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Sun, Jan 25, 2009
Urban, The Straits Times
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Red alert
by Karen Tee

The little black dress may be your reliable go-to outfit when you need something smart. But for Chinese New Year, it is traditional to wear auspicious red. Also, you cannot go through life without daring to turn up the heat in a red-hot number now and again.

The trouble is, there is an art to wearing red.


Describe your sense of style.

Smart casual. I love dresses because they are easier to wear than separates, which require me to mix and match. My favourite colours are black, pink and green.

Why don't you like wearing red?

I like to see others in red dresses, but I don't own one myself. I need to be in the right frame of mind to wear a red dress because the colour is so bold.

What do you think about this red outfit?

The sheen of this dress and this shade of red really light up my complexion. I would definitely wear this dress given the right occasion, such as Chinese New Year.

The colour shouts: 'Look at me.' That is why it is the favourite of attention-loving celebrities on the red carpet. And that is why some women will not be caught dead in red.

Sales executive Aisyah Rahman, 29, says: 'The problem with red, unlike other colours, is that when you don it, people suddenly realise that there's somebody there. I prefer colours like black which are more low profile.'

However, it is possible to carry off a red dress without looking like a walking hongbao.

One tip: Pick the right shade of red to suit your skin tone.

According to Audrey Quek, founder of Audrey Quek Image Consultancy, there are both warm and cool undertones.

People with warm undertones tend to have darker skin with a yellowish tinge and veins that appear green. Those with cool undertones have fair skin, which looks pinkish and veins that appear blue.

From your skin undertone, you can then determine which 'season' your skin belongs to.

According to colour experts, warm undertones are either Spring (creamy white or peach toned complexions with freckles or rosy cheeks with blue or green eyes) or Autumn (warm peach or honey complexions with golden brown eyes) while cool undertones are Summer (pale or pink skin with pale eyes) or Winter (either pale white or dark complexions with dark eyes).

Here's a list of shades of red to suit your season, from Teo Ser Lee, founder and director of etiquette and image consultancy Protocol Academy:

  • Spring: Warm and yellow-tinted shades like coral and brick red.
  • Summer: Muted shades including dusty rose red and burgundy.
  • Autumn: Rich reds with yellow undertones such as tomato red, liver red and deep, rusty red.
  • Winter: Pure, clear reds like chilli and berry shades with blue tones.

Then again, stylist Steven Kong advises: 'Don't be too worried about the shade. Just remember that red, no matter which shade, is a dramatic colour. So pick a dress with clean lines and a classic shape that flatters your body type and which doesn't have too many details.'

Think simple sheaths or A-line pieces that you can easily dress up or down with accessories.

Urban puts four red-fearing women into a little red dress each.


Describe your sense of style.

Versatile - I buy clothes that are suitable for both work and play. I like pants as they are elegant and practical - I spend a lot of time sitting on the floor reading to my students.

Why don't you like wearing red?

My problem with red is finding a shade that I look sophisticated in. I've had problems finding one that suits my darker skin tone.

I want to learn how to turn heads in a shade of red that is not over the top.

What do you think about this red outfit?

This beautiful shade of deep red is just right for my skin tone. I'd pair this dress with ballet flats and wear it to work.


Describe your sense of style.

The dress code for school is casual so I'm usually in jeans or shorts and a tank top.

Why don't you like wearing red?

When I was in primary school, my mother would put me in red dresses for Chinese New Year.

At that time, I didn't know and didn't care that I looked like a walking red packet. I stopped wearing red dresses when I started buying clothes for myself.

My favourite colour now is black.

What do you think about this red outfit?

It's a very lady-like outfit, definitely good for visiting relatives during Chinese New Year. The ruffles on the collar also add an interesting touch.

Describe your sense of style.

I'm a jeans and T-shirt type of person.

Most of my clothes are black as the colour is easy to match. I can just pull out two pieces of clothing and I'm good to go.

Why don't you like wearing red?

I've noticed that whenever someone wears red, people tend to look at her more.

I prefer to keep a low profile, so I don't like wearing red too often.

What do you think about this red outfit?

I like that it combines femininity and sportiness.

The stripes also tone down the "look at me" colour, so the dress becomes much more wearable.

This article was first published in Urban, The Straits Times on Jan 23, 2009.

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