A Winter and a Summer :)

Photography: Carla Watkins I had the pleasure of draping two friends a couple of weekends ago, one of whom is a photographer, hence the brilliant photography! (Thank you Carla!) After an exciting morning we discovered that one was a glorious Winter and the other a super-pretty Summer. I see them both regularly and actually it’s hard (for me […]

My wedding

You’ll probably not be at all surprised to hear that my colour and style knowledge was immensely useful when it came to planning my wedding. As you know, I visited House of Colour back in 2010. You might not know that I got engaged in February 2012 and married in May 2014. Armed with my colour and […]

The Golden Globes

A friend of mine earlier this month alerted me to the Golden Globe awards and posted a link to an article containing all the red-carpet outfits. She asked me what I thought from a style and colour perspective and I couldn’t resist having a look. These undoubtedly beautiful women have access to the best designers in the business in addition to stylists and make-up artists. Despite this I often find myself thinking that the outfit they eventually decided upon could have suited them better.

I thought Rosie Huntington-Whiteley chose well. She is a woman who knows what colours suit her although I wonder if she’d gone for a soft silver instead of a soft gold whether that would have improved the look even more (perhaps, perhaps not). I imagine rose gold looks great on her. She’s almost certainly a Summer or Autumn who looks best in the softer shades. Notice that she’s a low-contrast woman in a low-contrast outfit, even her nails aren’t a distinct colour. This really works, she doesn’t look naked like some can when they are wearing a nude or nearly-nude shade. What do I mean by low-contrast? I mean that there isn’t a great variation (in terms of colour value) between the colour of her hair, eyes and skin. She has pale skin, light hair and pale green-blue eyes. An example of someone with high-contrast colouring would be Zoey Deschanel with her pale skin, dark hair and bright eyes.

Rosie Huntingdon-Whiteley

I thought Jennifer Lawrence chose well too. I’d have swapped the silver jewellery for gold because she appears to be wearing a warm red (which suits her) but otherwise it works. The dress is quirky, like she is.

Jennifer Lawrence

My favourite might just be Saoirse Ronan whose style I suspect isn’t a million miles from my own and who has an ethereal quality about her. What I like most about her outfit, apart from the harmony, is how different she looks to everyone else. She knows what suits her it would seem, and she’s sticking with it. I imagine there must be a fair bit of pressure on celebrities to wear the latest trends to seem current (remember that Stella McCartney bodycon dress Kate Winslet wore one year?). Saoirse did well to choose this dress.

Saoirse Ronan

Kate Winslet is an interesting one. The colour certainly seems right, it does nice things for her skin. I’ve always suspected she’s a Summer. I’m not completely sure about the style though, I’d like to see her in something with more movement in it.

Kate Winslet

I’m sure Amy Adams is a warm season. She carries that orange well. I’ve seen her look great in coral before now too. Excellent choice.

Amy Adams

Jenna Dewan-Tatum looks great. A great dress for a high-contrast woman. What’s telling about this dress I think is that despite it’s size and pattern my eyes are still drawn to Jenna’s face which tells me that she’s getting it right. She’s probably a Winter with those striking eyes, pale skin and near-black hair, and the cool dress flatters her.

Jenna Dewan-Tatum

I’m not sure about Julianne Moore. I think the dress is too cool for her. Her head looks disconnected from her body and she looks a little washed out. Style-wise I like it for her, but the colour isn’t right.

Julianne Moore

Black on Lady Gaga is too severe. Black is hard to wear at the best of times for most of the population, the velvet only increases black’s harshness as it absorbs the light. With the bleached hair and black eyeliner I don’t feel as though I can see her at all.

Lady Gaga

Olivia Palermo is a stunning woman but sadly this outfit is not. My eye is so confused. The cool fuchsia lipstick clashes with the gold necklace and the colours in the dress. The black eyeliner is demanding in a way eyeliner shouldn’t be.

Olivia Palermo

I love Lily James’s dress but for someone with such striking, contrasting features, it doesn’t work. Her head seems at odds with the rest of her.

Lily James

Another example of someone struggling with black, the high neckline really isn’t helping. Emilia Clarke isn’t a Winter. She looks like I do in black.

