For those of you who are new to this site, I’m also writing over at hearthroseramblings.wordpress.com if you’re interested in the intersection of Christianity and style, and I just put my second book out into the world for the same audience: Beauty Destroys the Beast.
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.
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:
- Get in good lighting with some color swatches. “Good light” means natural daylight, preferably indirect. [Bad lighting = bad analysis]
- 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).
- 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.
- “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?
- Knowledge is power. It gives you a starting point.
- 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.
[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. ]
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:
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?
- 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.
- 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.
- 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:
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.
I’ve been instagramming most of my outfits for the last few weeks. It’s been an interesting experience.
I know how to dress myself. Obviously. I’m an image consultant. It’s my job. But even so, as my body changes and I work through the changes in my lifestyle, my style is changing. The mirror is great, but when you look in the mirror, your eyes go where you’re used to having them go. They focus on your favorites, they focus on your flaws, and they ignore the big picture. Can’t see the forest for the trees.
When you look at a photograph, you see the whole you. Just the way OTHER people see you. It’s a huge correction!
Well, with picture after picture of my outfits, I have some data to work with to adjust my reality. Here are my two favorite looks for this month:
One of my great temptations is always to just play it safe. But “safe” is NOT my best look. “Classic” is not a descriptor for my style. Those outfits are super boring – and not me at all. I am also frequently tempted by white shirts – this experiment has been most revealing in that regard. Light colors go on the BOTTOM. This is not a fashion rule that I get to break.
Body changes are a thing here – as I lose weight, I can rock a pencil skirt – at least if it’s a wrap skirt with a diagonal line. Bold jewelry > delicate jewelry. (This is much more apparent in photographs than in the mirror). And that side braid? It’s my best hairstyle. (Again, it’s working to break up the line of my wide, square shoulders).
As I lose weight, however, it becomes progressively more apparent that my shoulders show the hard work I do at the gym. I have a *lot* of torso, and not only do I look better with my shirts tucked in, but I look better still with a topper over my shirt. That said, no blocky boxy toppers for me, I need something fitted. Long toppers are a *win*.
It took quite a bit of data to come up with these conclusions. And meanwhile, I have the clothes that I have – I’m not weeding right now. HOWEVER – this is one of the benefits to being in transition. Intermediate Amy is NOT the final product, and I’m learning lessons that will end up in my closet at the end of the game.
If you’re trying to figure out your style and work through some things, why not do the same thing? Take pictures of your outfits, and then look at them later, in aggregate, and see what stands out as “Nice, but not me”, “why did I do that?”, and “Yes Please”. Pictures don’t lie.
We all go through changes in our lives, some voluntary and some not. If you’re walking through a change and want to help yourself adjust to that change or make peace with it, changing your adornment can help you along.
Every day you through the process of getting dressed. You select the clothes and jewelry that seem the most “you” – from your mood (subconscious) to your mission (conscious), you’re reflecting who you are and what you’re up to today. So the first way in which you are making clothing work for you is that you use them to reframe your choices every morning.
The second way you support yourself is in your reflection and the small bits of yourself that you can see of yourself all the time. Even now as I type this, my peripheral vision allows me to see bits of me. Every time I get up and pass a reflective surface, I see the rest. Have I cared for myself today? What have I chosen to reflect to the world? That all comes back to me, and it reinforces the choices I’ve already made. It tells me who I am.
Every day, you tell a story about yourself, and every day you are your most attentive listener.
Please make your choices wisely. If you’d like to learn more about how you’re making those choices and what the language of clothes has to say about you to you, pick up my book, Wardrobe Communication.
Right now, I’m in a transitional stage. I’ve been working hard at the gym, harder at the plate, and I’ve lost 15lb. My next book is well on its way to completion. I’ve been spending less time at home, more time at my office job. I’m not where I am going – yet – but I’m not where I was.
I had to go shopping. Half my wardrobe was hanging from me like a potato sack. As I shopped, I decided this next self would have a name – I’m calling her Intermediate Amy.
Intermediate Amy has the skills that Old Amy did not have – she’s willing to do marketing that Old Amy avoided. She’s stronger. She’s looking for opportunities to exercise the gifts that God has given her in new ways. She’s more confident.
