How do you feel about colour or style advice?

posted in: Colour Analysis | 35

There are some people who like feedback and information about their performance at work, or how they are doing as a parent. I am one of them – provided the feedback and critique is offered in a kind way.  I feel I can learn a lot from how others see and perceive me.  But many people – probably the majority – do not really appreciate a critique of their behaviour or appearance. Even a polite request to not talk loudly in the Quiet Carriage of the train, or to please prevent their children running around in an art exhibition, are treated as an unacceptable violation of our freedoms.

So any kind of feedback – at work, to family and friends and to strangers – needs to be very carefully posed. It can only really help us when it is aimed to help us, rather than put us down.  But most especially in matters of style and dress I would always move with great caution. While I can’t help thinking certain things (inevitably having been trained as a colour and style analysis ), I have to be exceptionally careful not to offer gratuitous advice eg your hair colour is really too deep and has an aging effect. Some people really want a trained eye and a second opinion, but many people are perfectly happy with their image and style and I wouldn’t dream of challenging that. Ceci writes:

I always enjoy these color posts…..so fun to imagine starting over with the right colors! I suspect actually doing it would require some self discipline.

When I do a colour consultation I offer my client the information on what I believe is their best colour palette but I always try very hard to help them see for themselves the impact of my choices and opinions. As they look at themselves in the mirror most people can appreciate, with their own eyes, that some colours enhance their colouring and others do not. Usually they then wish to replicate this effect. The best (let’s not say “right” Ceci!) colours will take away shadows and make any lines and wrinkles less visible. They will calm a reddened complexion, brighten a sallow one, make your eyes look whiter and your skin tone fresher. This is not hyperbole – I have seen it hundreds of times and the best shades just make a person look younger and healthier.

Sometimes my advice conflicts with people’s personal opinion. I find this comes from three places.

  1. But I love mustard!

Firstly we all have a range of colours we like. I really love the terracotta, peach, light orange, ballet shoe pink shades. I also love strong, vibrant orange! But these warm, yellowy shades don’t suit me nearly as much as the bluer, purpley reds and pinks. If I try an orangey lipstick it really looks nasty, whereas even purple looks quite acceptable (although a bit much for everyday). I therefore avoid wearing coral, tan and orange but I find other ways to use them in my life. My logo at work for example is an energetic, youthful orange and I love it.

2. Half my wardrobe is navy!

The second reason why people reject certain advice is that they have got used to wearing a certain colour – for example black – even though it is not their best colour. Again I usually try to show the impact of black on their complexion. In short when we are doing colour analysis we are looking for naturally occurring colouring in the face/hair/eyes. Black hair is sometimes nearly black (or very dark brown) and people with this feature will generally look good in black and should consider it as their best (but not only) neutral. Usually they will look just as good in the darkest navy, charcoal and brown and sometimes choosing these shades is more exciting and stylish than black. But they will look sensational in black.

On the other hand a very fair or red-haired person will rarely look their best in black. But sometimes we want to wear black and why not?

Although I feel Nicole Kidman looks better in lighter shades, she also looks sensational in a black dress.  Her darker make up (lipstick, blusher, eye shadow and mascara), worn with silver jewellery support the icy look she is cultivating and she absolutely gets away with it.  However I think she looks even more wonderful in lighter colours. Actresses have personal stylists, make up professionals and hairdressers that help them change their look and image as they take on different roles. And models will be chosen for a range of reasons and sometimes they are paid to model clothes which markedly conflict with their natural colouring and the clothes works well in terms of impact.

3. I would never wear lemon!

But the third and most important one is we probably don’t want to be wrong. We don’t want to be told what to do. We may think this colour analysis stuff is like crystals or homeopathy – hocus pocus for the gullible.

In fact change of any sort involves loss, and generally calls forth resistance. This is why learning new things is hard and can be scary. We don’t necessarily want to change our opinion. This is why most of us struggle with criticism which is often perceived as an attack.