Emilia Clarke

I looked at Emmy Rossum for a long time and ended up Googling her before I could figure out what was going wrong. She looks like she could be a Winter but actually I think she’s a warm season, an Autumn who suits the deeper shades of the palette would be my guess. The silver jewellery and black eyeliner are jarring. I don’t like the straight hair or the straight lines of the dress. I nearly didn’t recognise her when I first stumbled on the photo.

Emmy Rossum

Lola Kirke looks a lot like a cool season wearing Autumn’s mustard. Look at the shadows on her face. The lippy suits her but not the dress.

Lola Kirke

Sarah Hay’s choice is a very interesting one. First off, I strongly suspect the dress would have looked better in pale gold than silver (on her). In addition, I find the style of the dress jarring. It’s pretty, delicate. The cleavage looks inappropriate. I suspect it’s a dress that would best suit an Ethereal Ingénue but would need some adjustment so it wasn’t so revealing.

Sarah Hay

Eva Green. Such a striking woman, but not in this dress. She looks positively unwell. The warm lipstick isn’t working and in that nude dress she looks like a floating head. As Vesper Lynd in Casino Royale she was pure Winter perfection.

Eva Green

These truly are all beautiful women, they just haven’t necessarily made the best choices for themselves. Before I had my colours and style done I’d have days where I’d look ill and put on extra make-up to compensate. I had no idea that khaki / black / lime was the culprit, not my health.

If you’re interested in seeing more red-carpet outfits you can find them all here: http://www.popsugar.co.uk/fashion/Golden-Globes-Red-Carpet-Dresses-2016-39742645?stream_view=1#photo-39742589.

Off-topic post: how I got rid of my acne

I hope you’ll forgive me for the off-topic post. I really wanted to share this information just in case someone finds it as life-changing as I did. If your skin is fine and you don’t get spotty then that’s awesome. There’s nothing for you here 🙂 Normal service will resume shortly.

Disclaimer: What I’m about to describe are the changes I made to my skincare routine which led to the demise of my acne. I’m telling you in the hope that this information might help you, but there’s no guarantee that it will.

The short story

After I stopped taking the combined contraceptive pill my teenage acne returned. I made the following changes and now I don’t have any spots at all 99% of the time (despite eating dairy / chocolate / junk when the mood takes me):

  • I switched to using bareMinerals make-up (more details below).
  • I switched to using the Oil Cleansing Method (jojoba oil as the carrier, I put a few drops of lavender oil on my chin on top of the jojoba).
  • I introduced an acid toner into my regime (I really rate Garnier PureActive Purifying Toner which contains 2% salicyclic acid).
  • If I’ve been wearing make-up or anything with SPF in it I wash my face twice, to ensure I’ve got rid of it all (I use a gentle cream cleaner first – Garnier’s Softening Cleansing Lotion – and then I use the Oil Cleansing Method).
  • I switched to using a non-comedogenic face moisturiser (La Roche Posay Effaclar Duo[+] is the winner in this category as far as I’m concerned).
  • Optional: I use (before putting moisturiser on my face) the bareMinerals Active Cell Renewal Night Serum. It pains me to say it as it’s not cheap, but this made a real difference to spots as well as skin tone so is worth the cost if you’ve tried everything else and you still get a few spots from time-to-time. Now my skin is clear 99% of the time. I would recommend, if you’re going to take the plunge, on getting this from bareMinerals directly so that if you don’t like it you can return it for a refund.

The long version

From the age of about 14 I started developing acne. I think it coincided with me starting to use foundation and moisturiser. Of course at the time I assumed it was hormones (and admittedly they will have had a part to play too). My Mum, who’d never had a spot in her life, introduced me to the foundation and face moisturiser she was using. At 18 my acne was considered bad enough that I was prescribed the pill. It took a long time for my body to adjust and I had to be patient. After 3 months on the pill my skin was so bad I returned to my GP who told me I just had to wait, and so I did. It took 2 years for my skin to clear. I stayed on the pill for a very long time (12 years). I couldn’t bear the thought of coming off it. My older sister also suffered with acne so I was under no illusion. I knew that the acne would return if I were to stop taking the pill.

