After my Fashion Rant of a few weeks ago, I started getting interested in clothes and styles again – I’ve run across a few fashion blogs and informational sites I like, and will post links to them soon. Going along with the whole Finding Clothes That Suit Me deal is finding them in the right C O L O R S.
Remember the Color Me Beautiful book from the 80s? I had one, you (or your mother, depending on how old you are) had one, everyone had one. I loved the idea that there were colors that suited me, that made me look great.
I was pretty sure which season I was, too. Pretty sure. I mean, I knew I was not a Winter like my grandmother, and not an Autumn like my mother and sister, and two of my aunts. I knew there was a reason that the sage green dress my mother kept trying to buy me was awful on me and stunning on my redheaded sister. Both silver and gold look fine on me, neither one being noticeably better. And my dark blonde hair is really neither warm nor cool, although when I have colored it from time to time, I’ve found that “Light Ash Brown” is an utter disaster and “Dark Golden Blonde” is only marginally better. “Medium Neutral Blonde” looks like my teenage hair color.
The Spring palette seemed the most right. At one point, I lived off the printed color swatches of “my season,” attempting everything on the page. I couldn’t figure out, though, why certain colors that were supposed to be for me didn’t work – and why certain other colors, which didn’t seem to be in my swatches, did. And I wondered why my favorite tops, the ones that happened to be in “my colors,” looked so great with black pants, when black was not supposed to harmonize with my colors.
Huh. Go figure. I mean, I was a Spring. I should be wearing Golden Yellow, Pale Violet, and Peach. But they never worked. The paler colors in my palette, and the yellower ones, made me look like I was recovering from a particularly enervating surgical intervention. (Trust me, I’ve had two cesarean sections and one gallbladder removal, and the aftermath was fairly hellish on my complexion.)
Ivory looked great. So did Turquoise, Aqua, and Teal. So did Watermelon, Bright Warm Pink, Tomato Red, Deep Coral, and Light Rust. So did Spring Green, Camel, Deep Periwinkle, and Bright Navy.
Turns out there have been some tweaks to the old four-seasons model: one new scheme has six seasons, and one has twelve. The twelve-season model seems to make the most sense to me, since it starts with the four basic seasons and then further divides them into three sections, like this:
Clear Winter Deep Winter Cool Winter
Clear Spring Light Spring Warm Spring
Soft Summer Light Summer Cool Summer
Soft Autumn Deep Autumn Warm Autumn
After reading descriptions, it appears that I’m a Clear Spring, with hair and skin tones more neutral than warm (but more warm than cool). It’s no wonder that the Golden Yellow and Pale Peach looked so awful on me – they’re Warm Spring and Light Spring colors, respectively. And Clear Springs can add Black to their swatch list! I still don’t want it near my face, but the fact is that it looks great with the rest of my swatches, so I don’t have to drive myself crazy finding the right shade of camel or tan…
Which is horribly difficult, by the way, since Spring colors are among the toughest to find in commercial fashion. Camel is supposedly hot right now, but I haven’t found any garment I want in that shade yet. I’d love a nice wool skirt… sigh.
It’s funny how these seasons run in families, or maybe it’s not so surprising. As I mentioned before, my mother and sister are both Warm Autumns, and both my dad and brother are Springs too (Dad’s a Light Spring and Little Bro’s a Warm Spring – the boy can rock a bright olive green polo like nobody’s business). And in my own family, The CEO and Gaze are Light Summers who look smashing in pale blue oxford shirts, while Bookworm, strawberry blonde like her uncle, is a Warm Spring, and Taz has exactly my own coloring.
It might be even funnier – or sadder – when seasonal colors clash within a family. For example, my mother’s mother, who lived with my parents from the time I was six months old until she died (I was 38), was a Cool Winter, at home in gray and magenta and bright red. Family story: there wasn’t much money in that family when my mother was growing up, and for Christmas her senior year of high school, all Mom wanted was a new winter coat. My grandmother – working two jobs as a single mother, and taking care of her own elderly parents – laid away the prettiest coat she could find at the nice clothing store downtown, and paid it off in nickels and dimes and crumpled dollar bills, a little at a time. She brought it home in a box, wrapped it up, put it under the tree.
Now, you have to understand a few other things here too: Sarah Lou, my grandmother, was always a big Gift Person. Loved to make them, buy them, give them, get them, talk about them, show them off… any gift, big or small, expensive or not. Was crushed if you didn’t like the gift she gave you. (She could come up with some real weirdies, too – my sister and I both got transistor radios shaped like cheeseburgers once as Christmas gifts, and once she gave Taz and Gaze leopard-print blankets. The afghans she crocheted herself were much more popular.) Furthermore, Sarah Lou was a Frills-n-Ruffles person: buttons, sequins, feathers, godets, jabots, faux jewels, lace, the more the better. Remember the Juicy Couture Couture-Couture bottle? She’d have loved it. While my mother, Ann, is a Tailored person: plain, streamlined, pearls-and-sheath-dresses and the like suit her style.
So. Christmas morning, 1957. Picture it: Sarah Lou sitting on the couch in her robe and slippers, atwitter with excitement as Ann picks up the box with the prettiest winter coat in the world in it. Ann hoping for a winter coat and thinking brown wool would be nice. The box is opened to reveal… a deep royal purple velvet coat, with lavish passementerie trim and diamante buttons. Sarah Lou, smiling, clapping hands, says, ” Isn’t it beautiful?” Ann, recognizing how much labor it had taken to purchase that coat, but miserable and trying not to cry, “Oh, Mother…”
The first coat Ann picked out for herself, with proceeds from her post-college teaching job, was a very plain, single-breasted, olive-green wool tweed with fabric-covered buttons. She wore it for years. Sarah Lou got that purple coat back, and she wore it for years. I have vivid memories of them going to church together, side by side, purple velvet and olive tweed.
Colors matter, don’t they? You bet they do.
Here are some links to color analysis sites:
Color Me Beautiful, the original Carole Jackson format
Flow Seasonal Analysis (12 seasons)
Pretty Your World (more 12-season Flow)
A Woman for All Seasons (6 seasons)
I may, if I have time, come back and post examples of the colors I’m talking about. It may be futile, though, since monitors don’t show colors very accurately. (Witness the “deep rose” cashmere sweater my Autumn sister bought online at Old Navy last year, checking the online swatch against her wrist and deeming it to be more of a “rosy brick” color, one she could wear. It turned out to be a deep blue-pink, a Soft Summer color that aged my sister a good twenty years all on its own. The sweater looks great on The CEO’s mom, who is, you guessed it, a Soft Summer, comfortable in dusty pink, blue-grey and burgundy.)