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.
If you’re familiar with colour analysis and the four seasons, you probably immediately associate certain colours with certain seasons. Emerald green? That’ll be Winter. Rust? Must be Autumn. Lavender? Summer of course. Coral? Ah yes, Spring.
Each season has colours that you immediately think of when you think of that season. Even now when I look at my swatches (regardless of system; I actually have a few different Summer swatches) I see colours I’ve overlooked. As a Summer I have a lot of navy and purple and sea green in my wardrobe. I forget about the reds and the dusky pinks and I especially forget about the soft neutral sandy colour, the light rose brown and the duck egg blue. As a Deep Summer especially, it’s easy to overlook the lighter colours which can be so useful especially in patterns.
Here are (in my opinion) some of the ‘forgotten’ colours for each season, and why I think they’re useful.
The colour that always surprises me for this season when I stumble upon it in my drapes is the colour that Kettlewell Colours call ‘pebble’.
It’s not a cool Winter silver grey as you might expect, but a pale cool stone colour. It’s actually a very interesting Winter neutral and I saw it used well in a jumper that my last Winter client turned up wearing, combined with purple and black. This obviously works well for blouses and shirts too and would be an interesting and less obvious choice for Winter accessories.
Winter’s icy pastels can get overlooked too, the icy pinks, blues and purples. They are useful for creating contrast when worn with the brighter, darker colours.
The bolero worn with, say, a camisole in one of the bright cool Winter blues or purples, would look great especially if you were to add black into the mix. I could imagine a black necklace or choker working really well with that.
Brown is a colour typically associated with Autumn. It’s easy to forget that Summer has a brown too, for which I’m very grateful. I rely on it heavily for boots and handbags because I don’t really want grey or navy which are the other obvious neutrals I could use.
Summer has a very pale, cool yellow. I’ve yet to recommend it to someone as a colour they should buy an investment piece in, but actually it is very interesting and especially brilliant in a pattern.
Autumn has a blue, a warm one. Blues aren’t typically associated with Autumn, but they sure are useful particularly for workwear where you want / need to carry a little more authority.
Autumn has a very bright, vibrant orange that you might on first glance assume belongs to Spring but it’s definitely an Autumn colour. It’s like Summer’s primrose yellow in that I’ve never recommended it to someone as a head-to-toe colour but it is useful for accessories and in prints.
When we think of Spring we usually think of the bright, warm, splashy tropical colours; coral, warm reds, turquoise, warm bright greens such as apple and leaf green. Spring actually has a fair few lighter and more neutral colours such as cream, peach, and warm grey.
It’s easy to forget that the bright seasons have colours that aren’t typically ‘bright’ (pastels for Spring, icy pastels for Winter). I like Spring best when neutrals are paired with the bright, splashy colours. Too many brights and it can look a little overdone.
Spring is closely associated with tan but has a very useful chocolate brown too; a very useful neutral for bags, trousers and shoes.
I visited Matalan a while back on the hunt for some more leggings (the search is endless, I swear), and couldn’t resist some more style experimentation. I took some photos… Are you ready for this? Brace yourselves…
I’m sure you’ll be relieved to know that none of these outfits made it home. I showed these photos to friends recently, and their replies were not repeatable in polite company. One of my friends commented on the consistency of my style usually, so these clothes are a stark contrast to my usual Summer Ingénue Natural look. I imagine a Winter / Bright Spring Dramatic would look good in these. They are pretty much exactly what I shouldn’t be wearing; mostly Winter colours with a little Spring, Dramatic style, large scale, heels. For the sake of completeness and contrast, here’s what I usually wear if I’m going out to something that requires a smarter look…
So there you have it! When I’m next out shopping, who knows, I might experiment some more 😉
Excellent question. I’ll start by answering first who it ISN’T for.
It’s not for you if:
You are completely invested in the colours and make-up you already wear and you wouldn’t consider changing them. I hasten to add, this isn’t the same as having favourite colours and wanting to wear them regardless of the outcome. Chances are (as I’ve seen again and again), if there is a colour you particularly love it’s almost certainly in your palette (I’ve yet to see this NOT be the case). Even if your favourite colour isn’t in your final palette you can still wear it! Of course you can. These are very much guidelines, not rules. You can do as much or as little with the advice I give as you like. In addition, you don’t have to wear every colour in your palette if you don’t want to. As a Summer I have some beautiful shades of pink in my palette but I feel apprehensive about wearing them because it feels vulnerable to do so. That’s totally okay. You don’t have to love every colour, although chances are you’ll fall in love with them when you see what they do for you.
You’re going to give yourself a hard time afterwards if 100% of your wardrobe isn’t already compliant. (See previous comment about my advice being guidelines, not rules!) Self-compassion is where it all begins. Be kind to yourself.
You have plenty of money and enjoy shopping and the thrill of a new buy and don’t mind wearing something once and then getting rid of it. You’d rather buy something (even if it doesn’t particularly suit you) rather than return home empty-handed.
Keeping up with trends is uber-important and you don’t care whether what’s in suits you or not.
You don’t think your dyed hair really suits you, but you wouldn’t change it anyway. The problem with this is that even if you’re wearing all the right colours in your clothing, your hair will still throw the whole show off, and in quite a big way given it’s right next to your face all of the time.
You can’t think of how you could apply the information you’ll be given to your life. If you’re not interested in applying what you’ve learnt to your hair, make-up or clothing then there’s probably little point in you spending money on a colour analysis session.
It’s for you if:
You’re curious and ready to experiment with what you wear.
You enjoy shopping but you’d like to refine the process so you can see more quickly what might work for you.
You don’t enjoy shopping and you’d like to be quicker and more efficient at it.
You would quite like to dye your hair, but you want to be sure that the shade you choose suits you.
You’ve long since suspected that some colours suit you whilst others don’t but you don’t know why.
You feel like you wear 20% of your wardrobe 80% of the time.
You understand that despite the outcome of the colour analysis session, you are still free to wear your favourite dress / shoes / top even if it isn’t in your palette. I’m not the fashion / colour / style police!
I understand that some are apprehensive about having their colours done. I am very sincere and serious when I say I wouldn’t want to drape anyone who didn’t want it done with one exception – my husband – whom I bribed with beer and he was quite happy with this arrangement (turns out he was an Autumn as I suspected, and had been wearing and buying the right colours all along). If you’re still having trouble deciding, you might find my previous post, ‘The difficulty in explaining colour analysis’, useful.
The number one intended outcome of a personal colour analysis is to appear ‘in focus’. As an analyst it’s the thing I look for when I’m going through the final few drapes having decided upon a season. If, with the drapes and corresponding make-up my client doesn’t look ‘in focus’ then I’ve most definitely done something […]