After 12 years of being on the combined pill I decided, for health reasons, to come off it. The first three months were okay. I was very strict with my diet (no diary, nothing with a high GI, no junk food) but after that (and with the diet slipping) I started to get spotty again. Coming off the pill had its own set of benefits though (I think it was negatively affecting my mood, amongst other things) so I decided to tackle the spots in isolation.

At first I thought it was hormonal, except according to the interwebs I didn’t have any other symptoms associated with hormone imbalance. I tried to control my diet very very closely but completely avoiding dairy and sugar and wheat was very difficult. Whilst my diet did improve (and I did lose a bit of weight) it didn’t make a big difference to my spots. I did notice that some alcohol and certain types of dairy did cause them to flare up though so I avoided those.

bareMinerals

My friend (with PCOS and acne) introduced me to bareMinerals make-up. I switched to it and I noticed an improvement within a day. Prior to using bareMinerals when I removed my make-up at the end of the day my spots were red and angry and my face was inflamed. I just assumed hormones or pollution was to blame and I didn’t think much of it. I had been using the same foundation for 10 years so surely it couldn’t be that? I was wrong. I noticed that my spots were no longer angry when I used bareMinerals. I still had them, but my spots were definitely less irritated and red. The bareMinerals foundation I used also gave excellent coverage. The concealer brush was my saviour. Using the foundation powder as concealer meant I got a seamless finish. Staying power wasn’t great (top-ups needed during the day on chin and nose) but I stuck with it because I could see my skin was happier for using it and when I first applied it to my face the finish was excellent. I found that switching from the Flawless Application Face Brush to the Handy Buki Brush hugely improved the finish, ease of application and staying power.

The bareMinerals products I use daily are:

If you’d like more details on how exactly I apply these then leave me a comment below 🙂

With its limited shades the Get Started Complexion Kit will probably not contain the right foundation shade for you although it is the cheapest option. The Flawless Complexion Essentials Kit is pricey and contains more than you need (in my opinion). Having said that it’s cheaper than buying brushes and foundation individually so you might as well purchase this kit if you were interested in trying bareMinerals (you can always sell what you don’t want on eBay). Whilst I do really rate bareMinerals I imagine that any mineral foundation will have similar if not the same benefits.

Mineral foundation took a LOT of getting used to, I’d spent my whole life using liquid foundation. What moisturiser you use underneath a mineral foundation makes a difference to staying power and how it wears (more on face moisturisers later). I wasn’t used to using brushes. A lot of experimentation was required. I learnt that you can’t skimp on primer. If you do, the foundation can end up looking cakey. It’s also important to clean your brushes regularly so that the product goes on nicely and so you don’t introduce more bacteria to your face. You will absolutely need to get colour-matched in store before you buy your kit. Make sure when they put the foundation on you that you see it in different settings before you buy it so you can be sure it’s absolutely definitely the right shade. Don’t worry if they put too much on – in-store make-up artists often do, you can put much less on at home. It’s the shade match that’s important. I’m thrilled to say that bareMinerals understand the concept of cool and warm undertones which means they are much more likely to have the correct shade for you.

The Oil Cleansing Method

So without a doubt switching to bareMinerals made a difference. But I definitely still had spots, every single day, and sometimes they were hard to cover up depending on how bad they were. The same friend then introduced me to the Oil Cleansing Method (OCM) and that’s when I really did start to notice a difference. The OCM is where you use oils to cleanse your face (which you then wash off with a hot flannel or, in my case, a Emma Hardie face cleansing cloth). My friend was raving about it so I decided to give it a go. The oils weren’t expensive so I didn’t have a lot to lose and I had read on the Paula’s Choice website that the exfoliating wash I was using most mornings could be doing more harm than good. I switched to using the OCM and noticed another marked difference. There were days when I had no spots at all, although the trend was still that I had a couple of spots every few days (which would then leave a scar, to my frustration). I could tell it was right though, my skin was definitely happier, so I kept doing it. The oils I started off using were jojoba (safe to use neat all over your face and recommended for acne-prone skin) and then once I’d put the jojoba oil on (just a few drops applied with my fingers, massaged all over my face) I’d put a couple of drops of tea tree oil (see ‘The Final Piece of the Puzzle’ for why I wouldn’t recommend tea tree oil) on my chin where I was getting spotty (on top of the jojoba oil so it didn’t go on neat).

