Wednesday, 6 July 2016

Return To Your Natural Colours- a Book Review

 I enjoy looking at the website authored by Christine Scaman, and because of this I decided to buy her book Return To Your Natural Colours ( you can buy it here )  In my own colour journey Christine Scaman's work has been helpful though not the only resource I used online.  Hers is the first and so far only book about personal colour that I have bought.

A Review of Return to Your Natural Colours, by Christine Scaman

 Personal colour analysis is based on the theory that we all have our own natural set of colours, the colours that we are in skin, hair and eyes, and that this means there are colours of clothing, makeup and accessories that will best suit the colours we  naturally are.  In the particular system used by Christine Scaman, the author of this book, only skin tone is used to determine your season and whatever hair and eye colour nature gave you is naturally right and perfect.  There are no errors and there are both typical combinations and unexpected ones.  In some systems there are no redheads with a cool season.  In this one, it is a possibility.

 It is crucial to understand that the colours we are and the colours we wear skew warmer or cooler depending on how much blue or yellow is used in them.   The warmer seasons will have more yellow options and fewer blue ones, with the blues having a yellow tint that makes them more teal or turquoise.  The cooler seasons will have more blue and few yellow options.  There is a green for everyone but your best greens will be more blue or more yellow depending on your own colouring.  There is no orange in the true cool seasons.  Your best pinks and reds might be more blue-based or lean more towards rust or peach.  It's possible you have some idea of which palette is best for you because humans are apparently better at detecting warmth and coolness than any other aspect of colour.  Comparison often helps because we see things that way.  Is this a muted colour?  Muted compared to what?  Is this a bright colour?  Bright compared to what?  Personal Colour Analysis provides you with a swatch of colours that are in your best palette.  The way you use this palette is not only attempting exact matches but as a comparison tool.  When the colours fanned out are held next to a garment in the store you can see if that garment is cool and muted or warm and saturated.  I know that I am neutral enough that I can wear some warmer colours but I am neutral-cool so the cooler ones are better and some are too warm.  It's difficult for me just to eyeball a particular green shirt in a store and know if it's too warm or if it's a warmth within the range that suits me.  Practice helps.  So does a colour swatch fan.  That tricky colour olive green-just try googling it and see how many variations there are for that colour name.  Some are much cooler and some much more yellow based.  I cannot state that olive green is a colour I can wear well but I can state that some olive greens are.

My theory about olive green is that sometimes the name is used in reference to olive tree leaves which have a grey-green tone and sometimes in reference to a green olive itself which is more of a yellow green.  Just think of how great it looks with that orange-red pimento.

Here I Attempt to Summarise:

The book is well priced and easy to read though perhaps best read in small doses as the prose gets a bit purple. It is organised into sections and subsections with chapters but no index.

You could potentially assess yourself with the help of this book and other sources, but that is not the view of the author, it is my view.

She lists some recommended resources at the back of the book as well as a glossary of terms used. 

There are sample colour palettes which give you an idea of what each palette is like, though it's an approximation of colour due to printing limitations.  

The book will make you feel good about your season and the qualities you share with it.  this is helpful for those seasons that are sometimes erroneously deemed mousey.  There is no such thing as mousey but a person with soft and muted colouring will not shine next to bright and bold colours, she will be dominated by then and thus she will look meek and mousey.  There is nothing about her that needs fixing with hair colour and makeup, it is her colour palette that needs to change.  She will glow softly in the right colours.

The seasons/palettes of the 12 Tones system include two purely cool palettes, two purely warm palettes (True) and eight palettes that are more or less neutral with four leaning cool and four leaning warm (Dark, Light, Bright, Soft)

True Winter, Dark Winter, Bright Winter
True Spring, LIght Spring, Bright Spring
True Summer, Light Summer, Soft Summer
True Autumn, Warm Autumn, Soft Autumn

In this system it is skin tone that matters and hair and eyes, although they will naturally work with your skin tone, are irrelevant to determining your season.  Other systems will state, for instance, that there are no red heads in a cool season but not this system.

Draping is the only way to tell what your season is and this book does not intend to guide you to assessing yourself.

Although she asserts that draping is the only way to know your season, she also describes personality traits, shapes, and hair colours likely to be found. 

