is a relatively rare occurrence, so learning to identify your seasonal red is also important.

  • Spring - Bright, vibrant tomato reds (seriously, think ripe tomato), the clear red of a ripe strawberry, and all the shades from clear orangey red through to poppy. Don't ignore clear coral-reds and watermelon shades as well. Any tiny hint of either burgundy or dusty softness in your red will immediately kill it for you, flattening and dulling your skin tone.
  • Summer - Think of late summer fruit such as raspberries and plums - rather than the bright clear red of the earlier-season strawberries, go for fruity reds that are soft and deep and have a hint of pinkness. You can also go into deeper wine reds and burgundies. Your best reds are slightly softened and generally have a pinkish or purplish tone. Avoid orange toned and rusty reds, which will make you look sallow as well as appearing cheap and garish next to your soft cool summer colours.
  • Autumn - As well as vibrant flame reds with a hint of orange, don't neglect the softer rust shades. On the whole, if it's a red you might see on a tree in autumn, you're onto a winner. A warm burgundy will also work on many autumns, but really you are going more for a reddish brown rather than anything that might really be described as a dark red. Avoid try burgundy tones, which will drain you entirely, or pinkish reds which will turn your skin a little grey.
  • Winter - Your reds are deep and bright, from vibrant scarlet red through the red wine shades and all the way to deepest burgundy. Saturated colour is your best friend - think of the vibrant lipsticks you probably tried on during your colour analysis - you don't want your reds to be faded wishy washy affairs. In your mission for vibrancy, however, don't be tempted into more fluorescent orangey-reds, which will instantly turn your skin yellow, and avoid softer berry reds which will wash your high contrast winter complexion right out.

Paula Cooper on Oct 14, 2019 5:16 PM

What is H of C and cmb

Kettlewell Colours: House of Colour and Colour Me Beautiful train the colour consultants. House of Colour use a seasonal system (Spring, Summer etc) whereas Colour Me Beautiful use a tonal system (Deep. Cool, Soft etc) This blog post explains it in detail:

Una on Apr 03, 2016 12:45 PM

Would be helpful to actually have a few recommends of lipsticks and brands for Autumn. It's totally overwhelming - and yes I've had my colours done and stuck.with it. Great as they are, HofC and CMB do have the right colours but not always the best quality lipsticks.