The Oil Cleansing Method has had some bad press. On the Internet there seems to be a clear divide between those that love it and those that complain it made their skin worse. What I did notice online was that those who complained it made their skin worse were using castor oil or something equally harsh. That struck me as rather risky from what I’d read about it, so I never included it in my regime.

Non-comedogenic face moisturiser

So, with the OCM and bareMinerals I was noticing a significant improvement to my skin. I then purchased ‘Spotless: The Essential Guide to Getting Rid of Spots and Acne‘ (highly recommended) which advised I use a non-comedogenic moisturiser on my face. I hadn’t given any thought to my moisturiser before (I’d been using the same one for YEARS) but decided to change it. I tried Neutrogena Visibly Clear Spot Stress Control Hydrating Spot TreatmentNeutrogena Visibly Clear Oil Free Moisturiser and La Roche Posay Effaclar H Soothing Moisturiser, all of which were good. Then I tried La Roche Posay Effaclar Duo[+] and was completely blown away. I can’t recommend it enough.

Acid toner

The next step in my skin improvement came after I stumbled upon Caroline Hirons’s fabulous blog (I’d highly recommend reading her acne cheat sheet) and from her I learned that I ought to try introducing an acid toner into my routine. I tried and loved the Garnier PureActive Purifying Toner and could tell it was making a big difference to my skin. In conjunction with the Effaclar Duo[+] moisturiser I could see (and feel) just how soft my skin had become. The texture of my skin improved too.

The final piece of the puzzle

Switching to a non-comedogenic face moisturiser made another marked improvement but I was still getting the occasional spot. The final piece of the puzzle slotted into place when I switched the tea tree oil in my oil cleansing routine to lavender oil. What a difference! I started using it over Christmas (2015) and despite eating utter junk not a single spot appeared. I was waiting for them to appear but they never did. I think the tea tree oil was just a bit too harsh for my skin. It’s very potent. Lavender oil is recommended for irritated / inflamed skin, insect bites and even cuts whereas tea tree oil shouldn’t be used on irritated skin at all. Lavender oil also smells nicer than tea tree so that’s another reason to use it!

The key thing I learned about acne is that it’s essentially inflamed skin. If you treat it as oily skin you just end up stripping your skin of its natural oils and your skin works hard to replenish them. If you treat your skin as inflamed / irritated skin and you take steps to reduce inflammation (such as eating more carefully and using products that don’t irritate your skin at all) you’ll find your skin responding positively (as opposed to rebelling).

The acne threshold (and how to stay below it)

I believe that everyone has an acne threshold. I believe that I was inadvertently pushing my skin closer to it (and beyond!) by using products that weren’t suited to my skin. Diet has a part to play too. Here are a list of things I think takes you closer to your breakout threshold, and a list of things that I believe helps keep you away from it.

Things that will take you closer to the break-out threshold

  • Sleeping in your make-up
  • Eating junk food
  • Eating anything rich in dairy
  • Face wipes
  • Stress
  • Alcohol (both in products that you use on your face and the alcohol that you drink)
  • Sugar
  • Pollution
  • Touching your face during the day
  • Picking spots
  • Drying skin out with soap or foaming cleansers
  • Washing with a rough flannel (they will irritate and cause inflammation, muslin cloths are considered better, I’m a huge fan of the Emma Hardie face cleansing cloths)
  • Harsh exfoliants (be nice to your skin!)
  • Hormones
  • Not having clean hands before you apply things to your face that require you to use your hands (e.g. moisturiser, foundation). You want clean hands, not the remains of your hair oil or body moisturiser (which might have mineral oil in, which will in turn cause spots)

Things that will steer you away from a break-out

  • Wash your flannel / muslin cloth daily
  • Low GL diet with plenty of fish
  • Drinking plenty of water (dehydrated skin is more prone to spots)
  • Use a separate hand towel to dry your face and wash it regularly
  • Wash your bedding regularly (particularly your pillowcase)
  • Use a toner with Salicylic acid in it (e.g. Garnier PureActive Purifying Toner)
  • Use non-comedogenic make-up (e.g. bareMinerals)
  • Wash make-up brushes regularly (I use the brush shampoo bareMinerals sell, a small bottle will literally last years)
  • Use non-comedogenic moisturiser (e.g. La Roche Posay Effaclar Duo[+])
  • Don’t use anything harsh on your skin (e.g. anything containing lots of alcohol or tea tree or witch hazel or sharp scrubby bits)
  • Cleanse your face twice a day
  • If you’ve been wearing make-up, you’ll need to double-cleanse

