Thursday, October 18, 2012

Adventures in Colour

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.

Sears, 1939

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.


  1. I'm just curious about the whole process of finding the colours that suits one's best and would love to give it a go. After all, it's advice, you take as much or as little as you want, and sometimes it's good to get a second opinion from someone else.

    I think the colours picked will really suit you.

  2. My mum had her colours done and found it very useful. I have the same colouring as her, and when we looked at my clothes funnily enough they had lots of those tones anyway (although she came out as 'OK' on most tones - with only dusky lilac colours a no-no). I wear 'wrong' colours but either for a clashing look or as you say, with other colours.

    I also wear black a lot, because accessories and make-up make such a difference (as does neckline). But sometimes, I LIKE the fact that black makes me look a pit of a pale Goth because that's the look I'm aiming for... the one weakness of the concept of 'suiting' is quite mainstream in terms of skin tone being not-too-light-not-too-dark (I mentioned on another blog, in some scenes looking very pale or very orange is A-OK).

  3. Color can make a huge difference in what you look like. I've been wearing more jewel tones lately and the compliments have just been pouring in. I knew that they'd look good with my coloring but I wasn't expecting other people to notice. I think I may have to keep these colors around after fall!

  4. I'd love to have this done but I just can't afford it at the moment. It might be just the thing to help me decide what to sell on though...

  5. Oh, very neat! While I was afraid that having colors done would be limiting, it looks like they've given you at least one shade to wear in every color of the rainbow. If it's any consolation, I think grey is an extremely underrated color in general, and the right shades look good on anyone... it's like a softer black.
    I've been challenging myself to wear all the colors I can, even some of the difficult ones, and I think I've gotten everything except orange now. Anyways, it looks like a blast, perhaps some day I will find where one can get that done locally.

  6. This sounds very fun, I would love to get it done, but I would perhaps be saddened if I owned a beautiful piece of vintage that was then deemed to be not my colour and I wouldn't want to hesitate to wear it as I would be scared I would look washed out. Anyway sounds good and I'm sure it helps find pieces that do complement your complexion more,
    Love Lil x

  7. Excellently said. Colour is very important to me, too, and over the years I've tried to really find the hues that suit me best, then embrace them with both arms wide open. I always love what you wear and the brilliant combos you put together, dear gal.

    ♥ Jessica


I'd love to hear your thoughts!


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