So when I give colour and style advice I always try to show how someone can suit say emerald-green rather than pea green, or ochre rather than lemon. All colours are available to all of us but there are usually better and less good versions. When I am showing people colours they often say – I never wear yellow, or I don’t think I have any pink in my wardrobe. And I usually reply – this shade of that colour suits you and maybe you could try it? When I first took advice on what colours suited me two were put forward as being “flattering” for my cool-light-bright direction – lemon and mauvey-pink. I had never worn either of these shades and didn’t instinctively gravitate to them. But I went into my local charity shop and pulled out a couple of second-hand t-shirts and blouses and, in exchange for a few quids, took them home to try. And now both these shades have a place in my wardrobe.

The issue I find often is that many people restrict their wardrobe to just a few colours they feel confident with. A colour analysis can open your eyes to new colours that you may not have considered before.

So back to Ceci’s point – I offer advice for those that want and welcome it – but only when asked or specifically commissioned. I trust the process I use, and my own eye, but at the end of the day the information is only what you want to make of it. Some people (me included) do this with conviction and never wear the less flattering colours again (I admit I have black underwear and a pair of trainers). Having a wardrobe full of cool palette items means everything coordinates and blends together nicely. No discipline needed. I do have one peach dress which I wear occasionally.

Others just change the emphasis a little, or gradually.

35 Responses

  1. Lovely piece Kate, thanks. No yellow/orange shades for me, and beige is death to my skin colour. My next big costume project is using a beigey/gold tone though, it will be interesting to see if I can pull it off. As you say, it’s not so much colour, as tone that is the trick sometimes- pillar box red isn’t kind to me, but bluer reds are fine. Oddly, khaki greens, which are mostly yellower, are good on me, but not lime or neon greens. I do plump up makeup colours according to what I’m wearing though, I have never really got into TOO much of a rut with eyeshadows. Lipstcks are all very similar though!

  2. How interesting. Beige suits everyone actually as it is one of those universal colours that has a balance of tones in it which allows it to work well with other colours – and of course a beige can be blueish (stone) or yellowish/golden. I love khaki and again, it is a colour that seems to work well on many people. It’s usually quite a deep colour and includes cools (black and blue) as well as warms (yellow). If bluer reds work this implies you have cool colouring. One thing I would say is if you colour your hair (as I used to) sometimes you can find matching your new hair colour works better than your original and natural hair colour. The other thing – if your predominant colouring is muted or bright, deep or light then you can often wear both cooler and warmer shades. When I analysed Ruthie I found she was strongly muted and was very evenly split with the warmer and cooler shades meaning so long as the colours she chose were not the brightest tones she was able to choose the warmer or cooler shades to her taste. Let’s get together one day and I will tell you what I think!

  3. Great post! I love getting the feedback about what works well and what doesn’t, even though I sometimes disregard for one reason or another. I have dark hair and a pinkish complexion, and strong clear colors (reds and oranges and to some extent, pinks) look great. Blacks and grays too. But yellow? I look like death warmed over. Green not great either, tho I seem to have knit myself a surprising number of green sweaters. Fun to think about!

    • Hi Ellen! I think your and Elaine’s comments both show how hard it is to work out one’s own best colours. An expert can be really helpful in these matters. Your comment about yellow made me smile as it was one colour I just couldn’t get on with. I liked mustard and tan – especially with navy – and when my hair was bleached (and a rather warm colour) I did wear mustard. But now my hair is its natural colour – cool blonde and bluish grey – I can easily see that it is the cooler yellows look really nice on me. But it took an expert to tell me that it looked good. I just couldn’t contemplate it. Over time (and buying a Zara sales jumper for £3) I started to wear a little lemon. I got compliments about how “young” and “fresh” I looked. So I tell you I went crazy for lemon. Well not exactly. And the deeper cool yellows. And now yellow is one of my favourite colours. I do believe there is a yellow for just about everyone, and I think I have a post on it (if anyone wants to know more).

      • I’m sure you’re right! So, how does one find a color person locally and make sure they are decent? Or are there books / online resources?

        My background is in fine arts so I can natter on endlessly about color–but that’s a different question from what suits me in a wardrobe!