Summary

I understand that what worked for me might not work for everyone given we’re all different, but I’ve seen it work for others too so it’s certainly worth a go in my opinion, especially if you’ve been struggling for a while and have tried a lot of different lotions and potions as I had. My advice would be to try the Oil Cleansing Method (jojoba and lavender) first and a non-comedogenic face moisturiser. If that improves matters but your spots haven’t completely gone then it’s definitely time to look at your make-up and think about introducing an acid toner. It’s worth looking to see if you’re doing anything unwittingly that might be taking you closer to your breakout threshold. I highly, highly recommend the Emma Hardie face cleansing cloths, I do really believe that most flannels are too harsh for sensitive, acne-prone skin.

I have a beauty recommendations board on Pinterest if you’re interested. I only pin the products I really rate and could not live without:

I understand how much of an impact acne can have on confidence so I really hope this helps someone. It took me a long time to figure out what wasn’t working for me (I assumed it was diet, I didn’t think for a moment it might be my make-up or moisturiser). I do get spots very very occasionally, but thanks to my new regime they don’t last long at all, and thanks to the acid toner they don’t scar like they used to (and the scars fade very quickly). I couldn’t justifiably say now that I have acne. Most days I can’t claim to even have spots, I literally haven’t had any in weeks. I really hope, if you are suffering as I was, that this article might help you 🙂

The difficulty in explaining colour analysis

I was at a social gathering recently where I was put on the spot by the hostess, who asked me to explain colour analysis and my interest in it to a fellow party-goer and it got me thinking, because even now, still, I find colour analysis overwhelming to explain. It’s something, to my mind, that is relevant to everyone and beneficial to everyone. In addition, it sounds too good to be true. Not only does it sound too good to be true, but if the person I’m talking to is open-minded enough to believe what I’m saying there’s still an excellent chance I will be met with defensiveness, which often happens, and I will hastily add now that I completely understand the reasons for this.

In general, people worry about what other people think of them, and no-one relishes the prospect of being wrong, particularly when it comes to our own bodies and appearance. So often, when I explain what colour analysis is (and I’m not met with a look of incredulity) the next oft-cited phrase I might hear is loaded with insecurity and defensiveness. This is frustrating because it stems from a complete lack of understanding as to what a colour analyst does. We’re not the colour police or Trinny & Susannah, we’re not going to tell you off. We want to give you options, we want to make you happy, we want you to feel good in your own skin. Of course you can still go on wearing black / olive / lilac if it isn’t your best colour or even if it makes you look ill. We don’t judge because actually we truly understand that getting dressed, on a bad day, can be a surprisingly complex thing fraught with worry and there are plenty of reasons why you might choose not to wear your most flattering colours, all perfectly valid. We’re in the business we’re in because we want to help ease that angst, not because we’re smug about ‘getting it right’ and want to impose rules on you. And on the subject of insecurity, I think about how so many people, especially women, get sucked into the hype sold by the cosmetics and beauty industry (myself included) and how so little of these people know that by simply wearing the right colours (and by right I mean those that match your own colours in brightness and temperature) they can almost certainly skip the concealer.

As a colour analyst, what I want most is for you to have options. I want you to know your most flattering colours so that you can choose to wear them, or choose not to. Knowledge is power, knowledge is empowerment. Perhaps the opposite of empowerment is insecurity. Insecurity is a funny thing. Fashion and cosmetics companies play on it to sell us things. Insecurity is fundamentally a type of fear. I’ve yet to meet anyone who doesn’t fear judgement from others on some level (whether it be about how they look, or their competence at work, or their personality). They might admit it, they might not. It’s perfectly natural.

Colour analysis allows us to see you, not your hair, make-up or clothes. When the colours are right we see your bone structure, the shape of your lips, the line around your iris, the shape of your nose, I could go on. I understand that for some this might feel uncomfortable at first. Not everyone wants to be noticed for who they are, to be seen so clearly, but it is certainly beautiful to behold.

