Without a framework or theory for which colours suit a person, how on earth do I style people? It’s actually really straightforward. By trying it on.
Most women of my generation understand what ‘having your colours done’ means. It was hugely popular in the 1980’s and is still used today as the basis of many an image consultation. During a colour analysis session you are advised on the most complimentary colours of clothing based on your make up free skin tone, natural hair shade and eye colour. It may also include advice on make-up choices too, such as shades of foundation, eye shadow and lipsticks.
Sounds like a great way to reduce the stress of wondering whether something truly does suit you or not. No more conundrums to solve of whether it should be baby blue or azure blue. Cream or white? All that hard decision work done for you and you leave armed with a colour swatch pad, confident that you are a cool summer, warm winter or any half-variety combination in between.
But I’m a non-believer and here’s why.
Our skin tone changes with exposure to the sun. I can’t wait for mine to take on even a half shade of colour. The lack of sunshine this winter has meant that my skin has become luminous white rather than just pale and it’s not a look I’m enjoying! Even my trusty St Tropez fake tan for the face isn’t quite enough for this extended winter. It’s not just the sun that alters the shade of our skin age does too. After the age of thirty we produce less melanin, the skins colour producer plus that delightful change that hits us during menopause when our skin starts to thin and become more transparent than it once was. This means that more blue hues are present and that’s quite a shift in your base skin tone.
Your hair also changes colour as we age, you may choose to dye it, highlight it and maybe you already do. Perhaps you wear your hair bright pink and why not! Maybe you change it throughout the year. With my all over hair tint I go slightly lighter in the winter and a shade darker in the summer to offset the changes in my skin tone.
The light around you changes. Seriously. It’s not hocus pocus. It has an influence on how we see colour. I’m talking about how the natural light from outside in both summer and winter changes (something to do with the length and frequency of the waves but I’m no scientist). Our perception of our own colouring, and those we choose to wear, also changes with natural lighting and artificial lighting. We all know this, but often forget when trying on our clothes at home.
There is also the effect of the colours around you, as these bounce and influence how we see colour. Have you ever sat in one of those photo booths for instant passport photos and you can change the colour of the curtain behind you? It’s deliberate that the little curtains are blue and orange. The blue one throws a cooling filter effect around you and the orange one is a warm filter. They influence the light around you, it’s not just a different colour behind your head. Recently, I was helping one of my male clients in a very moody and masculine coloured changing room. I’m sure those colours and lighting were created to enhance definition in men’s muscles and jaw lines. I can assure you it’s not a good look for a woman. My face looked more like a pale skull with harsh angular lines. I found myself swiftly back on the shop floor on the pretense of needing to pick up one more thing for him to try on, whilst franticly checking the mirrors there to see if I had forgotten to put any foundation on that morning or was about to become gravely ill! Reassuringly I found I did not look like I was at deaths door, but I still put on an extra swipe of lipstick for reassurance! So, if you have ever looked in a different mirror to your own one at home and thought ‘ugh! What happened?’ it’s every chance that it’s the colours around you as well as the lighting.
Without a framework or theory for which colours suit a person, how on earth do I style people? It’s actually really straightforward. By trying it on. Our first reaction is the one to trust. You can even try some of this yourself. Pick a dozen or more colours from your wardrobe and either hold them up to your face or try them on. Note which ones make your eyes sparkle and your skin look most radiant. Some will stand out and really lift you; some will drain you and make you look sallow. Some will do neither. The ones that lift you are ideal to wear as you are now. Those that are mediocre will work when you alter your skin tone slightly, either with makeup or more/less tan. Those that make you look sallow – should only be worn with an accessory to lift them or time to part ways and dispose of responsibly.
There is a whole other level to be considered too, the shape of the neckline, which is the frame for your face, the fabric and the fit of the actual garment itself. No matter which shade of whatever colour you wear, if the neckline is wrong, the fabric is of poor quality or not your style DNA (not many of us can wear high shine anything without looking tacky). Or if the fit is not your style, colour alone will not make you look radiant or feel great about your choice.
In summary, it’s not about building a wardrobe around specific predetermined colours, it’s about building a wardrobe that you can adapt as your colours do. Knowing what you need to switch around or add to make it work on that day.