Semi-bedridden for over a month, I've had the opportunity to ponder many things, but it's no surprise that the first pondering I put on this blog is about colour. I've got no doubts about being suited to the soft, muted colours but I find myself fixated on trying to decide if I am best as a neutral-cool or a neutral-warm.
The last time I posted the photo directly above, Steffi from Steff in Scotland commented that it looks to her as though I am definitely a soft. My conclusion had been soft-cool but she didn't say that. She said, definitely a soft and I took that to mean she was not certain it was the soft-cool.
As you can see, different photos will skew warmer or cooler and that makes it tricky. I am not actually trying to identify my palette based on photos, only using photos to help illustrate my thinking and experiences. But the fact remains that I see myself in different lighting and thus do not have a really strong grasp on whether or not my colouring is more warm or more cool. I have come to believe my camera makes things a little cooler in general, as comparisons of a variety of photos I've taken with the real life objects would indicate. I know I can look warmer in direct sunlight, where some golden colours in my skin tone show up and my hair can show reddish highlights.
I am a person who strives to find the best answer and I will pour over all of the input until I feel satisfied. If it were as simple as wearing which colours I like best, the two palettes above are my obvious choice. Perhaps it is that simple.
For some people, the right colours are really obvious. I have paid too much attention to the input of others, I think, and been lead astray, but then again, I never thought about colours as being only a little bit warm or only a little bit cool. Very rich, strong warm colours do nothing for me. Neither do very strong cool colours but people tend to prefer them on me. Given the choice between a royal blue and a deep mustard and anyone would tell me to go with the royal blue.
We have a cultural bias towards stronger colours, seeing them as happier, more powerful, more vibrant and we have a cultural bias towards being vibrant and powerful. So, extroverts in bold colours are what we admire and what many aspire to be. I got caught in that trap too, that idea that it was no okay to be me.
What is more powerful, I wonder, a woman dressed in a bold red, or a woman dressed in colours that flatter her and make her feel good? It shouldn't be difficult to answer that.
Having said that, we all have our version of red. We all have our own version of most colours with a few exceptions and the understanding I was missing for most of my life was that it was the qualities beyond warm and cool that could matter most.
Some people are very obviously warm or cool, and that feature is the most dominant aspect of their colouring. This makes it easy to divide people into colour palettes labelled for the four seasons, allowing for a light cool, a dark cool, a light warm, and a dark warm. This works for many people but not everyone. So the seasonal colour palettes were divided some more, paying attention to other properties and we got 12 or sometimes 16 versions of colour palettes but they still all asked which a person was predominantly, cool or warm. They all assume that is the most important feature of your colouring. Then other qualities follow, such should your colours be bold or muted, shaded with black or toned with white?
I have been stuck under the assumption that I am more cool than warm, although fairly recently realised that I have some degree of warmth. Others told me I was cool so I believed it. It has never quite felt right, and yet it was never glaringly wrong either and although I am neutral I do think I lean a little cool, making royal blue a better choice than deep mustard even though neither is a good choice. It's the choice between looking old and tired, or old, sick and tired.
It was makeup that helped me realise I was not purely cool. Cool toned makeup, even when it is pretty makeup, sort of sits on my face instead of looking like all the loveliness emanates from within me.
I now believe I can wear warmer colours than I thought I could, because my dominant colour feature is not warmth or coolness but mutedness. Yes, there will be colours that are too warm in that soft autumn palette but not many. My own personal neutrality might be 60% cool and 40% warm. If such a thing is measurable. Although I've always though I was okay in nearly any pink, I think there are some pinks that are a bit too cool and my best pinks are always muted in some way, either with a brown or mauve and even some of the soft warm pinks that you might call salmon or peach are good, so long as they are very soft and muted. I had ruled out peach by looking at a bright, highly pigmented peach only, not realising it was the saturation and not the warmth that was the problem.
The Seasonal system, claiming to be seeking the best possible palette for an individual, directs you to only one palette.
I think that this works well for some people. As I was mulling over my desire for this Soft Autumn Palette, I came across a site called Style Yourself Confident and on it the stylist presents a set of four palettes that are seasonal, which are just the right thing for some people, and then six that she calls Tonal.
With the Tonal palettes, she tells us that not every colour in the palette will be our best colour, and I think that is a significant difference compared to seasonal palettes where we are told that every colour in the palette will look great on is. Whether or not we like the colour is another matter, though people usually do like colours that flatter them.
In the Soft Summer palette there are no colours I dislike, though being very fond of the softest and most muted looking colours, even the Soft Summer palette has one or two colours that seem very bright to me so I tend to like them less. It may be true that the Soft Summer colours are my very best, but I am heavily drawn to the Soft Autumn palette and don't see a need to rule it out. I have not been draped professionally and I've tended to buy cool colours my whole life so many of those Soft Autumn colours are untested on me but I do know that some of them are good. In past experiments with warmer colours, I will not have been paying attention to saturation and so may have reacted thinking oh this colour is too warm for me, when in fact it was too saturated, too deep or too bright.
