I don’t get out much these days. Since the pandemic I’ve been working from home most of the time and I spend much of my life in pyjamas or “lounge wear”. It’s no coincidence, then, that my desire to put together an outfit has grown given I rarely have an opportunity to wear “something nice” (you could argue I should be making these opportunities for myself, but I appear to have become a hermit since the pandemic – anyone else?)
I think this outfit (below) would work for both a Natural Ingénue and an Ingénue Natural. With a few tweaks, it could work for a Natural Romantic; just add some statement jewellery and some chunkier, sexier boots.
This morning, I told my friends about a new pair of trainers I’d treated myself to. My innocuous comment resulted in this blog post when my friend admitted she hates her trainers. “The ones I have are bright pink,” she told me. “I know it’s vanity really, but I just hate pink.” She went on to say: “I feel conscious of them the whole time. I don’t need that much headspace taken up by my shoes!”
There’s little worse than feeling self-conscious or irritated by what you’re wearing. When I did my style experiment back in 2015, I wanted the ground to open up and swallow me. I felt so self-conscious and uncomfortable the entire day that I couldn’t fully concentrate on my job.
In order to focus, to do the work that matters to us, we need to be comfortable. In a physical sense, yes (I hark on about comfort a lot when helping clients declutter) but also comfort in our own skin. And that includes paying attention to what we wear.
As someone who sees the value in personal style, I will debate anyone who says that caring about how we look is pure vanity. Besides, why can’t we admire an outfit or our make-up in the same way we’d admire art or a pleasingly cohesive design? The way we dress is a perfectly valid and creative way of expressing ourselves. It gives us confidence. It’s a silent way of communicating with the world. It’s how we tell people who we are before we get the opportunity to speak. And, historically, women haven’t always been given that opportunity.
Besides, who are these people accusing others of vanity? We have long been shamed for caring too much about our appearance, or for caring too little. All with the intention of keeping us small.
“She doesn’t make an effort.” “She’s high maintenance.” I don’t often swear on this blog, but I’ll make an exception today: it’s all bollocks. And let’s not forget that what’s considered attractive changes. The only way we can ‘win’ is to dress for ourselves.
I think the word ‘vanity’ is thrown about carelessly by those wanting to undermine others. But there’s nothing vain about wanting to feel comfortable and confident in your own skin so you can get on with the vital business of tearing down the patriarchy.
One of the questions I sometimes hear people ask is this:
“If I have my colours done, will that limit my choices? Will you tell me I can’t wear <insert-colour-name-here>?”
The short answer is: no. Firstly, I will never tell you not to wear something (that choice is yours and yours alone; I’m not the colour police). Secondly, if you love a colour that much, there’s a very high chance it’s one of your best. Thirdly, the sentiment I hear expressed again and again after a colour analysis session is: “I didn’t realise I could wear green / pink / yellow / red…” (the list goes on).
Most of us know of one or two colours that suit us but, prior to having our colours done, we have no idea of the sheer range of colours that suit us. Colours that have previously been considered impossible to wear suddenly become available; we just need to know the right shade.
To demonstrate my personal experience of this, I trawled through many old photos and came up with a palette that reflects the colours I used to wear.
Regular readers of this blog will know I’m a Deep Summer; that is, the deepest colours of the Summer palette suit me. These are the colours I wear now.
My wardrobe is chock full of these deep, cool colours.
And these aren’t all the colours in the Summer palette, either. I would love to find primrose (Summer’s version of yellow), raspberry (a pinky-red that isn’t Winter’s fuchsia), plum (a mid-purple), periwinkle (a soft cornflower blue) and forest green (a deep teal that doesn’t contain too much yellow).
Each season is a veritable rainbow.
Warm seasons have shades of blue, cool seasons have shades of yellow, and all seasons have their version of black.
I’ll be totally honest with you: once you’ve had your colours done and you’ve seen how good you can look in the shades that make you shine, it’s frustrating when you can’t find them in the shops. This is the only ‘downside’, if you can call it that, to colour analysis. There’s nothing to say you can’t buy colours that aren’t in your palette, of course you can…
…but, I don’t. And, after you’ve seen how good the right colours look, you might not want to, either. So what does this mean in real terms? (I’m obviously not walking around naked half the time because I refuse to wear black.) It means I own an awful lot of navy. Which is absolutely fine; navy is one of my best colours. I would rather a wardrobe full of navy than a wardrobe full of khaki and brown which made me look sickly and emphasized my acne scars.
