The Idea of a Color
Many people love the idea of color analysis – the idea that, through some process of discernment, it can be concluded which colors are most becoming for a given individual. Unfortunately, a wrong notion of what exactly that means has become somewhat embedded in the cultural understanding of color analysis. Though we could be quick to blame the overly simplistic systems of analysis that gained rapid-fire popularity in the 80s, more likely the idea comes from our collective idea of what it means to define “a color”.
Usually, it sounds like “blue looks great with his eyes” or “gold really makes her skin glow”. Thus, every single shade that could possibly be described as blue or gold is grouped together, with an unspoken presumption that all shades would be equally good. Along with this conception of color, we get the idea that some people wear gold well and others wear blue well. While it may be true that some people have an easy time selecting gold shades or blue shades that are at least do something positive for them and have more subtle drawbacks, I have never found it to be true in my career as a color analyst so far that a single person looks equally well in all shades of “a color”.
I can’t count the number of times I’ve received a phone call or email from a woman completely confused after having tried to discern whether she is warm or cool so she could just buy a foundation that matches and be done with it already, only to have no clue whether gold or silver looked better on her skin, or whether her veins looked blue or green.
“Both? Neither? Maybe I just can’t tell?”
Quite. Actually, there’s nothing wrong with her eyesight. The problem is with the question.
Rather than gold or silver, what is relevant and important in human coloring is WHICH gold and WHICH silver. In discerning which colors will harmonize with a given individual, the shade name is far, far less important than the properties of the color at hand – i.e. its hue (warmth or coolness), value (lightness or darkness), and chroma (softness or brightness). In order to make headway on the question of which colors will work optimally well with a given individual’s skin tone, our idea of “a color” should not be red or pink but “a bright neutral red of medium value”, which might be something like Bright Winter’s strawberry, or “a soft, cool pale pink” which could describe True Summer’s powder pink.
Finding a Neutral
A common misconception based on the more simplistic notion of “a color” is trying to identify whether, say, navy or brown is a preferable wardrobe neutral. Fortunately, in most cases, it isn’t necessary to choose between them, but simply to choose the correct version of that color.
neutral shades by season
Below, I’ve created some examples of different neutral shades by season. These aren’t meant to be the only version of each shade for each season, but rather to give an overview of the differences.
I hope they will help you both to liberate yourself from the confines of the stereotypical color choices for your season and to choose more thoughtfully even among those colors that are expected for your coloring.