So the Tonal system offers up a palette that is basically the Soft Summer and Soft Autumn combined and then says I won't want to wear every one of these colours but can select easily from amongst them, knowing that the feature I am looking for in colour is mutedness and softness before anything else. Within those guidelines there will be options that are brighter than others, warmer, or cooler, darker or light, and there is a version of every colour if you remember that colours are on a spectrum and so my version of red might be muted enough to seem more like dark pink or dark coral. It will read as red on me because of the way it compliments my own natural colouring.
I first noticed this when playing with lipstick colours. What reads as red on my lips is not always an obviously red lipstick. Lipsticks from the red section are typically too heavily pigmented for me and I end up blotting them significantly. I've always known that my best lipsticks had a bit of warmth to them, brown pinks are much better than true pinks and my favourite red is still the brown red of Revlon's Rum Raisin. If I could find something that resembles it heavily blotted when applied straight from the tube I'd be very happy. My lipstick experiences are telling me I am not predominantly cool, that there is some degree of warmth in my colouring, but I've never pulled off a lipstick that skews orange. Heavily pigmented lipsticks in any colour don't really flatter me, as there is nothing else on my face that is heavily pigmented. I've not really tried the peachier nudes though, always believing I needed to keep a good dose of pink in there. I would like to experiment with some warmer pinks than I've yet tried.
Lesson from makeup: I am not purely cool.
I also want to experiment with some warmer toned clothing. My mind goes back to the soft olive green winter coat I have and how I get so many compliments when wearing it. It's one of those colours that is difficult to pin down as cool or warm but seems to be in the neutral-warm spectrum. An accidental purchase of Soft Autumn instead of Soft Summer.
I have often heard or read the rule that warm and cool colours should not be combined, but I am not so sure about that if a person is a combination of warm and cool herself. The whole point is that we look best in the colours that are within us.
Pairing one solid coloured warm colour with one solid coloured cool colour, tends to look more like an accident than any deliberate colour mixing. I found this graphic on a site explaining why we need to figure out if we are warm or cool.
To my eye these colours do not clash and that is because they are all soft and muted. I find harmony of chroma really significant and when colours look to me like the clash, it's usually because there is just no harmony to be found anywhere, not in temperature or chroma. If the sample above showed all of these colours in a very bright version or a very deep version I still would not find them clashing.
The secret to mixing warm and cool colours is to keep the chroma the same and to use more than two colours in the outfit so that the mix looks deliberate. It might be monochromatic but using warm and cool, or it might have two larger swathes of colour with a smaller third colour in accessories.
According to Pamela at Style Yourself Confident, the colours of the seasonal palettes are very precise.
Autumn colours are always warm, deep and soft
Winter colours are always cool, deep and bright
Spring colours are always light, warm and clear
Summer colours are always cool, light and soft
When analysed in the eighties I was analysed as a Winter and I really think the woman had no clue what she was doing. She pronounced my brunette mother and myself Winters and my blonde friend and her blonde mother as Summers because we all looked better in bright pink than in bright orange but mum and I were 'darker' looking.
Knowing that this was in error, I then went to Summer, still believing that I was definitely cool in colouring. It was certainly better, and you can see some degree of cool, soft and light in me, but it wasn't quite right because I am not purely cool. I knew I wasn't overtly warm so where to go from there? One ends up with a good enough palette but not feeling quite right.
The 12 seasons were needed because many people are neutral, a mix of warm or cool on a sliding scale, add varying degrees of lightness or darkness and sub-seasons are born.
The Tonal Family system is another way to address the people who don't fit exactly into the four seasons and I am beginning to think it a better way. If warmth or coolness are not your dominant feature, then why focus only on a palette that is one or the other?
If you are deep in colouring and not obviously cool or warm, you are of the Deep Tonal Family and can explore a range of warm and cool colours that are deep in saturation. They will come from the Winter and Autumn palettes. Every possible deep colour will not be your best but you probably look just as good in some of the cool and deep ones as you do in the warm and deep ones. Maybe it's not a 50-50 divide but why miss out on those colours?
Browsing different Soft Autumn palettes I came across this picture from the Style Yourself Confident site. Featuring actress Susan Hampshire, it shows how she might conceivably select from all of the colours that surround her in this image, despite their being a mix of warm and cool. The unifying feature is their soft and muted quality, a quality which you can also see in the woman herself. To me, these colours don't look as soft and muted as the colours in the Soft Autumn and Soft Summer palettes I've used at the top of this post, but there is certainly some variety amongst the palettes of different systems and further to that there is the variation in colour one gets with photographs and computer screens. They do mostly look appropriate relative to her though and colour characteristics are always a matter of comparison.
Analysts of the 12 seasons type will say that if you know what to look for you will see that one aspect, warm or cool, is just a little better than the other. I am questioning how much that little bit matters in this case. I've even seen the Seasons Analysts acknowledge that yes, some women are so near the centre of the warm-cool divide that they can borrow from a sister palette. They maintain that this is diminishing your opportunity to look your very best.
So if Winter, Spring, Summer or Autumn don't work for you, and you just can't figure out which Seasonal Subtype you belong in try the Tonal families, to see if Bright, Light, Deep, Muted, Cool or Warm are better categories. Maybe some of us are trying to narrow it down too much.
If this post is excessively rambling even for me...blame the drugs. I'm still on a high dose of morphine.