JavaScript disabled. Please enable JavaScript to use My News, My Clippings, My Comments and user settings.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

The rules: Make colour your friend

Date

Maggie Alderson

Standing out from the crowd is simple when you understand the science of working the palette.

<i>Les Miserables</i> starlet Amanda Seyfried uses colour to draw the eye and keep it interested.

Les Miserables starlet Amanda Seyfried uses colour to draw the eye and keep it interested. Photo: Splash News

A cruel and completely hilarious review of the film Les Miserables I read described Amanda Seyfried (pictured here) as looking like ''a hankie with eyes'' in her white dress in the film.

It struck a chord as I had recently scoped a red-carpet shot of her in a flesh-toned frock where she did indeed look all one colour with just her extraordinary eyes popping out.

So I was thrilled to come across this picture of her working colour like a master. Zap! goes the blue coat. Pow! answers the yellow frock. Bam! here's the red bag. Yet, still those amazing eyes, in that beautiful face, shine right out at you. She's not swamped by all that strong colour, she's broadcast by it.

How does that work? It's because each of the three colours is an interesting shade of a primary, with equal weight of tone, making them perfectly balanced as a group.

And here's another little detail of colour science here: her fabulous scarlet lips (which really are the finishing touch for me) even out the fact that the red is represented over less surface area in the mix, just on the bag. Whereas the blue and the yellow each have more real estate to make their point.

The lipstick reminds the eye of the red of the bag again, when it comes back up to her face - which is where it will have started, because we're humans and we look at faces first (even pervy men who look at bosoms very quickly after, and naughty girls who glance down at crotches).

Look back at the picture and notice how your eye moves round it. It will hit the face first - to find out who you're looking at, because faces are the most distinguishing of human characteristics - then it will slide down the vertical snake of her side ponytail to the blue arm and all the way down the coat until the red bag attracts it over to the right, across the yellow, when the strong vertical crease will take it up again to the face and the red lippie.

Really, that's how much work colour can do for you and why it has such power to make - or break - a look.

I'm not making all this up on the spot here. I did history of art at uni and it's something you learn about in great detail. How Titian would compose all his paintings according to rigorous underlying structures of shape and colour that kept the eye moving around the painting as exactly as he wanted it to.

It really adds something to gawping at endless altar pieces in Venice (when you are secretly longing to sit down somewhere nice with an Aperol spritz or three) when you've got all that to consider. There's always a big triangle in there with the point at the top, with other triangles working their eye-travelling magic within in it.

There's one of those triangles here, with her lips at the apex, the red bag and the bottom of the yellow dress the two lower points. That's why it's so clever to have the nude shoe (especially as they are madly pointy and divine).

Look at the picture again and imagine red shoes there. The eye would go down the body red, red, red and stop. It wouldn't come up again. And that, grasshopper, is why matchy matchy doesn't work.

It's not just because it's cringey, unimaginative and obvious, there's a scientific reason. Matchy matchy has a deadening effect, because the eye comes to an abrupt halt - and when the eye does that, the brain loses interest (and goes off looking for the next starlet).

Which all goes to prove - there's a lot more to style than shopping.

Featured advertisers

Horoscopes

Capricorn horoscope

Trust others to think for themselves. Don't be snobbish about what seems obvious. Everyone learns at their own pace, including you.

...find out more here