Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Fear of Colour

Fear of colour, or discomfort with colour, can be the result of having difficulty making it work.  In home decor I think this is usually a result of not understanding undertones and of the challenge presented to us by lighting.  My living room walls look slightly different at different times of the day and in natural light compared with artificial light.  I find it difficult to choose a paint colour I love in every potential situation but I've managed to get one I love most of the time. 

I have never had as much confusion with decorating colours as I have with what to wear because decorating was always purely about what I liked whereas what I wore might make the difference between looking healthy or ill. 

With clothing, I was having difficulty finding colours that flattered me and developed colour exhaustion.  I had not had good experiences with saturated and bright colours so when I was told in 1984 to wear the saturated and cool colours of the Winter palette I was so put off by them I ran to the refuge of their darkest versions.  Darkening a colour does mute it and this made it more comfortable for me to wear them and I just got stuck there.  functioning poorly with old beliefs but not knowing where to go next.

Eventually I began to see that the darkest versions of cool colours still weren't doing me any favours.  Dark cool colours, and also black, make me look pale and greyish.  This meant experimenting but  there are plenty of colour qualities to experiment with but I had some biases and misunderstandings that weren't helping me. I tried bright colours and soft colour  and wasn't getting anywhere that seemed right.


The second time I ran away from colours I went to softer, muted barely colours at all such as light taupes and greys.  I love these colours and they remind me of soft and fluffy bunnies, but they still aren't the best colours for me to wear if I want to glow.  The warm grey that works best for me is pushing close to taupe or green.  They are safe but not exciting, the colours I might choose for loungewear or pyjamas when I want a visual rest.  Turning to taupe, fawn and grey was like clearing my palette before tasting a different wine variety.  I was overloaded visually and mentally with trying so many different colour variations and nothing was working the way I thought it should.

 I wondered if I would be happiest and best served with just a wardrobe of neutrals, but I realised that even with the neutrals there were good, better, best and I hadn't gotten a handle on that yet.

Black and Neutrals

Many people are choosing to only dress in black for the simplicity and what they perceive to be elegance but black doesn't do any favours for at least half of us.  For the same reason I have abandoned black, I have abandoned navy blue;  It is too cool and dark to flatter me. 

In colour theory only pure white, black and the two combined to make grey are the actual neutrals but in fashion and home decor a wider variety of colours are called neutral.

Sometimes the term fashion neutral is used.  In this sense neutral means colours that go with just about everything and let other colours be the star of the show.  We think of earthy colours as neutral, browns, greys, dull greens such as khaki or olive, all the beiges and greiges and off whites.  Navy blue is also a good fashion neutral as there is little that doesn't look great with it and dark green can work this way as well.  Mother nature seems quite aware that every flower colour looks great with green foliage.  Many of us choose dark fashion neutrals so the closest to black versions of blue, green, brown and burgundy can function that way.  I had tried the extremes, and found the dark colours drained me and the lightest colours washed me out.  High contrast of light and dark seems too busy and puts all the focus on the outfit.  Neutrals are supposed to make life easier but I was struggling with those just as much.


The struggle was because there are certain fashion neutrals that work best in conjunction with the other colours that belong to a specific palette and best harmonise with an individuals own colouring.  I hadn't found my neutrals because I still hadn't found my palette or properly seen my own colouring.  I feel a bit foolish now as it seems so obvious, but am reminded that because we see colour in context, I was never seeming myself in the context of my best colours.  I had very rarely worn them so they were quite far off my radar.

I Don't Wear Neutrals Much

The True Autumn palette, while certainly earthy, is not really neutral.  By definition it's warm, medium-deep and medium-soft.  When the colours are all from the same palette they mix together really well and I don't hesitate to combine several colours.

The outfit in the photo at the top of the page includes a darker mustard camisole underneath which shows a little around the hip line because the shirt on top is short.  The jeans are not as dark as they look in the photo and are medium denim with a teal slant.

For going out to the store I added these items which increase the colour mix, olive-green parka, teal-blue boots and scarf, multi-striped fingerless gloves.  In total and not including the brown of my bag, I wore over five colours combined and loved it.

I achieved maximum grumpy face and stumpy legs with this photo but since the only point was to show colours cropping it made sense. 