When I start to explain colour analysis, I hear a lot of the same comebacks. To those that say, “I already know what colours suit me” I want to reply “But don’t you want to know the formula? Don’t you want to know if there are colours out there that look amazing on you that you don’t already know about?”

To those that say, “I don’t want to be told what colours to wear” I would say “But we’re not, surely what you put on your body is entirely up to you? Aren’t you curious to know if there are some colours out there that really can make you look younger and your skin smoother and your eyes brighter?”

To those that say, “It makes no difference what colours people wear” I would say “But would you buy the first frame you found in the right size for a painting you’d bought? Didn’t think so. You’d pick a frame that looked harmonious with the painting.” We’re no different. We need ‘framing’ too.

terrible-frame
Ack. My eyes are so confused.
bad-frame
Could be better… There’s something a bit uncomfortable about this.
good-frame
I see the picture, not the frame. Just how it should be.

To those that say, “I don’t want to be told I’m doing it all wrong” I would say “I understand. Please, don’t worry. It doesn’t matter. No-one, least of all me, is going to judge you for what you turn up in.” Instead of fearing judgement or getting caught up in whether or not you’re ‘doing it wrong’ I just wish that people would relax, and breathe, and know that people are often so caught up in worrying about what others think of them that they’re not really looking at you at all. So often when someone turns up for an analysis they are fretting about their outfit and I often think how funny it is that they are so busy worrying about their own outfit that they’re not looking at mine and judging whether I’m practising what I preach and whether, based on my appearance, I’m worth the money they’re giving me.

When I’m asked to explain colour analysis and why it’s great, everything I’ve mentioned here runs through my head. It’s overwhelming. I feel a sense of great responsibility to impart what I know about it and why I think it could help someone and I often feel I fail to convey what I wanted to get across. I want to tell them how it changed my life. I want to tell them that now, every day, getting dressed is easy. Buying make-up is easy. I can put as much or as little effort into my outfit as I want and I’ll consistently feel comfortable leaving the house in it. I want to tell them that it wasn’t always this way. I want to tell them about the days when I’d leave the house hoping I wouldn’t bump into anyone I knew. I want to tell them how ugly I felt some days, the shame, the frustration of having a wardrobe full of clothes but nothing I felt I could put on and leave the house in. I want them to know that when I started wearing my colours I started to feel good about looking in the mirror, not anxious or shy. When someone asks me to explain what colour analysis is, perhaps I’ll just point them to this article instead 🙂

My Colour and Style Experiment

As you may have judged by the title of this post, it’s time for something a little bit different! I’m very excited to be writing about a colour and style experiment I did recently. For one day only I wore something completely different both style and colour-wise, in part to see if anyone noticed, and also to see how I felt.

I wanted my outfit to be believable. In fact, I wanted it to be something I could and would have quite plausibly worn before I had my colours and style done, so it was put together with much thought and with a little help from my style and colour-savvy friends.

Why did I do the experiment?

I had my colours done over 5 years ago and as a result I’m very used to wearing clothes that feel right for me and not really having to think about what I wear. It is completely liberating. It means I can think about clothes as little or as much as I want. It also means I dress very consistently. I dress true to my clothing personality and I always wear colours from the Summer palette (as a Deep Summer this means I wear a lot of navy, purple and sea green). I did this experiment because I wanted to remember how it felt to leave the house feeling insecure about my outfit. I remember frequently leaving the house for work hoping I wouldn’t have to deal with anyone that day because I didn’t feel comfortable in what I was wearing but I didn’t know what else to wear. When I think back to that time the memory of it leaves me feeling quite drained. I had to think about clothes a lot if I wanted to feel vaguely comfortable when leaving the house. I had a wardrobe full of clothes and nothing to wear. I rarely got it right, and it took me a long time to figure out what I was going to wear.

I did the experiment because I wanted to see how the people I interact with every day reacted to me dressing differently. Would they even notice? Generally speaking people don’t comment on my clothes and I think this is because when the clothes are right, people notice the person wearing them. I’ll admit that I was expecting to feel very uncomfortable all day, but I was pretty sure that no-one would notice or comment. Turns out I was quite wrong about that!

How would I describe my style usually?

