The Winter Natural, The Natural Winter

May 15, 2015 | Body Line Analysis

Is this woman an Autumn or a Winter? Impossible to say without draping her, but either is certainly possible. 

Is this woman an Autumn or a Winter? Impossible to say without draping her, but either is certainly possible. 

Woman #1 walks in for her Total Package appointment (I always feel like I’m starting a guy walks into a bar joke when I tell these stories..). Long curly hair that’s very flattering to her face, a cute casual outfit, like maybe a vest over a t-shirt and jeans and short boots in perfect True Autumn colors. Except, she’s not True Autumn, or any kind of Autumn. From the minute I met her, experience has allowed me to see even in regular lighting with no comparison available yet that her face is being extremely sallowed by her clothing. I don’t know what her season is yet, but I know it’s probably going to come as a surprise to her. Later, the PCA process reveals that she is a Winter. If Dark Winter is the kind of Winter that she is, she will be comforted enough by the bit of earthiness in her palette and some of the surprisingly “Autumn” looking colors she sees in the Luxury Drapes that she will transition fairly easily.

However, if it’s True or Bright, we are going to have a struggle. She will tell me at least 10 times she always thought she was warmer (Right, me too, yellow skin does not equal warm, in fact quite often the opposite). The thought of wearing fuchsia has never crossed her mind, let alone putting it on her mouth. What’s going on here? As her mind races over lunch, I struggle not to be the cat that ate the canary. She’s a Natural (Yin or Yang, doesn’t matter much in this instance). She sees herself as carved wood and turquoise, and I’m telling her she’s platinum and diamonds. In a way, we are both right. The lines of her body have a very strong relationship to objects which possess an organic quality. Anything too pristine in design, too symmetrical in shape, looks awkward and forced on her. On the other hand, the colors she (and many, or even most people really) associates with the kinds of shapes that work for her (Autumn) make her look like she’s about to be ill, and perhaps like she hasn’t washed her face in some time.

5 Second Polyvore: True Winter Yin Natural

There’s always a way, but it’s not as obvious. It requires us to step back both from a rigid understanding of these  (or any) Seasons, and from a rigid understanding of these (or any) Image Archetypes. Understanding a category as something other than a stereotype requires more from us intellectually, in a similar way that harmonizing color to the whole fan requires more of us than “matching”. It feels more demanding, sometimes impossibly so, but it’s the only reliable path forward, any other is an illusion created by the Achilles heel of our human minds – their penchant for efficiency. The irony of all this, is that the Bright Winter Natural is not at all an uncommon creature. And there are plenty of clothes on the market for her pretty much all the time.

Woman #2 walks in. She wears her hair in a clean bob and carries a lady-like purse. Her outfit is black, or black and white, and of nice quality. She either believes herself to be a Winter or has just been dressing like one anyway, and the PCA reveals her to be one. Let’s say Bright or True for argument’s sake. She takes a big gulp and puts on the lipstick and is pretty okay with it after 15 minutes of mental adjustment. The big hurdle is yet to come (after lunch, of course).

The PIA portion of our time together starts, and as we go through, she notices I’m choosing a lot of B on her test, which may mean nothing depending on how deeply she’s researched this beforehand. Fitting her shoulders is always a problem. Maybe her arms are long and her legs are short. She’s telling me a story I’ve heard before, but she doesn’t yet know what book she’s reading from. She too, is a Natural. She is shocked. Woman #1 sat through all the draping decisions we made and saw them and agreed with them and still managed to think she’d be an Autumn somehow, and Woman #2 does much the same in the physical analysis, expects 2 and 2 to equal 5 and have her be the Classic she walked in believing herself to be. As a Winter woman myself, I think I can say we have a special way of deftly thinking our way around the obvious (inconvenient) conclusion. None of us see ourselves objectively, however, so it really doesn’t matter at what point we start to realize that a shift in perception is in order.

