Color Certainty is the Key
Nothing – absolutely nothing – is more critical to looking your personal best than defining your unique group of most flattering colors. Color is the first thing people notice about what you are wearing. It’s more important that than the figure-flattery of the style. More important than the fit. More important than the price tag or the designer name. Some of those other things are important … but NOTHING is more foundational than getting the color right.
Color is always present in your clothing. It doesn’t cost a penny more to buy the garment or fabric in a great-for-you color than a less flattering one. It doesn’t take a single second longer to make the garment, if you are a sewist. It doesn’t take any longer to put it on in the morning. And the benefits last all day.
Plus, the colors that are your personal best have an amazing ability to inter-coordinate. You’ll have lots more outfits from fewer items – a huge savings in the long run.
So how do you know which are magic colors for you? First you may need to let go of stereotype color concepts like Four Seasons. Few women have coloring fits neatly into one of those boxes.
If you “had your colors done” some time ago, pull out those recommendations and take a look in the mirror. Hold the color chart next to your face and look for balance between the two. Are the colors about as warm or cool as you are? Are they about as light or dark? Are they about as bright or muted?
Joyce – a workshop participant – brought along two sets of swatches from prior consults. They are both too bright and clear for her more subtle coloring. See how the third set of recommendations balances with her personal color pattern?
NOTE: the top she wore to the workshop is a great color for her – and not like anything in those first two swatch sets. During class we added the scarf, which links the garment color and her hair color, creating even more points of connection in the outfit.
That’s what you want to see in your visual relationship to your own swatches. If you do, the upcoming posts in this series will help you use that information more effectively. And if you don’t see the connection — or you don’t have color guidelines at all — this series will help you get pointed in the right direction.
So check out any old swatches you have – share what you discover in the COMMENTS section – and watch for next week’s info on identifying your all-important Key Neutral. With certainty!
Yes, she looks great in picture three! And her colors there are great together, too. You could just make a scarf with the colors. It’s so helpful to see these comparisons. Thank you, and thanks to Joyce! I think you mean the scarf she’s wearing in #1 and #2 has some gold or red in it too, but I didn’t notice till you said so.
I wish clothing retailers weren’t limited to the extremes–winter colors are just so cold, autumn ones are too golden, spring are too bright . . . we muted folks feel left out.
Quick question: what to do when the fluorescent lighting in the store isn’t flattering to you? Take your colors and compare them with the garment but ignore what you look like in the mirror? