Universal Colors

Universal Colors are those colors that tend to be flattering to most people.

Maybe it would be correct to say colors that will most likely not be unflattering.

They may or may not be one of your Power Colors, but they usually won't be one of your worst, either, especially when paired with the rest of your seasonal palette colors.

Have you seen a lot of teal bridesmaid dresses? There is usually a reason. Universal colors are not overly bright or dark and not too warm or cool. This is why you might find a lot of uniforms in many of these colors, too. 

Below are colors that have been traditionally considered universal. Different people differ about specific colors, but these are the colors I've found most often cited.

Universal Colors Swatch

Most often cited as universal colors by most analysts

But are these universal colors truly flattering to everone?

The Turtleneck Test - determing if a color truly flattering

As a color analyst, I am becoming more stringent with my views of what is considered truly universal. I devised my own 'turtleneck test' to see if a color is genuinely universal. This test filters out some of them.

Some of the colors may indeed be flattering on some people. My definition of universal, however, means it should be genuinely flattering on everyone (maybe not a power color, but definitely deserving to be in one's official palette).

Universal colors stone sand putty turtleneck

Stone, a medium-to-light grey, is often listed as a universal color.

I did, indeed, included it in all of my previous swatch versions. But I had to accept that shade does nothing for me nor any truly warm seasons. I took it out. Now I either include a warm grey or putty color in those muted warm seasons that flow into a cool season, a muted cool season that flows into a warm season, or I skip it entirely. 

As you can see in the photo above, the cooler stone color is not dreadful. It's better than, say, a cobalt blue or similar color on this person. But warming up the grey is better.

However, choosing from their best neutrals, in this case, a warm sand, is best for this Autumn woman.

So what do I consider truly universally flattering colors? Teal (one that is not too pale); Purple (a shade not too cool or pale),  True Red (with no hints of yellow). These are three I know always are flattering (or at least not unflattering).

So what do I consider truly universal colors?

As I stated, different color experts may site different colors as universal. I've seen True blue listed as a universal (way too cool for me) and also chocolate. I wouldn't say that chocolate is a truly universal color but it is a good one for me and other Autumns, so I will take it. 

But of the colors above I would choose the following as safe bets for clothing.

Universal Purple dress

Periwinkle & Purple

I'm putting Periwinkle and Purple together because they are quite similar. True purple has the perfect balance of blue and red mixed together. It truly flatters everyone. And Periwinkle is usually just a little more on the blue side. 

Of course it always matters on the exact shade that you find. I have seen shades of periwinkle that were pale and dusty and then others with more saturation are just perfect. The dress in this wardrobe set, left) is what I would consider close to the perfect shade of periwinkle. 

The little violets in the top left in this photo is the shade of purple I think is truly universal. It is slightly more red than blue.  Surprisingly, when I put fashion looks together, its very hard to find this perfect shade of purple in nearly anything. It's a shame because it is flattering to so many. 

Universal Teal Polyvore clothes


I do love Teal. It would be hard to find anyone who does not look good in teal. It is a fine balance between blue and green. For us Warm Autumns, this is how we can satisfy our desire for blue, which is too lacking in our palettes. 

It can be challenging for warm seasons to find one with lots of blue, but not too much. Cool seasons need to find shades with less green undertones. 

Tip: Deep Teal is a great dark neutral for warm seasons. I suggest it all the time. But its good for almost everyone. 

warm vs cool green clothes


True Green is a good color for everyone. It needs to be a 50/50 balance of blue and yellow.  More yellow will make it warmer and great for Springs and Autumns; more blue will make it cooler, great for Summers and Winters. But true green is truly balanced in temperature. 

This perfect balanced green is also a challenging color to find when I put together fashion sets. It's either lime or pale olive; or bright emerald. 

universal Red Clothes


Believe it or not, True Red is considered a universal color. It must not have any hint of yellow or blue for it to be considered balanced, but by all means choose warm reds if you are a warm season and cool reds if you are a cool season. 

The biggest issue with red is finding the right intensity and texture (in fabrics and lipsticks). Winters can handle bright clear reds as can Springs,  but Springs need a lighter intensity. Shimmer and shine works well for both seasons. As for lipsticks, Springs do well with a more sheer formula. 

Autumns and Summers can wear red, too, but with lipstick, choose matte over shine. The same goes with fabrics and other texture. 

universal warm pink clothes

Blush Pink

There is one more shade that I think is universally flattering and that is Blush Pink, or warm pink. I've seen this color on all seasons and it always looked great.

It is certainly a great color for lipsticks and blush when anything too coral/peach is too warm and pure pink is too cool. 

Tip: it's great for bridesmaids' dresses, too. 

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