5 Second Polyvore: Dark Winter Yang Natural

This woman never felt quite right in her clothing, which she interprets as one of the following: 1. I’m doing it wrong (basically, I’m a Classic that just doesn’t really know how to be one) or 2. My body is wrong (basically, I’m a Classic with a “messed up” figure/face/proportion). On another day, we’ll talk about why it’s so easy to find ourselves deficient instead of just incorrectly informed. There is nothing wrong with Woman #2, she may be as traditionally beautiful as we might like to imagine and still will come to these same conclusions as often. She knows that her tidy hair feels awkward on her head, like someone else’s hair found it’s way there by accident. She knows that stiff blazers with high, tight armholes never fit her right and make her walk like she’s wearing a straight jacket. She also knows she loves simplicity, elegance, balance and a healthy dose of glamour. She is, after all, a Winter woman. She just needs to find a new way to express that part of her. She will never dress in a way that’s particularly rugged, or earthy. Rather than the Cowgirl or Gypsy image she fears and doesn’t relate to, this woman might cultivate an appearance that says something like “Museum Curator”, which respects her need for sophistication, glamour and elegance (Winter), but is also true to her need to appear more effortless, free-spirited, and artistic (Natural) in order to look normal and to remove the impression of a costume or contrivance of some kind.

5 Second Polyvore: Bright Winter Yin Natural


  1. It would be lovely to see some outfits for older bodies and for people who wear glasses. I was looking at necklaces yesterday, which would really make the outfit, but just seem like too much going on near the face with glasses. and I would hope women in their 60’s would not be wearing crotch high miniskirts. come on Rachel, help us out too!

    • Hi Rosanne! what did you have in mind? Is it a more bohemian look for an older Winter woman you’re looking for? I personally find the majority of outfits on the other 2 polyvores pretty flexible as far as the age of who could wear them very effectively. I confess, aging hippie is a look I struggle to put together in a way that doesn’t compromise the woman somehow. Not saying it can’t be done, but I guess it really has to be for a particular woman for me to feel like I know how to do it appropriately.

  2. Aside from the pants combo with the floppy cardigan, these look like they’d work equally well on a BW Yin Gamine. Am I right? Still struggling to master my style…

    • The two skirt separates look, with different accessories, surely. The wrap dresses, idk not my idea of YinG. I see her in something crisper. Some of the print elements are a little large scale as well, which depending on the YinG might need to be adjusted.

  3. I love this article! I would love to hear about and see even more examples of these unusual (or what we like to think of as unusual anyway) combinations.

    • Thanks Amber! I’ll keep that in mind 🙂 Working on bring more IA stuff to the blog 🙂

  4. This is so well written Rachel! You explain these things so well… I am sipping it! 🙂

    • Thanks, Mallorie, that really means a lot 🙂

  5. Rachel, I just love your blog and and am always thrilled to see when you have a new post! In today’s post, I’m trying to understand about yellow skin not being enhanced by wearing yellow-based color.

    Above, you mentioned of the gal who thought she was an Autumn,

    "she always thought she was warmer (Right, me too, yellow skin does not equal warm, in fact quite often the opposite)."

    Christine mentioned of another woman in her post –

    "Look how yellow her skin is compared to the other women. She actually needs to wear her Spring colours to not look yellower than her clothes."

    Is it based on whether the skin is a cool yellow vs. warm yellow? The cool yellow skin would glow beautifully in Winter’s fuchsia, and the warm yellow skin would glow beautifully in Spring’s yellow-based colors?

    Thank you!

    • That last bit is the clincher. We don’t know until we drape you if yellow is the natural character of your skin and how much. You could get some idea in neutral grey, or standing with bare chest and shoulders in front of the mirror in daylight (provided your hair is not dyed). Like many winter women, I have a very distinctly yellow overtone. This is true even in my colors, but warmer colors turn me much yellower than is normal, adding a sort of dirty windshield look to my skin. Spring would be almost suffocated by the cold of BW, the kind of look C was referencing in that article, where my skin rises to meet the drapes there. But point being, (and I know C has said this many times, just can’t recall exactly where just now) many MANY people who can see obvious yellow overtones to their skin will prove to be cool or cool neutral when we drape them. What the cosmetics companies call "undertone" is in fact, overtone. Only appropriate comparisons under correct lighting in the right environment can determine undertone.

      • Thank you so much, Rachel, for taking the time to explain the yellow skin tones issue!

  6. Ah, this is oh so true. I’m in the midst of this battle right now. I’d give anything for DW right now! It would make it so much easier. Being a TW, YangN seems too "larger than life," but honestly, as a winter, of course I’m up for the challenge. 😉 And I can SEE that TW works for me… it’s fresher and crisper, which makes sense… but you are so so right. I want to soften/rough up every look.

