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Seasonal Color Analysis (CMB)

I learned about seasonal color theory when I was a girl, and I think it’s a great place to start working out your best (and worst) colors.   The original Color Me Beautiful, although it had its faults (aka all women-of-color are Winters – NOT) had a good solid basic platform to build on.

Start there.

And then you pick up Zyla and narrow your colors down using your own eyes/hair/skin.   Yes – you want to narrow down your best colors.  Every color in your seasonal palette is not going to give you maximum flattery.

The problem with the sequels (not by the same author) of the original CMB is that they tried to narrow down the seasons into certain breakouts, but those were still much too one-size-fits-all.

Here’s how you do this.   This is what I do with my clients:

  1. Get in good lighting with some color swatches.  “Good light” means natural daylight, preferably indirect.   [Bad lighting = bad analysis]
  2. Hold up said swatches in families and pick out the ones that really work and the ones that really don’t.   (I purposely pick colors that look awful on anyone who *isn’t* part of that season).
  3. Keep narrowing down until you figure out whether say, magenta or coral, pumpkin or dusty rose is the color of pink that makes you look best.
  4. “Best” does NOT mean the color you happen to like best, it means the color that makes your skin look brightest/smoothest, your eyes sparkle, your entire self come together as one.   If you are seeing mostly the color and not you, that color is not YOUR best color.

Okay, now look those colors up.   At least five of them.   You’ll find them in one or two seasons.   When you get stuck between two seasons, find the most different colors in that season (NOT the most similar) and try them out until you get things sorted.

Et voila.   You have your season.

So, why do you want one of those things?

  1. Knowledge is power.   It gives you a starting point.
  2. All the colors in the seasons go together – so if you put together a wardrobe from one season of colors, the items in your closet will work together.  No more “ugh – this purple is jarring with that grey, and I don’t know why”.

But – I look good in colors from more than one season!

Yes, most of us do.  I wear a few greens and blues from Summer, and when I’m tan, I can reach a tiny way into Autumn for the odd bit of purple.   That’s fine.  I know I’m borrowing – and I’m still a Spring.

But I don’t look good in all the colors in my season!

Nope.   Me either.   Some of the colors are too bright or too pale for me.   If I adjust their intensity or level of pigment, I can wear them – but as is?  No.   Again, this is totally normal, and that’s why the season is a starting place, not the finish line.  *But you have to have a starting place*.

Next you’re going to start rummaging through your Zyla.   This is *very strongly* meant to be taken with an artist’s eye – the suggestion of crimson in a brown eye, for instance.   This is where you can narrow down your good colors into your amazing colors.

Example:  My “white” is ivory.   That’s a great place for me to start.   My *amazingperfectswooning* “white” is a pink-ivory the color of pearls.   A great yellow for me is buttercream – which is three sneezes away from ivory, and not at all what you’d think of as “yellow”.  Where did I get those colors?   A very careful analysis of my eyes and skin.   Ivory is great, and I can usually find ivory.  It’s a basic.   I seldom see the other colors – but I know them, I have them in my mental file, and when I see them, I take the opportunity to add them to my closet.   I know they’re not as common as regular ivory.

After that, you need to look at the intensity of the contrast in your current (and natural, if different) skin/hair eyes, and in the intensity of your personality and persona.   If you’re selling things, you need to have a higher color value to your wardrobe than if your twin sister was a counselor.

And then… you’ve got a short list of GREAT colors, a longer list of good colors, a few “it works” colors, and a whole bunch of colors to avoid.  That makes shopping and wardrobe planning easier – if mustard is in, and you’re not an Autumn, you can teach yourself to not-see it.  Target acquisition – no distractions.

I hope this explanation helped you out.   I’m always glad to do the analysis for you if you want an expert – color is one of my great passions.   Drop me a line if you’re interested.

Examples here:

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[By the way, resistors-of-color theory, you know who believes in this stuff?   Costume designers for TV and movies.   They use it skillfully to beautify or dull-down their characters, as well as to evoke emotional response.     Start looking for it and you’ll see it all over the place.  It’s a fun thing to do if you’re caught watching a movie you find boring. ]

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Zyla’s System of Color

I like David Zyla’s system of color well enough to recommend his book to my readers, and use the reference of the hands and fingertips on my clients.   In short, it tells you that the colors found in your own skin, hair, and eyes are your personal best colors, and it takes the four-season system of color a step further.  This is good stuff.

There are, however, limitations.   And the biggest one is that you have to use a little creative license with those colors!  It helps a very great deal if you’re someone who can really see color, and extrapolate corresponding “right” colors from what’s on the paper.

Here’s a picture of my eye:

DSC07218

According to Zyla, the ring around my iris is my “first base” – the color I should wear when I want to be most forceful, taken most seriously.  My version of black.

This is a lovely color.   Very soothing.   I wear this color… but it’s not “my black”.   That’s bright navy.

Why would I choose navy over teal?

  1. Navy has a more powerful connotation for the viewer than does teal.  It’s not black – but I look terrible in black.  The cultural and emotional connotations of dark blue include reliability and professionalism – the same kind of connotations that black has.  It’s not as expected as black (which I view as a plus) but it is “understood” as a serious color, worn on serious occasions.
  2. My eyes, seen from a distance, look like they have more of a dark blue ring – especially if I wear blue, which I do often.
  3. Although Zyla thinks that the teal should make me feel most clarified, it just doesn’t.  That’s a great color for me to feel relaxed, like myself, and chill.

Another theory of Zyla’s is that you can find your best basic light color (aka white) from your skin.    Here’s my hand:

DSC07219

The color that blends everything together would be a soft golden peach.   And that’s a fine color on me – in lingerie.   In *anything* else, it looks incredibly blah.  It blends so well with my skin tone that I might as well be wearing a paper bag.  Yawn-city.    My “white” is actually ivory, preferably an ivory with a very golden or pink cast.

What’s going on here?

I think it’s that David Zyla, as a creative with an incredible eye for color, assumes that his audience has that same eye.   But in my experience, many folks just don’t.   The ability of humans to see fine variations in color varies.  (There are online color sight tests if you’re interested in this).

I learned a great deal from his book, I narrowed down my Spring color scheme and nailed a few bits of color psychology to the ground that have been extremely helpful.  (I use his “relaxing” colors quite often to pick soft greens and muted aquas, for instance).  I think others can, likewise, gain a great deal from his work.

But it’s only a piece of the puzzle.

Read his book, think it over, add it to the pile of information in your head…. what do you know about you?   What do you want to say about you?  It all works together.