At This Moment: Prismatic Pastels

Clockwise from left:,,,

Clockwise from left:,,,

Correct me if I’m wrong, but pastels don’t seem like a huge part of the South Asian tradition. We veer towards the deep reds, saffrons, and emerald greens that complement deeper skin tones. So whenever pastels are on the fashion horizon, like now, I’m one part fascinated by their preciousness and three parts terrified of looking like an Easter egg.

While I love light neutrals and blush tones, there’s something so powdery, prim, and Almond Joy-y about true pastels. I think: cupcakes and babies and Palm Beach. I think: good God, my skin will look grey! If you have similar concerns, here are a few ways to wear the trend without looking frou-frou or washed out.

The first step, however, is to determine where you fall on the pastel-flatter spectrum. If you have a fair complexion with pink undertones, then pastels are your friend. Very deep or dark brown skin tones also look fantastic in light colors. Those in between, with medium skin and olive or golden undertones (i.e. the majority of desi women), have to be a little smarter about how we wear our pastels; otherwise we risk looking ashy. A good rule of thumb is if anything makes you look corpse-y, just say no. Conversely, wear more concealer and blush to even out your skin tone and minimizes sallowness.

Having said that, the easiest way to wear a color you’re wary about is away from your face. The ubiquitous colored pants you’ve been rocking since last year are getting a softer treatment for spring. Reds and cobalts are transitioning to blush and aqua. Pair your pastel skinnies with a breezy white blouse (buttoned to the top button with a Peter Pan collar if you’re so inclined), or a drapey tee. Just remember though, the lighter the pant, the less slimming it is.

Nail colors are another fun way to play with the pastel trend without investing too heavily or worrying about the washed-out effect. I’m loving a mint green nail these days or a peachy cantaloupe. To keep the look edgier, don’t get too matchy-matchy with your outfit.

Willing to take the pastel plunge? Opt for a soft-hued chiffon blouse or dress. A printed pattern with darker colors in the mix can make it easier for South Asian skin tones to handle. I love a pale yellow with a black and gray floral print, for example, or a mint green with red or navy polka dots. A gingham pastel shirt, fresh and preppy, is another fun option for your wardrobe this spring.

If, despite all these tricks, pastels are still wrong for you, settle for brighter candy colors like melon, berry, or lemon, which flatter warmer skins. Whatever you do, don’t make it a humdrum black on black spring. Lighten up!

Saimah Ashraf is a contributing writer at She blogs about fashion and style at Street Number Eight.