She’s not yet New Amy, on a book tour or doing speaking engagements. But that’s what she’s looking towards, and working towards. She’s leaving behind what was before, and giving up the fear that it might sneak up and snatch her back to the beginning. Intermediate Amy is the Amy who is in the process of changing her life.
It’s probably just as well that she has new clothes to remind her of that, all potato sack situations aside.
If you’d like to make a new self and need some shopping help? You might note that Intermediate Amy got her wardrobe redone in two shopping trips, back to back. 1 nightgown, 2 yoga pants, 6 camisoles, four sweaters, five skirts, three blouses and a t-shirt, all of which go with the items that didn’t need to be purged, because she knows her colors… and since she is me, I’d love to give you the benefit of my expertise and save you time on your next shopping trip too! Need to reveal the self hidden inside? Need some help getting her the clothes she needs? Drop me a line and we’ll get to work.
We are all ambassadors.
For whatever group we belong to, be that family or work, faith or hobby – we are its ambassadors.
That fact makes everyone uncomfortable. After all, no one wants to be on display all the time, and ambassadors are held to a very high standard. In the modern world, we tend to want to be “just us” – whatever that means. If nothing else, one is always an ambassador for oneself!
We’ve been trained by decades of entertainment in flickering blue screens, of seeing our representatives (of faith, city, country, etc) more often on those screens than in person to think of life-as-fishbowl. We are the observers, not the observed. We sit outside and watch… but we are not-to-be-seen. After all, if we’re not on camera, what we say or do is private – right? This has led us to vastly decreased standards of personal style – and an attitude of “don’t judge me”.
When you go out in public, you *are* seen. You’re seen by people who you might want to befriend, be employed by, or date. You’re seen by people who learn to think of your hobby by how you treat others. You represent your immediate family members – how many times have you heard the trope of being embarrassed by one’s mother?
And perhaps most of all, you are a representative of your faith. Faith is contentious in these times, and stereotypes abound. I’m a conservative Christian – what do you think of, when you hear those words? Do you think of someone who loves clothing, who loves beauty, who loves art? Probably not. But I am all of those things. And I know that I am an ambassador, whether or not I am adequate in the position, I have to walk it.
If thinking of yourself in these ways makes you uncomfortable – you’re human. If you’d like to get better at representing and you need “how-to”, please see my book, Wardrobe Communication. If you need a bit more “why” to get you off the couch and into your closet, my second book, Beauty Destroys the Beast will be out soon.
And as always, if you’d like a consultation, drop me a line – I’d love to work with you.
- Do you think beauty can change the world?
- If you do, are you willing to be part of that change?
It is good that there is beauty in this world.
I was admiring a picture of a stained-glass room this morning. Absolutely stunning.
I don’t need to own that room to receive value from it. I can know that it exists. I can see it.. maybe one day in person. It pleases me, to know that someone has made this beauty.
Beauty is worthy. It is, all by itself. When we create beauty, we do good. When we participate in beauty, we contribute.
I believe that the world at large has lost this truth, that everyone has the opportunity to participate in beauty. They think they don’t have the capability, or that they don’t need to come alongside, because others can carry the weight. Or they simply don’t see the importance, because they so seldom see any kind of beauty-in-human-form outside the silver screen. But no one is simply an observer in life. One participates.
Perhaps they see themselves and don’t understand that there is more than one kind of beauty. It is not only stained glass patios that stun me. The majestic redwoods and rugged cliffs of the Lost Coast do the same. And what of a congregation, dressed in Easter finery? Can you say that this is not beauty?
Every day, we make a choice. We choose to make beauty or not.
What do you choose, today?
Coming soon… my new book, “Beauty Destroys the Beast” – if you liked this blog, you’ll love the book. Sometimes we all need to get a little “why” to help us start moving towards the “what”.
You just can’t dress too much like yourself. Oh sure. Situations. But … even so. You should always look like YOU in those situations, whatever they are.
I worry often about dressing just … too too. Too too sweet – am I becoming mutton dressing as lamb? Too too bohemian… do I look like I’m wearing a costume? But when I get compliments, that’s how I’m dressed. Not sensibly. Nope. Utterly insensibly like myself.