Zyla’s tagline for his Sunset Summer archetype is ‘elegant bohemian’ and I think that phrase works well to describe me. I’d also describe my style as pretty, casual and a bit ethereal. I have a love of detail in clothes, anything plain is a bit of a turn-off for me. In House of Colour’s system I’m considered an ‘Ingénue Natural’. It’s a young, casual look. Here is my style board on Pinterest, to give you a better idea:

Here are four typical outfits that I wear both for work and during my leisure time. I don’t have a separate work wardrobe as I work behind-the-scenes in a technical capacity and my colleagues dress casually too. We don’t need to wear suits. Apologies for the low-quality nates 😉

typical-2

typical-3

typical-4

typical-1

What I chose to wear on my experiment day, and why

I was thankfully able to borrow clothes from friends so I didn’t have to go out and buy clothes in the wrong style and season! I opted for:

  • Wide leg black trousers
  • Heeled patent black shoes
  • A long jumper top in tan
  • A wooden bead necklace
  • A black patent belt

In terms of make-up I kept it minimal: navy mascara, a Summer blusher and an Autumn lipstick; mismatching on purpose because those who aren’t aware of colour analysis typically don’t manage to wear make-up belonging to the same season. I used to wear black mascara (Winter), a warm brown blusher (Autumn) and a neutral lipstick that, if swatched, would have belonged to Autumn.

I chose the black trousers and black shoes because I used to wear those all the time for work. Admittedly I didn’t used to wear a heel but I chose the shoe style because it’s not me at all, but of course they look great on my Winter Natural Romantic friend!

I chose an Autumn/Spring (crossover) top because warmth makes me look ill, and my past mistakes were Autumn. I wore a lot of khaki which I know now to be one of the worst colours I could have chosen because I have very cool undertones and khaki is a very warm colour.

The outfit

When I first tried the outfit on (in front of my colour and style-savvy friends) they pulled horrified faces. I asked them if it was ‘too much’ and they insisted it wasn’t. It was something I might have worn pre-style/colour analysis. It was also an outfit that someone might very plausibly put together if they didn’t have style and colour knowledge.

I asked them how it felt to look at me. They said I looked ill (that’ll be the warm brown jumper!) and that I looked like I was dressing up, perhaps to perform in a play or similar. In other words, not me at all. Like I was dressing as someone else. Their comments didn’t surprise me at all. I felt incredibly uncomfortable looking in the mirror. I could hardly bear to look at myself.

IMG_3889IMG_3890IMG_3894IMG_3895The belt made me feel very uncomfortable. I think it was very unflattering but it matched the shoes. I think I might have disliked the necklace most of all. I still struggle to explain why. I think it looks faintly ridiculous on me and yet I knew that someone else could wear the same outfit and look much better in it (ideally the trousers and shoes and belt would be brown, to match the Spring/Autumn jumper).

The day of the experiment

Getting dressed on the day I noticed I was unconsciously trying to fight it. I wanted to plait my hair rather than have it in a bun (like I used to) because I hate how the bun looks. I wore all my own make-up bar the Autumn lipstick which I borrowed from a friend. I had wanted to wear black mascara but couldn’t find any. Putting on my Summer blusher was just easier and conveniently clashed with the outfit.

I felt more excited than uncomfortable until I looked in the mirror. I just laughed at myself because the outfit seemed so ridiculous, but then I reminded myself how I felt before I had my colours and style done, and suddenly it didn’t seem very funny any more. I hated looking at myself in the mirror, I literally cringed every time. It really bought back memories, of days when I didn’t like what I was wearing and didn’t have anything else but had to go into work anyway (or call in sick). So I’d go to work and feel uncomfortable all day and hope I didn’t bump into anyone I knew.

I hated the noise of the shoes clip-clopping as I walked into work. I noticed I was having to walk slower. I confessed to my husband in the car on the way in that I was doing an experiment and he said (in relation to the outfit), “I don’t like it, it’s just meh. But it doesn’t look that out of the ordinary. No-one will notice.” I had to remove the shoes for driving. The impracticality of the heels drove me mad.

I hated walking down my corridor into work. I felt like the clip-clopping noise was attracting attention and my husband teased me about it. It made me realise I don’t usually make any noise as I walk because I wear flat shoes or boots.

