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.
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.
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.