        • I think you would need to do your research carefully Ellen. I trained with a company that uses colour directions, sorting people into predominant colour directions such as cool, warm, muted, deep etc, the ideas that I discuss on this blog. I trust this system but it is only as good as the person who is applying it. Training varies and I can’t say – this person will be reliable. All I can say is they should be able to train you to see for yourself and enable you to make your own decisions without taking a swatch out shopping each time.

  4. A thing I’ve recently realised about colour advice is that (for me) two things matter more than whether a colour suits me or not: what the colour means to me personally and the message it sends to other people. So I rarely wear blue because I hated my navy school uniform, and I avoid colours that are coded as very feminine, such as most shades of pink.

    • Yes! This is very true. Thank you so much for mentioning it.

      In the UK we associate white clothes with weddings but in other countries they associate them with death. And we think of black clothes are being stylish and sophisticated, while some cultures only wear it when mourning. I think your point about negative associations is right – although my school uniform was grey – which is a colour I love – I hated maroon and yellow because they look like wounds, scabs and pus (sorry) and the mid browns because they look like poo (sorry Catherine!). But (for me) being more open minded has enabled me to wear more colours with confidence. On pink I tend to agree that it is very meaningful colour these days, and probably one we may want to argue with. I am slightly uneasy about the strongish pink of my new jacket – which I know suits me – because of this. But I am think for me, wearing pink, can be just fine as I have ample “power” at work, and I almost always pair with darker “masculine” workwear colours and mannish shoes.

  5. The best colour advice I’ve received is to hold the colour up against your face. Foolproof everytime, if it makes me glow that’s the one for me; death warmed up forget it or wear it as a skirt or pant if I think I can’t live without it. I’ve also used colour palette generators to pull colours out of photos of my face eyes and hair which have been surprisingly useful in selecting flattering colour shades. I’ve had differing advice from experts but when you consider training may have been an online course or a weekend workshop 30 years ago that’s understandable and each system also seems to have its own point of difference it’s trying to sell. Ultimately I think if it makes you happy wear it with joy.

  6. Objectivity is useful, wearing a ‘new’ colour is invigorating, it’s not just visual either, colour affects how we feel. I’ve eliminated black from anything near my face and I wear a lot of colour, I wore an apricot sweater recently and got a lot of pos reaction.

    Giving feedback on blogs is a minefield, even if asked for it can be received defensively, esp if the feedback veers toward an area the writer generally feels ok about like style or colour for example. it isn’t easy to convey constructive comments as people tent to focus on the negative connotation.

    On another note, I succumbed yesterday and bought yarn 🙄I took my EZ book but fell for a different sweater that was on display (I’m so impressionable). It’s very similar but it has shaping and the neckline is lower. I bought shades of poo, lol, not really, toffee, beige and brown. I’m struggling with gauge and thus engaging with displacement activity (Feedly).

    • What a lovely set of thoughts Annie. Feedback is such a sensitive issue. I love the sound of your new sweater – the thing is I always appreciate colour schemes that don’t suit me as I love new things and difference. I sometimes feel limited by my own best colours and yearn for something different. But I regret it if I invest time and money in the browns, or apricots or lime greens. I also love deeps and muted shades. I deal with this “buffet” issue (always wanting variety) by including these colours in my home – I love the muted shades in soft furnishings, and making or buying for others who have different primary colour directions. The EZ method is easy and accessible but you will probably get a better shape with a more sophisticated pattern. Looking forward to seeing the outcome!

  7. Linda (ACraftyScrivener)

    It’s so hard to be objective about color though, precisely because of the psychological reasons you have mentioned. Havinga teenage daughter now she is so handy to have around when looking at colors because she is nothing but objective!

    • Hi Linda – my daughter (and one of my sons) are good at telling me what they really think!! I am rather sensitive to their criticism, but at the end of the day our confidence comes partly from within, so self confidence is very important.

  8. Amazing post, the point you make about education and 3rd party advice helping one to be comfortable with different color habits is so spot on. I am coming off breast cancer and a double mastectomy and am now taking the drugs that put me into menopause and one thing I note is that not only has my shape changed but my “color” has changed. I am just getting into the world of color now and I can see it makes a huge difference but I just don’t know where to start. I took a picture of my face in natural light and then placed it alongside different groups of colors I found on the internet and I just could not determine which colors made a difference.

