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How to Pull Off Light Academia If Brown Is Not Your Color

Updated: Mar 21, 2022

The popular style aesthetic known as Light Academia is essentially a traditional preppy look created exclusively in shades of cream and brown. The goal of this composition is to visually mimic the light tones of book pages and the dark tones of traditional stone academic buildings -- which is all well and good if you have dark hair and pale skin. But what if you don't?

There are those of us who fight tooth and nail to avoid yellow tones -- some of us have sallow skin, while others have pale hair, and others just hate burnt sienna. For a variety of reasons, the warm brown tones that look so lovely on a pale brunette can turn others of us into jaundiced piles of mud.

So what's a girl to do if she wants to jump on the Light Academia bandwagon but can't wear warm brown tones? Bring in the blues and the blacks, especially near your face, and relegate the browns to accessories and minor contrast colors.

Just make sure that the blue and black tones that you choose are grayish and aged, so they still represent old stone and antique books. This strategy won't work if you try to use bright or teal blues, because they also trend to the yellowish side, and are too modern to represent the traditional academia setting.

Let's see how we can tweak this typical Light Academia outfit to better flatter a cool-toned person. The original outfit features a stone-colored pencil skirt, a tan houndstooth knit sweater vest, and a cream colored turtleneck, accentuated with a brown leather purse and shoes, a gold watch pendant, and a cute brown beret.

Brown and blue complement each other well, so to adjust this outfit from warm tones to cool tones, we'll try to find the same or similar pieces in shades of blue. Again, remember that the blue we choose must be a heathered navy or a very grey blue so it remains both cool and traditional.

Let's swap one piece at a time:

Replace THIS tan vest with THIS navy and stone vest

Replace THIS beige turtleneck with THIS ivory blouse

Keep the same stone-colored skirt

But swap the yellow-brown shoes for navy-cream heels instead.

Replace the yellow-brown purse with something in a much darker shade.

Swap the yellow-gold watch pendant for an antiqued bronze version, and you're done!

The secret to pulling off this exchange is to ratchet down the yellow tones in each item. It's sort of like reducing the exposure on a photograph so the ivory tones read more white, and dialing back the warmth in edit mode, so the yellows become greys.

In the sample cool-toned outfit that we just put together, the tones nearest the face are pale ivory (almost white), which will prevent sallow skin from looking yellow, and dark grey blue, which will contrast nicely against light hair.

The stone shade in the skirt is relegated far enough away from the face that it doesn't cause a problem, and the very pale stone shade in the vest is light enough that it disappears. The dark beret will set off light hair beautifully, and the dark brown purse is again far enough away from the face that it doesn't make an impact.

And now our outfit says "traditional academia" and not "I lost a battle with a can of yellow spray paint"!

Try this strategy at home, and let us know in the comments how it worked for you!

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1 Comment

Unknown member
Mar 29, 2023

However, if you're not a fan of brown, don't worry - this article suggests incorporating other neutral colors and even pastels to achieve the look. And when it comes to footwear, you can never go wrong with a pair of Dunks - they're comfortable and stylish, making them a perfect fit for the Light Academia vibe.

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