My two (male) colleagues started commenting before I’d even sat at my desk.

“Oh my God who’s this?”

They just STARED at me, grinning. I couldn’t ignore them so I said “What?” and they replied “Can we have Janine back?”

One of them said “I don’t think I’ve ever seen you in trousers before.” I replied: “You haven’t.” I told them I was surprised that they even noticed what I was wearing.

They wouldn’t let up. Later in the day they said: “We’re suspicious, what’s going on? We’ve been talking about it.” I just smiled at them and they said “How did the interview go?”

I posted some photos of me in the outfit in a private group on Facebook for my friends to see. I didn’t tell them I was doing an experiment. Their reactions were really interesting.

“Wow – chuck the tunics girl!” one said.

“Ooooo very grown up… And omg!! your figure!!” said another.

But when I ‘fessed up they were relieved.

“I was quite surprised when I saw someone as expert in style as you, dressed up as someone else. You look ok. But you don’t feel ok. That’s the point. Innit?”

“I thought it was a bit 1980s”

“I think your awesome figure and the slim fitting top saves it, but I did think very classic and odd you in tan then got distracted by your figure so forgot about the colours.”

I made notes throughout the day:

“I can’t wait until the end of the day when I can take it off! Feel SO self-conscious. Looking in the mirror is SO uncomfortable, excruciating even. Dreading getting up from my desk to get water!”

“In order to get on with work today I’m going to have to try very hard to forget about what I’m wearing. It’s very distracting. I feel weirdly naked. Feels like a thought control experiment.”

“In the kitchen I bumped into someone I knew (female colleague). I noticed how distracted they were by my outfit. It felt awful to be looked up and down.”

“Outfit is tiring. Heels are tiring.”

After lunch I ‘fessed up to a colleague about the experiment, the one who kept asking me what was going on. I felt more comfortable after that but I still avoided getting up for water. When I told my colleague I was 6’ in heels he said to me: “Your legs are 5’11” long.” I thought that it was interesting that the outfit was causing people to notice my figure more. No wonder I felt naked.

My singing teacher gave the best response of the day. Before she’d even said goodbye to her last student she’d asked me if I was okay. As soon as they had left she turned to me and said:

“Really, what’s wrong? Are you okay?”

I assured her I was fine but she persisted.

“On a scale of 1 to 10, where are you?”

“Honestly, about an 8, I’m fine!” I insisted.

I had to tell her about the experiment before we’d even made it to her studio. When I said, “It’s okay, I’ll tell you, it’s fine honest!” she literally recoiled in horror and seemed genuinely worried. “I knew something was up!” she said. I told her about the experiment and she breathed a huge sigh of relief. “You look so stern!”

She’s very astute and sensitive so I’m not in any way surprised she noticed, but I was surprised by the intensity of her reaction. She said to me that I looked drawn, I told her that would be the colour of the jumper I was wearing. She paused, and then said, “Wow. I really think I should get my colours done.” Afterwards she said, “It’s not that the outfit is bad, it’s just that it’s not you at all. You look like you wouldn’t take any sh*t. I don’t like it. It freaks me out.” I thought how ironic it was that I looked intimidating to her when I had felt so self conscious all day. I thought she might actually like my outfit because it was more her style than mine but clearly I was very wrong.

When my friend and fellow student arrived after my lesson she looked me up and down and said, “What’s all this?” I had to laugh and confess as my teacher said “Thank God you’ve noticed!” I told my friend I was wearing the wrong style and colours for an experiment. “Thank God for that!” she said. “I knew something was up when I spotted the necklace!”

I will be very relieved not to be wearing the outfit again but I will admit that it prompted compliments from some which was a change for me because generally speaking I don’t get any at all. People notice me and not the clothes and of course I don’t usually wear anything quite so figure-hugging!

The experiment reiterated to me the importance of dressing for ourselves. There may be some people who prefer the tan and black outfit but I felt so uncomfortable in it and ultimately how you feel is what matters most.

I’m not surprised I felt so uncomfortable but I was surprised by the reactions I got. I would do something similar again but only in the name of fancy dress or another experiment to blog about. It made me feel very, very grateful for the colour and style knowledge that I have. It is amazing just how much of an impact one outfit can have.