Brighten up my beige wardrobe

Clashing colours are a big trend this summer, but self-confessed colour phobe Serena Kavanagh's wardrobe is decidedly grey. Emma Harrowing tries to get her out of neutrals by showing how colour can be wearable.

Wearing bright orange with tomato red and green is just one of the colour combinations that make for a delectable look for summer. Colour blocking or clashing is one of this season's top looks and as usual the catwalk exaggerated the look, making it difficult to see how anyone with curves could actually wear the trend.

For 39-year-old Serena Kavanagh, from Yarmouth, even the prospect of wearing one bright colour fills her with dread. Instead she prefers to wear black or white, choosing jeans and a top over dresses and skirts.


At only four feet nine Serena could use colour to make herself appear taller. For example, wearing one colour can elongate your body creating the illusion of height. The key, according to John Lewis fashion advisor Ruth Bowen, is to choose the shade of colour that suits your skin tone.

'Anyone can wear colour and the best way to find the tones that suit you is to get advice on what colours complement your skin tone,' says Ruth. 'In basic terms if you have a blue tinge to your skin you will suit cool colours such as Fuchsia pink, whereas if you have a yellow tinge to your skin you have a warm skin tone and suit colours such as Salmon pink.

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'If you are really scared of wearing colour try wearing a colourful scarf over your neutral clothes as this is an easy and budget friendly way of bringing an outfit up to date.'

According to Ruth, Serena's cool skin tone is suited to summer colours and so bright colours will really bring out the best in her complexion when worn on the top half of her body. For Serena this is not good news, but as she sees different colours against her skin she starts to come round.

Says Serena: 'I'm a little scared of wearing colour but wearing the colours Ruth says suit me brings colour to my face and makes me feel great.'

The shape of clothes is also important in the quest to look and feel stylish and Serena's neat hourglass shape really suits 1950s style dresses that are fitted on the top, go in at the waist and flare out over the hips.

Says Ruth: 'Serena has a perfect curvy figure and so it's important that she shows this off to its full advantage. Emphasising her waist is important as this is her tiniest part. The dress I have chosen for her fits her shape perfectly and the splashes of clashing colour follow this season's colour trend and bring out the natural colour of her skin and brighten her eyes.

'For an hourglass figure a scoop or V-neck is the most flattering shape, and if you are petite wearing one colour will create the illusion of height.'


To complement Serena's new colourful look, Saks hair stylist Danielle Howes brightens up her blonde hair with natural blonde highlights.

Says Danielle: 'At the moment Serena's blonde hair has a dull look because of red lowlights. By putting three blonde shades through her hair, Serena's colour will look cleaner and brighter, perfect for summer.

'For the cut, Serena is currently trying to grow her hair so trimming the ends will tidy up her look. For the style I'm going to show Serena how she can give her hair a different style just by creating waves in her hair using hair straighteners.'

To create a natural looking wave in Serena's hair, Danielle blow-dried her hair and then, taking a large section of hair, pulled straighteners through the length, twisting the straighteners upwards as she went. Next she took another section of hair and pulled the straighteners through, twisting them downwards. This was repeated over the whole head.

To dress out the curls, Danielle sprayed on a curling styling spray and pulled her fingers through the curls to create loose waves.

To complete Serena's look Sisley makeup artist Kathy Carter at John Lewis created a strong makeup look, suitable for an evening out.


To create Serena's look:

For the base: After cleansing and moisturising the skin, use a skin primer to prepare the skin for makeup. Use a concealer a shade lighter than your skin tone to even out any discolouration around your nose or under your eyes and cover any blemishes. Choose a foundation that matches your skin colour so that it disappears into the skin when applied. Apply with a brush on the centre of your face and blend outwards.

For the eyes: Use a vanilla colour eye shadow over the entire eyelid up to the brow bone to create a flawless base. Next apply a lime colour eye shadow across the eyelid from lash to crease and a sparkle eye shadow (Cathy used Sisley's Sparkling Rhapsody) over the top.

Define the eyes using a black eyeliner along the top and bottom lash line. For a more dramatic look go over the line using wet black eye shadow. Frame the eyes with a coat of black mascara on the eyelashes.

For the cheeks: Add colour to the face using bronzer on the cheekbones and blend up towards the hairline.

For the lips: With heavily made-up eyes keep lips neutral with a brown lipgloss.

The verdict

Says Serena: 'I absolutely love the dress. I would have walked past it if I was out shopping alone as the colours would have put me off, but getting some expert styling advice has really opened my eyes to the different colours and styles that suit me. The colours are definitely much brighter than I used to dare to wear, but I can see how bright colours really suit me and so I might even be tempted to introduce some colour into my summer wardrobe!'