There are no photos in the book of clients or celebrities because the author says this is of no help, but she does show clients on her blog/website.  We are not served by trying to compare our own colouring to the colouring of someone else.

I particularly enjoyed the sections where she describes how each season enhances it's natural beauty and what detracts from it.  This is where the advice is crossing over slightly into  style as opposed to merely colour, on the theory that  certain colours make sense with certain lines, textiles or accessories.  Each season and its inherent colouring gives off a certain vibe that you are best to enhance and not fight or detract from.  

Here I Attempt to Say What I LIked and What I Disliked:

I am torn between enjoying the flowery prose and getting bogged down in it.  It's a matter of personal taste really and taste aside she writes well.  Her ability to see and describe beauty in all of the seasonal palettes and moods is a gift to those who may feel theirs is nothing special or does not fit with current trends or tastes.  I personally spent some time feeling as though I was supposed to make myself bolder, brighter and more visible by adorning myself accordingly and that if I didn't I was letting down the sisterhood.  I came to realise that I am truest to myself when I wear the colours that are naturally mine, and that I am most drawn to those colours when I forget about what I think I am supposed to like and just go with what makes me feel good.  The very definition of 'feel good' will vary and for me it is feeling peace and contentment whereas for others it might be feeling alive and vibrant.  Christine makes it clear that these are all differences to celebrate and one is not better than another.  I should add that only going by what colours I am drawn to does not instantly lead me to my best palette but it gets me close.  I am drawn equally to Soft Summer and Soft Autumn but aware that since I lean cooler, the entire Soft Summer palette works for me but only half to 3/4 of the Soft Autumn palette does.    I actually thought I could not be either of those palettes because I liked them.  I didn't trust myself to choose objectively and thought I was derailed by bias.  THAT is something this book and Christine Scaman's blog have helped me sort out. 

The book is also potentially useful if you are interested in becoming a personal colour analyst yourself and want to know more about it or want to build a library of resources.  I would love to do this but it's not feasible in a small town as it's a service most likely to be used by professional people.

What I dislike mainly is that I do want pictures of clients, I do want a more complete colour palette at the back and this book does not offer those.  This is deliberate.  On her website she states that this book could have been massive, much bigger and thus much more expensive so she had to make a decision about what to include and what not to include.  I can see how that would be the case.  Also, it was not her intention to write a guide to finding your own palette.  It was her intention that the book will either encourage you to have a PCA done or that it will support what you are learning about your palette and yourself after having one done.  It would be useful in that aspect if several people in one household with different seasonal palettes were to share the book. 

There are two aspects of her philosophy with which I personally disagree.  I am skeptical about attaching too much meaning to the seasonal colour palette as a guide to personality.  There are other systems which do this too, but I need some harder evidence that physical appearance and personality are linked.  I do think that physical appearance can influence how people treat you which can impact your developing personality.  I am also not convinced that the only way to ever know your personal colours is to be draped in person by an expert.  I believe that it is a good way, but not the only way for everyone.  It's also not an option for everyone so many of us will rely on our own abilities.  These abilities, I believe, vary in skill.  Just as we now know that not everyone tastes a tomato in exactly the same way it seems to me it must be true that not everyone sees colours the same way.  Not everyone has perfect pitch and can reproduce music just by holding the sound of that music in their minds. Neither is everyone completely tone deaf.  I believe some people can hold a visual image of colour in their minds better than others can and thus while most people are not colour blind, some are better at mentally manipulating colour than others are.  Christine claims not to be able to hold colours in her mind and thus she believes that drapes are the only way.  That may be true for her and by all accounts she is very skilled with the drapes, but I don't accept that it is true for everyone.


  1. You could so totally be a colour consultant!
    Do you have a good colour memory? I have a lousy visual memory altogether. I have an aural memory. But that doesn't help when buying clothes!
    Xo Jazzy Jack

    1. Thanks for the vote of confidence, Jack! I think I could be a very good colour consultant however I don't think there is a market for it where I live and thus I may not even recover the cost of the consultant course! I haven't ruled it out though. I do have a good colour memory, and family members often rely on me to help them buy something that goes with something they have at home. Part of typing myself has involved memory of what I look like in certain colours and I am currently typing my son-I believe he is soft autumn- and much of that uses what I know he looks like in colours I have seen him wear over the years or what I used to buy for him. XOXO