  1. Oh the relief of finding our correct colours! I need to do a post on it again. I am finding I skirt the cool colours more than you, as befits a dark vs true Autumn. I have just done another purge of my wardrobe as the weather cools...at last...and I bring out the woollens. I was feeling overwhelmed again, so reduced my colours to browns, burnt apricots/oranges, and some blues. I leave the greens, yellows, and purples to the accessories. We'll see if I get bored! xo Jazzy Jack

    1. So far I am not experiencing boredom because I have not got all of the potential colours that would work for me so there is always something I could add. Of course that means I have to find it but then that makes it all the more special and fun if it's harder to find. I am still learning to identify purely warm ( and a bit muted ) and find myself very drawn to the Dark Autumn palette but I let myself use it more freely in my home. Blue and purple are my more challenging colours to find since they are at the cool end of the spectrum and so warm versions are tricky. Blue is pretty much always just about teal or turquoise. Different colour theorists have different ideas about which purples work best with a warm palette so I am experimenting with those to see what I think works for me. Rust, burnt-orange, burnt-peach, muted golds, cream and teal make up most of my wardrobe at the moment. I like your reduced palette for cooler weather. It sounds pretty and very workable. You could add other colours in small doses of accessories. I find that for me, and this is what I was getting at in my post, that when you are working with a harmonised palette you can mix any and all of the colours together and it doesn't feel overwhelming. My colours are very medium in value but the Dark Autumn palette has more contrast with lights and darks so maybe you could play with keeping contrast low if you use more colour, just to make it less overwhelming. Or higher contrast but only one or two colours. Just some thoughts. My brain is dumping all over the place today! ;-) And yes it is a relief. That is exactly the right word. It's a resting place and a peacefulness I didn't have before. xoxo

    2. I think that is why I settled into Autumn palette with relief, not just because my colours were found, but because the Autumn palette is so much more harmonious. The high contrast pure hued Winter palette is so in your face it almost cuts you! I am enjoying the more mellow Autumnal atmosphere. Your ideas about reducing contrast and colours are great, and also I would add texture and pattern to the list. Of course for we sensitives there is also flapping fabric/tight fabric, and natural versus synthetic to bring into play. It's a wonder we can get dressed at all!

    3. I didn't think of pattern because I haven't got much of it in my wardrobe. And oh how important the fabric feel is to me and it has to breathe! Funny you say that about getting dressed at all because I really hate staying in my pyjamas all day. I want clean, fresh but soft, flexible clothes. I know I'm not well if I am too exhausted to care that I am in my pjs. I can't find pjs in Autumn colours -boo hoo. I think that for both of us the cool palette feels cutting because it is literally dissonance for our own colouring. Some people like dissonance musically and I believe The Beatles used it sometimes but I think a lot of it would get to me...letting my thought trail off.

  2. Oh, finding the right colours! I hugely gravitate towards these colours you have on, but they are much trickier with purple hair than when I had orange/red hair. I find I have to wear just one of them, or have a pattern with a bit of purple in it. Working with contrasting colours or "next door" colours (teal, aqua, greens) go much better. I've nearly eliminated browns unless they are really warm and are the only neutral or autumnal tone I'm wearing. I find myself gravitating towards blacks/greys more, but only as a bit of a rest from bright colour.

    I am jonesing for spring right now...craving yellow, aqua and orange! One more month of my winter/darker wardrobe!

    (not sure if this was a double post...hadn't logged into my Google profile, sigh).

  3. Only one post that I can see :-) I often get a craving for purple hair but then I remember that I'd get annoyed by the challenge of coordinating it with my clothes and also for me the novelty wears off quickly. I'm better off with the temporary stuff but my hair is too dark to take it. I LOVE teal with all of the warm colours. It's my favourite contrast. I am craving orange all the time. I want red-orange and lighter burnt-orange but the spring oranges can bet a bit too popsicle-coloured to suit me. When they get too bright and clear they wear me instead. Black with bright and warm colours has a more artsy feel, whereas brown is more earthy. Or maybe Hornby Island artsy for brown and Vancouver artsy for black. I can see how you might have more of a brightness to your colouring than I do so the brighter colours and higher contrasts look fantastic.

  4. Neutrals are still my biggest weakness, despite the fact I know many of them do nothing for me. Autumn neutrals are the biggest problem in the palette for me. But lately I am embracing/drawn to Spring colours a bit more, despite the fact I am most probably not a Spring, they make me happy!

    1. I think neutrals can look really fantastic but they are also a safe zone almost for the fact that they are a bit muting. Until I studied colour theory in more detail I had not even realised that a neutral is not just a neutral. There are browns/greys/off whites/beiges/taupes etc that suit different undertones. I used to just think I looked bland in beige but then realised I was wearing cool beiges that were too pale. My best beige is in the range between cream and camel. In the 12 Tones colour system the colours that make me happiest are Warm Spring, Soft Autumn and True Autumn followed by Deep Autumn and then Soft Summer. When I look at that I realise it's kind of an 'anything but bright' followed by a 'make it warm' approach. In your little avatar picture, you look like you could possibly be a bright spring. xo

  5. I think that finding the right neutrals is sometimes really difficult, it tooks me ages to find some of them which make me feel comfortable and which enhance my other colors.
    I think that teal blue is a very useful color, it works into many different palettes, and that's also right for khaki, olive and chartreuse. All of them look great on you, and I think they also look great on me, so that means they're pretty versatile!
    (Note: I love your teal boots)


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