It’s easy for Winters to find black and grey in the shops, and easy for Autumns to find olive. Springs have it slightly harder, but can usually find their creams and greys. Navy is an easy Summer neutral to find. And, luckily for us, there is Kettlewell Colours, a company dedicated to solving this problem (this is not a sponsored post). Their styles won’t suit everyone, but the range of colours they sell is seriously impressive.
I know I hark on about scarves a lot, but for good reason; they are usually inexpensive and can be found in a huge range of colours and patterns. Especially useful now, when we’re on video calls more than ever and people are only really seeing our shoulders and above. A scarf thrown over a pyjama top can take us from oops-I-overslept to competent professional in just a second (obviously not talking from personal experience *cough cough*).
What palette is yours? What colours can you wear that you didn’t think you could? Perhaps it’s time to find out… 🙂
A few weeks ago, a friend revealed that her Spring colours no longer suited her. Yesterday, I draped her to find out exactly what was going on. Helena was first analysed in her 20s and now, over a decade later, she was finding that her warm, bright colours no longer worked.
Needless to say, I was fascinated. I had been taught that people simply don’t change seasons, that undertones don’t change in the course of a lifetime. We soften and desaturate as we age, so a move from, say, True Summer to Soft Summer isn’t impossible. But to change season completely? Not possible. So I was told…
I had no idea what to expect when I arrived. What I did know was that I believed her. I wondered if, quite logically, her colouring had softened and she had moved into Autumn. I wondered if she was on the edge of Spring now.
I noticed immediately that she looked good in the white cover cape. I began to drape her. The metallic silver drape was obviously better than the metallic gold. My brain tried to argue. How could that be so?
I started to compare Winter and Spring. It quickly became clear that her skin couldn’t tolerate any warmth. A logical assumption might be that, as she’d shifted from a warm season to a cool season, she might be on the warmer end of Winter (leaning towards Spring). But no! She was a True/Cool Winter who looked best in emerald green, fuchsia pink, electric blue and, shockingly, black. I did a double-take when I put the black drape on her – it is rare that even a Winter looks so in focus in the black drape (often, charcoal is better).
I tested drapes from every other season, as I always do. Autumn made her skin look muddy, Summer made her whole face look grey. Even burgundy, a colour shared by Summer and Winter, was a bit too grey in comparison to Winter’s cool red.
You might think that her initial analysis can’t have been right, but that was never my belief: firstly, she was analysed by a reputable company but secondly, and most importantly, she could see that those colours were perfect for her at the time. She saw the transformation herself, lived in those colours, received the compliments, felt good. Then, years later, those compliments stopped. Looking at herself in more recent photos, she can see something isn’t right. In her words, “Why didn’t someone tell me?”
As we worked through the drapes, I could see that the Spring colours were the least flattering on her. My mind was blown. She laughed: “I’ve been wearing the wrong colours for the last 10 years!” How disorientating it must be, to be so confident in your season only for it to change. But she knew something wasn’t right, even if that “wasn’t possible”.
I was told that, while our colouring might soften with age, we wouldn’t ever change season. To hop from a bright, warm season to a bright, cool season? Impossible. Looking back, I realise I should have questioned this claim. Where was the evidence? Were clients re-rated years later to see if they were indeed the same season?
Helena is slap bang in the middle of Winter. She hadn’t softened in any way, she didn’t even lean towards Deep/Dark Winter. All traces of warmth had simply disappeared from her skin. On a big, fundamental level, her undertones had changed. But she hadn’t lost saturation. Not at all.
Helena, used to wearing Spring’s bright colours, told me that Winter wasn’t a difficult transition. Although, as she had lived as a Spring for so many years, she was, in her words “absolutely back to square one.” She told me: “I could literally put my entire bedroom–wardrobe, drawers, makeup, jewellery–in a skip.” She told me that she found it “strangely disturbing” to realise, over the years, that her Spring colours no longer suited her. I completely understood.