  2. What has amazed me in my attempts to figure this stuff out a bit more is just how deep and layered and also psychological some theories are. The whole gamine/natural,etc. typing flummoxes me utterly! It sounds like an interesting read but I would expect there to be some extensive colour palettes and things to focus on visually as well with a book like this. I am quite hesitant about paying for a colour typing draping as well, because most people look at me and say I have "red" hair, which I do not, I fear the cool tones in my make up would be completely ignored(this could be unfounded, I know this is a job people train extensively for and respect that, but I do think human perception is fallible). Also I have read numeorus stories online of people being mis-typed with drapings. I also agree that we need to wear what we are comfortable in, I am comfortable in neutrals, beige and its multiple variants make me weirdly happy, despite the fact they may not "pop" on me the way fuschia or coral do, which I can only wear if I'm in an extroverted mood! ;-0

    1. I tend to side with the PCA that says hair and eyes are not used when diagnosing, hair is covered up. Any season can have any hair colour so whether or not people see red in your hair does not matter. It is about which colours make your skin look clear and glowing and healthy, and regardless of the colour of your eyes, the best colours to wear will make your eyes light up. There will also be a sense of harmony and the colours will look like they could organically come from you. Some of the consultants also talk about the best colours making the lines of definition in your face look,well, more defined.
      I was mistyped as a winter back when there were only four seasons. It was a bit of an aha for me when I read that soft summers did get mistyped as Winters. There is a confusing depth of colouring and often darker hair, and yet we are too soft and muted to be Winter. I think that whatever makeup looks natural on you gives a clue. Not just looks good (some people like a dramatic look) but finding the colours that are your Me but better look can give a strong nudge in the right direction for your seasonal palette. Within my soft summer palette there are colours that feel dramatic to me and I would not wear all the time. There is a turquoise I would only wear if it were a party dress and I had full makeup. I am crazy about brown and always have been. XO

    2. I was thinking about brown the other day (because that's what we colour obsessed types do! ;-), and it dawned on me I used to wear it much more often, and now somehow I don't seem to own any. I was trying to picture whether an autumn palette is indeed "me", and I still don't know if it is. I have cool toned skin which can freckle quite warmly (I was reading about this on another blog, it does seem I am not alone in the cool/warm mix quandary!). My green eyes are technically warm because they have a small amount of yellow, but no brown, and the rims are cool grey just to complicate matters. Which means Cool toned greys work better on me, camel and warm greys do not. BUT I can do many oranges and browns, which I don't think most cool tones can. My best dramatic colours are fuschia and coral, my blues are limited to light aqua and dark teal, maybe navy. I have even been toying with this "Atypical true winter" idea because a lot of soft summer colurs wash me out and I can go surprisingly bright with colour for someone so ostensibly soft (and I like to confuse things even further! ;-0)

    3. Perhaps the cool warm quandry is because most of us are more neutral with only four of the seasons being purely cool or purely warm. That neutrality is confusing if we just look at ourselves in the mirror or a photo and try to decide what we are. Knowing which colours are actually flattering can help narrow it down, though I found that knowing pink and blue were typically my best still required a fair bit of work to narrow it down to which pinks and which blues. No pink or blue will look as awful on me as bright orange would. If you can do many oranges and browns I'd suspect an autumn. Maybe you are dark autumn. Look at Dark or Deep Autumn on Pinterest and there are some surprisingly fair skinned and cool looking women shown there. I've just sent you one on Pinterest. Brightness is relative. There are colours in my soft season palette that look and feel bright to me and would look like a bright colour on me, but they are not too bright for me. I still might not wear them much as I don't feel comfortable in bright, but they are flattering in a way a heavily saturated bright colour wouldn't be. It's all matter of comparison.

  3. steffy i think your a spring.there is a brightness to your coloring dr of awesome is def muted summer

  4. Hi there :)

    I found your blog a few weeks ago and I've been following your writing - and your journey with colour, as I'm on my journey too (sorry if this sound too "new-ageish"). I must say I'm quite amazed on how "parallel" they seem to me: I laugh with your insights because they are mine too! I'm very happy that I found your blog, I enjoy very much reading what you write. And thank you for sharing it, because it certainly helps and makes people smile :)

    (Sorry for my english: not my native language!)


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