    • If anyone can make it happen, you can. 🙂 Maybe you’ll share some pictures with us when you’re ready… 😀

  7. Great post, really enjoyed it. I can’t get over what the Yin Natural looks like though. It looks quite (Yin) Classic to me. Is this really what it looks like? I always see polyvores and pinterest boards with lots of fringes and boho looks, very gypsy. This looks like what I wear to work (although not a BW!). If this is Yin N, then where does all the boho stuff go… is that actually more of a Romantic look? Or are they just different versions of the same thing?

    • This polyvore has waaaay too much design activity for Yin Classic. You can compare to my earlier post, The Lady in Real Life to see the TSp YinC I did earlier (even that is at the upper end of design activity for her), I think that will help clarify. The Classic style is always on some level going to be about restraint, so in many ways the Natural’s freedom is the polar opposite. Part of the reason I wrote this article is that one of the most common points of resistance for Ns is that "they’re not boho". Yes, most boho stuff is N (not all!), and I certainly am guilty of pinning a lot of it for them, probably because it appeals to me, and I guess because it’s an obvious expression of art and freedom, two very key concepts for Ns. If that were the whole style though, what would she wear to the office? To a funeral? An archetype must be open ended enough to give her options for her actual life, and in order to do so it must be organized by more abstract principles (like fit and attitude) rather than a very specific and narrow selection of design details (like fringe and paisley).

      • Rachel – thank you sooo much for this. I get it now.

  8. This is excellent! The more I read, the more examples I see, the more I get it. Thank you!

    More, please 🙂

  9. An excellant piece of writing on many levels, thank you! I am an aging female who been draped as both a deep winter and deep autumn in the past. I think that my yellow/ivory overtone has confused things maybe, that is why I why seen as autumn? Certainly I tried to live like that for the last 7 years, but had to avoid the very warm colours – browns and olives make me look hot and jaundiced beyond measure, and black has always been one of my best colours. The dark winter shades look too serious by comparison, I feel and look better with a little bright light in the mixing of the colours, if that makes sense? So, am now trying to live (self diagnosed as I live in UK) as a bright winter, somewhat tentatively at first. I am also a natural, which was why I found this so interesting, I am trained in textiles and design, but hard to see yourself even so! And yes, I did work in an art museum for a while too! A couple of layered T shirts and a pair of jean is really me, albeit with some bright and big, often sparkly jewellery and a great handbag. Seeing this look in pictures, with the bright winter has helped enormously, am going to go much more in this direction now. I wonder if the sparkle is the bright winter kicking in? One other comment – to the lady who wants more pics for older women – I am in my early sixties and would wear everything in the pics with this posting, apart from maybe the blue skating type skirt, which looks a little short. I feel that all these looks are appropriate at almost any age, as clothing is more about style and attitude than your date of birth.

  10. I’m a DW who is dithering between YinD and YangN. I’ve never been terribly drawn to ‘natural’ or boho looks which has always put me off exploring YangN properly. I don’t want to look like a woodsman, or a gypsy. But natural clothes look much more approachable in winter colours.

    Also, this was just freaky: "Rather than the Cowgirl or Gypsy image she fears and doesn’t relate to, this woman might cultivate an appearance that says something like "Museum Curator", which respects her need for sophistication, glamour and elegance (Winter)…"

    I actually am a museum curator, so… food for thought 🙂

  11. Interesting that there is also some yellow alongside the pink in the BW selection. I was told that because I could wear some saturated yellows, I must be an autumn – twice – by CMB. The fact that I can wear both some saturated yellows AND pinks, thats a new idea!

  12. Interesting, as always. I was wondering what you think of the lovely Jenna Coleman, who plays the current doctor who companion. On the show, her style resembles some type of gamine with a mix of yin natural. Do you think that wardrobe works for her? I always think it’s interesting to compare character clothes and the personal style of the actor. Do you think certain IAs siut certain characters better or could e.g. a yin gamine make a compelling evil villain? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

