Last week in Conversant in Color, we laid out a very basic framework for understanding “warm” and “cool” coloring. I really enjoyed reading and commenting in the discussion section, once again y’all blew me over with your intelligence and insight.
Warm and cool are good as far as they go, but many people don’t fit neatly into one or the other category. I think that’s perfectly normal. Warm and cool may be a great starting point if you have no idea where to start with color in your wardrobe, but it’s hardly sacred. “Seasons” were also mentioned quite a bit in last week’s discussion. Again, I think that’s a useful starting point for understanding color in clothing but I wouldn’t take it too much to heart. I prefer a more intuitive approach to learning the colors that work best.
Observation- Better than Pre-made Palettes
Learning to master color in the wardrobe is much like learning to fit and alter patterns. It’s a process based on trial and error, reading/learning from a variety of sources, but most importantly on observation. Learning the colors that suit you (and how to wear them!) is more fun and less difficult than learning to fit clothes well.
Listen to what others say about your appearance- not just direct comments about your outfit etc, but in general. See if you notice any trends. Feedback I hear generally falls into three categories:
- “Oh! Steph! Have you not been sleeping lately? Are you feeling unwell?”- Sometimes the answer is “Yes, I feel like crap,” in which case the dark circles under my eyes and lackluster skin are richly deserved. Sometimes the comments come out of the blue when I am not sick or tired. When I was learning “my” colors a few years ago, I experimented constantly. Beige, tan, ivory, yellow, brown, and orange always elicited comments like this from my kind and caring coworkers. I learned not to rely too heavily on these colors in my sewing. Eventually.
- “You look great! Have you lost weight/gotten a haircut/been resting up/been working out?” These comments are equally valuable, if somewhat confusing when I have not indeed lost weight, been anywhere near a gym/salon nor slept well. At some point it clicked that I’d hear these puzzling (but lovely!) comments when wearing white, black, blues of any description, blue violet and bluey-green that matches my eyes. I didn’t know about cool/warm or color seasons, but when I later found out I’m classified as a cool and a clear winter, it didn’t come as a shock.
- “That color looks incredible on you.” This is, of course, quite direct. If someone is willing to go out of their way to say this to you, pay attention. And thank them without drawing attention to your perceived flaws, it’s only polite.
Happy Colors, or- All Reds are Not Created Equal
The second aspect of learning your colors involves figuring out what makes you happy when you wear it. If you take all your clothes out of the closet and separate them by color, do you have one or two dominant colors? Are these colors that flatter your skintone, colors you love, a default neutral, or all of the above? What colors would work well with your dominant colors?
One of mine is red.
I love wearing red. I feel brighter, sharper, more aware of the world around me when I wear red. In my family the women collect poppies as a “totem” because it’s our family name, so I have fond associations with the color of the flower and family. It’s almost a “neutral” in my wardrobe, that’s how much I love red.
I used to put on a new red dress or blouse and hold my breath- “Is this a red I can wear?” I didn’t understand the difference between “cool” reds and “warm” reds, so I bought red clothes indiscriminately. Now I do understand the difference and only buy cool red fabric for myself. This works very well for me.
For another perspective on “color happiness,” check out Patty’s post on draping and finding her colors. She prefers colors of another palette than might be prescribed for her by a color analyst, and I think that’s valid. The comments section is quite interesting, as well.
Poppies, Reds, and what goes with them
Last week, I used pictures of lavender fields to illustrate warm and cool purples. This week, it’s almost the same with dual poppy fields. These stories are intended to inspire rather than dictate color choices for wardrobing. I included two “anchor” colors in the top right corner of each story- contrasting neutrals that work safely with each other and with the other colors in the story.
Photo courtesy of Ozzienews
I use the term “warm” here loosely. Blues are often associated with cooler coloring types, but very often those who favor a warmer palette may wear “warm” blues like the two here. The lighter one might look smashing on a redhead with pale skin and freckles, the darker blue may suit a deeper or more muted warm skintone. Note the gray has a yellow undertone, and looks well with the ivory as well as the other colors.
Photo courtesy of Little White Daisy
I have been known to wear any of these colors together in my more flamboyant moods. Ok, maybe not red and green. Too Christmassy. I wouldn’t necessarily pack every one of these colors into a single wardrobe, but they’re too lovely not to show all together here. Grays for cools work best with a bit of blue mixed in, and while most cools can wear pretty much any shade of blue, I favor “clear” blues. If several of these colors ring your bells, you may find you wear blue-reds best. The tones are somewhat saturated, but softer shades of the same colors might work well for you if you lean toward cool but don’t wear brights.
The color swatches are lifted from the photos. Unlike many sources of color inspiration, nature doesn’t have an ulterior financial motive for being beautiful. Nature is beautiful as an end in itself. I have the idea that if colors harmonize in nature in a pleasing way then I can surely try it in my wardrobe.
I divided this post into two parts because once I wrote the entire post, I saw it was far too long. I’ll post part two next week- how your environment and how you interact with it influences “your colors.”
Cennetta at Mahogany Stylist recently wrote a very interesting post on finding her colors and working with a color consultant.
Izzywizz at Color Makes People! combines color very effectively. I recently found her blog while looking for colorful outfit inspiration and though we don’t really share a palette, I enjoy rummaging through her outfit posts. Such inspiration!
Catherine at Not Dressed As Lamb explores what the term “age-appropriate” means with humor and insight, and provides solid and ageless advice for building personal style. These are the questions I use, too!
What are your “happy colors”? Which colors dominate your wardrobe? Do you ever wear red?