This has to be the most interesting draping I’ve ever done, and the lessons from it will stay with me forever. When it comes to human colouring, anything is possible. Huge thanks to Helena for allowing me to use her photos for this post, and to Catherine for taking them.
I popped up to London recently to drape a client who wanted to know her colours in order to build a capsule wardrobe (for those interested, she turned out to be a Deep/Dark Winter – I’ve been draping a few of those lately!). Her questions about capsule wardrobes got me thinking: there’s so much advice online, and so much I don’t agree with 😉 Here’s my two pennies.
Be wary of prescriptive lists of ‘must haves’
Firstly, the lists online that say you need two blouses, a pair of court shoes, two pairs of jeans etc are, in my humble opinion, of very little use. Sometimes they serve as inspiration, but in my experience they’re too individual to be useful, and they often assume a certain kind of office-based lifestyle. What could you do instead?
Make an ‘occasion’ list
In the course of a year, what occasions will you need to dress for? My list includes: weddings, horse riding, work, swimming, yoga, meals/drinks out, sleeping and exercising. Sometimes they overlap – I often do yoga in my PJs!
Let discomfort be your guide
Physical discomfort can be a useful indicator of items you’re missing. Shoulder aching because your bag is too heavy? Then you probably need a smaller, lighter one. Feeling cold? Perhaps now’s the time to invest in a jumper.
It can also be useful to take note of what you’re wearing a lot, the items that you rush through the wash to wear again. Would you benefit from having another? If you’re stressed when it’s in the dirty laundry basket, then the answer is probably yes!
If making a list of items for your capsule wardrobe feels too overwhelming, start by picking just ONE item you think you need. And remember that building a capsule wardrobe is a process – you can keep revising it until it works for you. You don’t have to buy it all at once, and you definitely don’t have to get it right first time.
Allow yourself to fall in love
It’s so easy, when thinking about a capsule wardrobe, to get caught up in the practical – is it comfortable? fit for purpose? will it go with everything else I own? My advice here is this: allow yourself to fall in love. Trust me – those items you love will be your workhorses. As I said to a client recently: if you want to dress like an off-duty Bellatrix Lestrange, then do!
If you’re struggling to feel the love amid the overwhelm, I’d recommend using Pinterest to make a board of anything that appeals to you. As you pin things you’re drawn to, you’ll start to see a common aesthetic.
Get a colour analysis
As a colour analyst, of course I’d say this. But if you’re serious about building a capsule wardrobe, your clothes are going to have to work extra hard for you. Firstly, they all need to co-ordinate (if you’re buying clothes in your palette, they will) and secondly, you want to make sure that the few items you have look great on you. Knowing your palette makes shopping SO much easier and quicker, because you can immediately discount the colours that aren’t yours.
Winters are one of the higher contrast seasons. They can look completely fantastic in fuchsia pink, electric blue, emerald green… I could go on. But whilst a newly-identified Winter might be comfortable embracing a True Red scarf, bright makeup can be another matter altogether. If you’ve only just been diagnosed as a Winter and you’re […]
I have a rather embarrassing confession to make. As a self-confessed colour junkie, and as someone who might be mistaken for an expert, I recently invested £40 in an eyeshadow palette that didn’t work for me. By that I mean, the colours didn’t quite work on my skin. Bit embarrassing, that. We live, we learn. I know I’m always learning.
This purchase resulted in much head-scratching. It wasn’t so much that I had ‘wasted’ £40 on something that didn’t work for me (as it happens, the colours work beautifully on my Summer niece – something I’ll get to in a minute), it was more my confusion at having got it wrong. My problem-solving brain needed to know why those colours didn’t work. I had to know.
Makeup is hard to buy, especially if you’re a perfectionist. If you’ve just had your colours done and you’ve switched from, say, Autumn makeup to Summer makeup (and you are indeed a Summer) then you will likely see a marked improvement. When you’ve lived with your colour palette for eight years, buying what might be considered Soft Summer makeup when you are almost certainly a True Summer just isn’t satisfying. The reality is, I need the cool colours in my palette but I had somehow decided that the slight increase in warmth would bring out the blues in my eye. I was wrong. The bareMinerals ‘cool-neutral’ colours looked like bruises on my face.