    • Hi Ruth, and I am sorry to hear about your cancer experience. It must be such a relief to be putting the treatment behind you and moving forward with your life. Having chemo (and having kids/the menopause) seems to change some of our colouring. I guess it is not surprising that internal changes in our blood, hormones and age do change how we look on the outside. However it is not usual for our primary direction to change. I was always cool and always will be. But as I have aged my secondary and tertiary directions may have swapped around – from bright to light, although both continue to look nice on me.

      In terms of can you do a colour analysis to oneself, and can it be done remotely, I would say not really. Meeting someone is real life, in real light, and putting real colours next to their face allows a skilled person to see how the colours reflect against the skin. This is fairly subtle and needs careful consideration. However, as a rule of thumb, try eye colour, hair colour, lip colour and try holding coloured fabrics close to your face and have a good careful look in a mirror in good light.

  9. BTW, one thing that completely convinced me about the benefit of color analysis was when I googled Nan Kempner who was a major fashionista of the 2nd half of the 20th century. Here is a lady who wore all the latest colors and fashions. Yet when you look at the images of her, even though the clothes are fabulous and she looks totally amazing, there are clearly some colors where she shines a lot more, particularly apparent when you look at her in various shades of white. What I like about this is that here is a person who had a clotheshorse body and clothes tailored to fit, removing two important variables from the “looking good” equation so it is very easy to see the impact of different color choices.

  10. So interesting. I would have imagined that if someone is coming to you for colour/style analysis, they would be reasonably open-minded to the advice and suggestions you offer although I can understand the mental blocks we have over certain colours; for me, it’s orange. Personally I think self-confidence has quite a lot to do with feeling good about the colours we wear, confident people seem to look good in their choices, whatever. I agree with the ‘association’ theory, having spent several years wearing a black and white uniform I now steer clear (but I think both colours are too draining on me anyway). For me, knowing and understanding the best colour shades and tones would result in a selection of clothes that all coordinate and that are flattering, and make fabric shopping so much easier (and cheaper!)
    I’m still considering exploring a palette based on eye and hair colour (from your previous post on warm colouring) and have just cast on my next EZ sweater in very pale grey and charcoal. That’s hair colour sorted, perhaps I’ll have the confidence at some point to try matching my hazel eyes!

    • Thanks for the nice feedback Michelle. Grey works for many of us, and it is a nice easy neutra. I reach for it again and again. But the hazel shades – brown, yellowy green, deeper khaki green, yellow and gold – are amazing and can work beautifully on women with brown and reddish hair colours.

  11. I enjoy your posts about color and learn something new every time. Feedback, gently offered, is always welcome. Recently a friend, whose eye I trust, commented that a particular neckline suited me. I was surprised, never having thought about it before–and promptly went out and purchased two more tops with the same neckline!

    • Same thing with me. I wore polo (turtle) neck jerseys quite alot, feeling that because I am fairly slim it was a flattering look. But a stylist said that she though a round neck was better on me, and I tried it and I agree. I still sometimes wear a polo for warmth or as an underlayer, but my default neckline is now a round neck.

  12. I was once subjected to a lengthy treatment by a make-up artist prior to a photoshoot, who told me my skin was a bit sallow and applied a purple cream before the foundation. I have no clue how that might affect what clothing colours I should wear 🙂 I know that since my hair has turned silver I appreciate blue a lot more, and more shades of blue. Also orange, which I’m sure is not a best colour for my skin, but goes so well with grey. I also love yellow as a “second string” colour, but I’m really not sure how well it suits my skin tone. I’m thinking maybe I should take a selfie in really good daylight, and then place fabrics of different colours next to it. Would that be helpful do you think? Do colour analysts pay any attention to eye colour?

    • I am pretty sure you can wear all the cool colours Felicia – and that could include orange if you like it, and the cooler yellows. Some people just hold fabrics up to their faces in good light and they can see what is best for them. I would always pay great attention to eye colour. Wearing your eye colour, and your natural hair colour will always look great.