My two dearest friends could not look more unlike. One of them is tall and slender, and she looks amazing the more dystopian and punk she dresses. I have – no joke – seen her rake in compliments dressed in a plain black dress that she’d slept in the night before! (Do not try this at home). She currently has one side of her glorious mop of red curls shaved… and it made her look more like herself than ever. I keep trying to convince her to wear woad stripes.
The other friend has the delicate coloring of a Waterhouse mermaid – but her personal style runs classic Americana. A classic pair of boot-cut jeans, solid shoes and a tasteful sweater? Her grin stretches from ear to ear, she relaxes, and so do you. Calvin Klein is her designer of choice, and (her shades of ) red, white and blue are always favorites.
Do you have any idea how horrible I look in a plain black t-shirt dress? I assure you, if I were to wear one, you’d try to hospitalize me, not compliment me. And while my bestie can rock a sailor blouse, it’s too blocky and formal for me.
We are not meant to dress the same way. Praise the Lord, it is no longer 1970, and there is no reason to protest a department store because you hate the new hemline. You have freedom of choice! Yes. Styles go in and out, but there is so much leeway now – you can feel free to dress in the clothes that look best on you and not give a hang about what the latest trend might happen to be.
Yes, of course we have situational rules of dress. My dystopian friend should probably not wear distressed t-shirts to an office job (if one can imagine her in such a prison), but she certainly could dress like her version of David Bowie and be both appropriate and fabulous. My mermaid hates getting dressed up these days, but if she does – it’s not in five yards of lace. It’s more likely to be something understated and elegant.
Dress like YOURSELF. If it’s like you – the real you – do it. Take a chance. Push the envelope. See how it feels.
You only look like you’re wearing a costume when you’re trying to be someone you are not.
Successful hunt: Eshakti online. I’ve ordered two more dresses, having added a couple of inches to my shoulder-to-waist measurement, and they’re lovely. A great deal. You MUST know your colors and style lines to make this work – but if you do, you’ll have a good time. (Watch thy fabric content). Note: Necklines, hemlines, sleeves are usually changeable on their designs – so if you like something but wish it came a foot shorter/longer or wish it covered a bit more territory up top? Doable. Takes a couple of weeks to arrive. This is not Amazon. Price point? Entirely reasonable. I’m spending what I would normally spend on fabric and notions to make myself comparable clothing.
Continuing adventures: As an aesthete, I’m all about the full effect of my presentation, very much including how I smell. Unfortunately, regular perfumes and my body chemistry don’t get on. I’ve been searching for a signature fragrance for years. I’ve found a few almost-rans, but nothing that I fell in love with. And the esoteric scents that I love tend to be very difficult to sample – and sample I must.
I’ve been doing business off and on with BPAL, but they’ve gotten a bit *much* with the branding. And it takes a long time to get samples… one is never quite sure what you’re going to end up with. I loved one of the random samples they sent me (Paris), it’s darling – and it disappears in an hour. -sigh- But that was enough to send me on the hunt. Online, natch.
I found a new shop, loaded up my cart with $6 perfume samples (that’s about the standard price point for a sample vial in my experience), and am anxious to let you all know of a new source for perfumes. They have a million options on that site… hopefully I will fall in love. (Stay tuned).
I was bummed to find that Wintersilks has discontinued most of their daytime clothing, although I recommend them as a source for real silk underthings and nighties. Silk, if you are unaware, is a magnificent insulator. Well, stick to your strength – always a good move for any retailer.
Etsy is a marvelous place to get leather goods. Again – buyer be aware. One must examine the pictures closely and read the details. I just scored two vintage leather belts, and I spent no more than I’d have spent on pleather in the mall. They’re beautiful belts, and appear to have been barely worn.
Shopping online success? KNOW your colors and stick to them. KNOW your fabrics, or you’ll end up with trash. If it’s too cheap to be believed, … it is. KNOW your style lines and stay close. Online clothes shopping isn’t a good place to take chances, unless you’re really willing to send things back en masse – I hear this is popular, but I don’t have time for that nonsense. The dressing room remains the place to try wild new things – you should! – not the computer screen. (Call me old-fashioned if you will – I take it as a compliment). Utilize online review sites that aren’t the website itself if at all possible – the website can edit its reviews.