I am a Summer, a Deep Summer in the House of Colour system. Cool, deep, soft colours suit me. The bareMineral bare sensuals palette is indeed a cool-neutral palette. I figured some colours would be warmer than others, but that most would work for me. I am aware that some colours can look deceptively warm when they actually have cool undertones.
(As an aside, I think it’s interesting to know that this palette doesn’t work for my Spring friend. I wonder if my Autumn friend could wear the warmer colours here. Despite looking warm, they could actually be too cool for her.)
So, who is this eyeshadow palette for? I’m now reasonably confident in saying that this palette would work for Soft Summers, and probably Brown Summers in the House of Colour system. It could also work for Summers who aren’t as cool as I am. I say this with reasonable confidence as my niece is one such person. She was draped with House of Colour several years ago, and came out as a Summer who suited the mid-Summer colours; that is, not the darkest shades and not the lightest, but those that sit in the middle. I sit on the Summer/Winter border and so it makes sense that I am cooler than her. The cooler colours in the bareMinerals palette (the pinks, purples and silvers) look amazing on her. I wish I had photographic evidence. When the shades of purple from the palette were applied, I knew we’d hit her personal colour sweet spot. Her eyes looked so crisp and in focus. She became magnetic to look at – I couldn’t take my eyes off her. Her reaction, perhaps most tellingly, was brilliant. When she looked at herself in the mirror, she literally did a double-take.
Interestingly, the warmer pinks and bronzes in the palette were just a touch too warm for her – perhaps they’d work for a Brown Summer?
My niece has really striking eyes. Her iris outline is navy, the iris itself looks green, and the sunburst around the pupil is a gold colour, much like this eye:
You could argue, quite reasonably, that they look a touch warm.
In comparison, mine are more grey-blue and look cooler:
With all this in mind, I started to think about Brown Summers (in the House of Colour system) in relation to Soft Summers (in the Sci/Art system as favoured by Christine of 12 Blueprints). Would my niece fall into the Soft Summer category? Perhaps; this could be an avenue worth exploring. Or perhaps she’s simply just a touch warmer than me.
Is she a Brown Summer in the House of Colour system?
I don’t think so, but I wouldn’t like to put money on it.
Okay, so, I want to enhance my grey-blue eye colour and my skin, so what is it I’m looking for, then?
This, it turns out:
Interestingly, Christine’s Soft Summer eyeshadow palette looks a lot like the bareMinerals cool-neutral palette (which makes sense, and also makes me wonder if my niece could be a Soft Summer):
My niece has what I’d describe as mostly green eyes, and green sits roughly opposite purple on the colour wheel. This may well explain why the purple shades brought out the colour of her eyes so much (colours that are opposite each other on the colour wheel – complementary colours – make each other look brighter).
Seeing the True Summer eyeshadow palette, I was immediately reminded of my Cool (True) Summer fan. Whilst I’ve never been officially draped by someone trained in the Sci/Art system, I have long since suspected that I would fall into the Cool (True) Summer category.
I do believe that, when it comes to makeup, we have the least room for error here. These colours are literally on our face, on our skin; any mismatch soon becomes obvious. Within the broader seasonal palettes, some makeup colours might not work; I watched my Autumn friend some years back try out a variety of Autumn lipsticks at House of Colour. Some of those were simply not worth purchasing (she ended up going for a stunning brick red).
Buying makeup is made harder by the fact that the colours can look completely different in the palette vs on the skin. Also, makeup is as much at the mercy of fashion as clothing is, which is to say that it is often difficult to find certain colours if they are not ‘in vogue’. Warm colours have been in shops and on makeup counters for a long time – my Autumn friend never seems to struggle when it comes to buying clothes, and I am seeing so many ‘naked’ palettes at the moment which essentially consist of warm-neutral and cool-neutral colours, presumably in a bid to ‘suit everyone’ for maximum sales. But here’s the moral of this story: not everyone is neutral. Far from it. For reasons I don’t understand, I drape more Summers on the Summer/Winter border than any other season. These are Summers just like me – very cool undertones, but colouring that is too soft to be Winter. People with this colouring (and indeed Winters) are not served by these neutral colours. Neutral is not synonymous with universal. We don’t all have neutral colouring.