      • I just googled “cool colours” and yes, that’s my colour palette alright. I’m not sure why orange is in there, as most are colours with some blue in them. Thanks!

        • Orange of course has red and yellow and yellow is warm. But a balanced orange does work well on deeper cools and bright cools – on those who also suit black. So I am guessing if orange is good you have some deeper/blacker tones in your colouring.

          • My parents were from The Netherlands. My biological father’s family was very dark — and there seems to be a minority of Netherlanders who are. So I may well have inherited dark tones. On another front, as I was fixing a pink wool jacket I made last spring, I realized it’s too pale for me. I don’t do pastels at all but I thought pink was an exception. I definitely need colours with a certain “density”. I almost always like the colours you choose. Your last panel of yellow and deep mauve — right beside each other — is just glorious.

  13. I think why I fear the color analysis is that I’m afraid everything I own might be on the doesn’t do me any favors list. Since I make everything, and have a good bit of stash, it would take a long time to transition to what I should be wearing.

    • Good point Maggie. Wearing what you like is the most important thing, which after all is how most of us get by! All of instinctively get drawn to certain colours for many reasons – they suit us, we like the colour, the colour has good memories and feelings associated with it, we like that colour on someone we admire, the colour is in fashion, the fabric only came in that shade, we were given the item by someone we love etc. None of these are bad reasons so please, no reason to fear anything.

  14. I went to a theatrical even in Manchester featuring native American dance a few decades ago. In the interval the costumes were explained, each item having a personal significance for the wearer. At the time I thought how different this was to our throw away attitude to clothing, but now, as others have pointed out, I reflect that we choose colours and styles because of emotional meaning first, then try to be a bit more analytical about whether they make us look good to third parties. It’s very striking that personality has a big play in which colours and styles we can carry off.

  15. So many interesting things to think about with color…..as a kid, with red hair and yellow/brown/green eyes, green and pale pink were the colors selected for me (and I’m sure that’s where my “right/wrong color” conditioning started!) . My sister, with blond hair and blue eyes, always had blue. Even now I feel a bit daring when I pick a blue that is really “her” color.

    Then, as an adult working in a city where everyone wore black all the time (with “flashes” of taupe and camel) I started buying brighter things and sometimes would notice on the subway that I was the only person on the crowded car wearing any other color. My strategy was that if something was available in fuchsia or hot pink, that’s what I bought.

    So you can see why I don’t share my color recommendations with other people. For example, my lovely daughter in law (strawberry blond, blue eyes) seems to love mustards, taupes, beiges. I think she looks most beautiful in aquas and turquoises. However, I’m keeping that to myself.

    Maybe I should take the color training, a winter objective!

    ceci

    • It’s funny how many families like to colour code their offspring, especially if they have four or more kids. A friend of mine at school was “yellow”. Her swimming towel, toothbrush and mug, knickers, socks – all the things where ownership disputes might arise – were yellow. Whereas her sisters were red, blue and green.

      I also really endorse the flashes of colour idea. As you say in the city there is just a sea of blackishness. Red, orange, shocking pink, strong yellows – these are the tiny revolt of the stylish, the confident, the don’t cares, won’t joins, and the older women who are happy with who they are. We have finally overcome the expectations of our parents, partners and bosses – maybe not yet our critical children – and become content and comfortable with ourselves.

  16. An interesting post. I’m open to being told opinions about my wardrobe choice – shape and colour – but having dealt with clients for many years I know how diplomatic you need to be.
    I think we almost all have a favourite colour to wear – mine is orange – and often that is because it ‘brightens’ our face making us look better. Hopefully my choices are largely good ones. Do feel free to advise me otherwise if necessary Kate!

    • I think you are probably in the cool category too Kim, so what Felicia noted about orange may be true for you. I think red, orange and shocking pink are all great colours for bringing more neutral outfits to life and normally we only need a bit of the bright colour eg a skirt or jumper, bag, belt or shoes. Eg a black trousers, white blouse, orange shoes.

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