I'm not one to be shy of colour, as you know - my wardrobe is stocked with vibrant reds, clear blues, pinks and corals. Even so, I was starting to feel like I wanted more variety of colour, but I didn't know where to start. When you're buying vintage the main concern is "is it my size?" and you're pretty much stuck with whatever colour things are available in - bonus if the perfect 40s novelty print frock in the exact right size is also a terribly flattering colour, but even if the colours aren't exactly your thing it probably won't stop you from buying it. But now I'm sewing more than ever, the idea of analysis to figure out the most flattering colours for one's complexion piqued my interest.
When I mentioned the subject the other day (with my closet clearout posts), some commenters reacted with misgivings about the idea of being "told what to wear". And of course, as I've mentioned on several occasions, I absolutely truly believe that everyone should wear the clothes that make them happy. But what makes me happy is knowing that I look the best that I can look, which is the same reason I stick to shapes that I know suit me - fitted waistlines, lowered and V-shape necklines, below-knee length skirts - and avoid boxy jackets, 60s shift dresses and 20s flapper styles. I might love these other styles, but knowing I look like a sack of potatoes does not make me feel wonderful, so I leave them to other people.
Likewise, I want to know that the colours I'm wearing put a twinkle in my eyes and lend my complexion a peachy glow, not make my skin look sallow and dull and give me dark circles. Especially, as I say, now that I'm sewing even more of my own clothes, with the investment of time and effort that that involves, I want to be sure that what I'm making is exactly right to make me look my absolute best. Pondering my sewing plans, I wasn't sure whether chocolate brown would suit me well, what was the right shade of green for me, whether I should be wearing peach tones or dusky pinks, whether I can get away with yellow, and would autumnal colours work well on me?
Hence my excitement to be "draped" this weekend by House of Colour consultant Jo Greene (who coincidentally also happens to be my sister). Turns out I'm what's called a "blue spring", which means that I look best in bright, clear colours at the cooler end of the warm spectrum. Burgundies and mustards aren't for me (which I kind of suspected), neither watercolour pastels like lilac and sage. I'm a go for corals, spring greens, honey-toned browns, clear blues and turquoise, and more:
Those who are resistent to the idea of colour analysis feel it's prescriptive and restrictive, whereas in fact it can be astonishingly liberating. Think about it: most people tend to stick to 'safe' colours in their wardrobe - black and white (though in fact these are too stark for many complexions, including mine - the 'white' above is actually a creamy off-white), navy, red, beige, maybe a bit of turquoise or baby pink - and minimise brighter colours like hot pink or lime green, unsure of whether or not they can carry it off. Being presented with a set of colours which suits you is like a licence to incorporate more daring shades into your wardrobe, and gives you the extra confidence to go for it, knowing that they'll work.
What's more, knowing which colours don't suit me so well means I know how to make them work better. Officially I should avoid black, but I've held back one or two pieces, and some in cooler hues which aren't brilliant on me - I'm not letting go of my Carefree dress or my grey suit jacket, among others. But I now know that I can make these items work a bit better by 'lifting' them with bright, warm hues like oranges and corals. Likewise, the vintage dress fabric I've got earmarked for my next sewing project is a summer sky blue (not ideal) with a print in corn yellow (good), bright navy (good) and leaf green (good), so it's useful to know that I want to bring out these colours when I accessorise to enhance the overall look.
Oh, and there's make-up too. Although I was most interested in the clothing colours, the make-up consultation was pretty cool too, and the products very good quality (I happen to know that Jo wears her House of Colour lipsticks daily, not just when she's taking a class). She ticked off the best shades for me in foundation, lipstick and eyeshadow. I went ahead and ordered a pretty coral lipstick as a subtler alternative to my Chanel bright red, and when I feel a bit richer I'm planning on adding a couple more, along with the make-up primer and the foundation (when I run out of my current one).
Jo is the House of Colour consultant for the Exeter area, and offers both colour and personal style analysis. She's also on facebook and twitter.