Looking to buy makeup yourself? I have some advice:
Swatch makeup on a tissue or white paper so you can compare the colour against your swatches. Colours on an eyeshadow palette / in a tube can look wildly different once applied to paper or your skin.
Don’t shop by eye or hair colour. That lipstick that ‘works for every blonde’ is very likely not a match for your undertone.
Take someone with you, preferably someone with some colour knowledge. Sometimes we become almost colour blind. Sometimes we are so determined to buy a burgundy lipstick that we can’t see that we’ve accidentally drifted into Winter when we are in fact a Summer (not speaking from bitter experience, honest 😉 – if you’d like to see another of my makeup purchase disasters, comment below).
Take photos. It’s remarkable just how clarifying they can be. You see yourself in a more objective way in a photo.
If you know your season, check out the 12 Blueprints Store to see what your colours look like in makeup.
Swatch makeup products on the inside of your arm. Does both the colour and your skin look better?
Try before you buy. Have the MUA at the counter apply the product so you can wear it for several hours before you return and (maybe) purchase it. Look at the product on your skin in different lighting (outside, store lighting, at home, etc).
You might not be at the point where you want a colour analysis session, but you have an interest in colour analysis. If you don’t know your season, what can you do? Here are six things you can try.
1. Switch up your mascara
Most people wear black mascara, and most people don’t look good in it. Try switching to navy or brown. When I say navy I don’t mean the electric blue mascara of the ’80s. Nope! Try the No7 Intense Volume navy mascara. Navy suits Winters, Summers and Springs. If you try it and don’t love it, try brown instead, which works for Springs, Autumns and the cool-neutral Summers. When I say brown I mean a proper brown, (not brown/black, which works best for Dark Winters and Dark Autumns).
If, when you apply your new mascara, you suddenly notice your eyes and not your eye makeup, you know you’re on the right track. I was astounded at how much of a difference it made to my face when I switched my black mascara to navy.
2. Embrace true red
True red suits everyone. No, really! Most people who come to me for a colour analysis session seem intimidated by red, and I do understand why. There’s no ignoring it.
Absolutely everyone looks amazing in it though (I’m really not exaggerating), especially when they’re wearing true red and have on a matching true red lippy. Buy an inexpensive true red scarf if you’re nervous, and whilst wearing it try a matching lippy when you’re next near a make-up counter. And, if you do that, send me a photo! I’d love to see how amazing you look. True red is my favourite colour because everyone looks good in it.
Why does true red suit everyone? Because it doesn’t contain blue or yellow, the two colours that, when added to a colour, change its temperature.
3. Fall in love with teal Teal is another colour that suits everyone because it has (nigh on) equal amounts of yellow and blue in it. When I say teal, this is the colour I mean…
Kettlewell Colours call it ‘Mallard’. Buying a scarf in this colour would be a cheap way of trying it out. You can’t go wrong with teal. If you fancy being a bit daring, try a teal eyeliner (and report back ;-))!
4. Avoid black
I know it’s hard, I do. Black is everywhere. Having said that, navy is almost as easy to get hold of. Swapping black for navy will be a dramatic improvement for the vast majority of people.
5. Love your natural hair colour
If you don’t love your natural hair colour then you’re wearing the wrong colours. Even the most ‘mousy’ of hair will look beautiful when you’re getting your colours right.
If you’ve dyed your hair, notice how it makes your face look. Does the jet black hair make you look pale and washed out? Do you look a bit sickly in a warm, brassy blonde? Is it time to consider dying it back to your natural colour? Once you know your season, you can afford to be bold.
6. Wear your favourite colours
This one might surprise you, but here’s the thing: often, when people show up to a colour analysis session they say to me ‘Please don’t tell me I can’t wear X’. With the exception of black (which people generally love because it’s easy and considered sophisticated), when someone turns up with a favourite colour that they don’t want to be parted from, it ends up being in their palette, and one of their best colours, too. Our instincts are surprisingly good.
What doesn’t work Trying to figure out whether you have cool or warm undertones from your foundation is almost certainly doomed to fail. Reading into your jewellery colour preference is too risky. I know plenty of Winters who love gold jewellery, and even more women who are wearing the wrong foundation colour.