  13. Museum Curator – I love that!

  14. Thanks for this! I am a BW Yin N and this was very affirming to read. It made me laugh because I always have trouble finding coats in my size that fit my broad shoulders and ample chest.
    I suspected I was BW before I was draped, but I was conflicted about it. I knew that bright colors were my best, but I have a style that seems very opposite- sort of boho or sporty chic (yes, I live in Boulder, CO). I always buy jewelry and clothing that looks very natural: wood, antique and brushed metals, rough woven materials, heathered fabrics…but I never really felt I looked my best wearing these and I didn’t know why. I just thought I sucked honestly! After figuring out that I was a Yin N and being draped as a BW, I understood why I felt like I was at war; many of the Yin N suggestions directly contradict my BW suggestions. My analyst mentioned how I could wear shiny fabrics, sparkly stones and patent leather…and I think I may have actually cringed.
    I’ve been a Natural for a long time and BW is a new discovery. I guess it will take some getting used to. I love, love, love the bright colors, so the challenge will be finding the right colors in styles that I would wear.
    I’m just trying to find the sweet spot in the middle where I can look and feel my best, while still being true to my Natural style and my BW coloring. I suppose a style evolution is in order and I am rather looking forward to it. I need to find my own unique look, rather than repeating what I so often see around me. From the ash rises the phoenix, right?

    By the way, I would wear every item in your TW Yin N collection if they were in my colors!

  15. Thanks a lot for your inspiration!
    I am struggeling most in understanding the difference between yin natural and yang natural. Sometimes it feels like yang people of various IAs have more in common than yin and yang naturals. Yin natural often seems very romantic to me. It also seems like deciding between yin and yang is as important as choosing the right IA or the right season. Is that true?

  16. I’m quite late to this party, but I wanted to chime in and say how helpful this post was for me as well. I’m a Yang N, there really isn’t any way I was anything else, but I could never find a home in hippy/boho/gypsy looks. Just too cluttered. I’ve somewhat recently been typed as TW by one of your 12blueprints colleagues – and I was borderline DW, but the analyst told me that the white drape clinched it as TW. And, after a couple of years, I have to agree with her. I always thought white was deadly to me, but it turns out I just have to be very careful to get a true white – then I actually look good. Amazing! (Finally have come to terms with TW, it just took years and the right white shirt.)

    I was analyzed as an Autumn back in high school (vibrant autumn/high contrast or some such – the seasons had only vague subsets then) and the darker colors did look good (olive, in particular, was a great color for me in my teens and early twenties) but the lighter ones never did (old gold and oatmeal, deadly.) So for a long time I wrestled with natural label because I couldn’t really be anything else, but natural & autumn is just too crunchy-granola gypsy-caravan for me. Two decades later I was (somewhat) aware nothing Autumn was working anymore when I was typed TW. By then I had come to think of my style as polished-natural, or streamlined-natural, or a place where natural and classic meet (classic is also too cluttered for me in a too matchy, too formal-stuffy manner.) SO, this overview makes a great deal of sense to me, and gives me some concepts to tease apart. Thanks for that!

    Amusingly enough, I actually do prefer to wear my hair in a long bob, but with my hair’s natural wave and an uneven part. It looks pretty good down and makes it easy to neatly pull back, which happens fairly often.

  17. Oh joy, to know I’m not the only one dealing with this conundrum of how to mix BW colors with a body that looks straight-jacketed in classic clothing. What a relief to know it’s actually quite common and to see such great examples of how to dress real people instead of stereotypes. But, what to do if you’re, like me, a person who relates to all things antique and has through years of trial and error finally had to admit you are, in this life anyway, stuck with being a BW? I saw years ago that fuchsia was great on me and Cherries in the Snow lipstick was superb, but I kept searching (frantically) for a summer or autumn season that would show the world who I really am. I have always decorated with antiques. I love Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters and Anthony Trollope. I knit and make historical clothing. I shun technology as much as possible. I was born a couple of hundred years too late and in the wrong country. If a time travel machine could put me in the British Isles somewhere between 1800 and 1880 I would be right at home. Can someone like me ever be "authentically" dressed in the very modern/techno BW colors? Will I always have to choose between wearing colors that enhance my skin and colors that speak to my soul?

  18. Now that I’ve had a chance to play with BW colors in clothing I’ve realized I was all wrong about them. BW colors don’t scream "modern" or "techno" or "neon" on me. They are just colors and they actually look very calm and soothing on me. I could turn any one of those beautiful BW colors into whatever historical romantic outfit I may fancy and look right. I thought I had to choose between my colors and my style because I was looking at polyvores and pinterest boards of BW clothing in styles that would be awful on me. Once I actually put the colors on me I breathed a sigh of relief and realized I had nothing to fear.

  19. Wow, I just came across this and boy, does this fit me! I am a BW but my body lines are yinN. I am used to hearing that Naturals have to wear earthy colors and they can only be summer or autumn. Well, life is not that pat, is it? Your examples for BW yinN are excellent and make perfect sense for my own personal image. Thank you for this post!

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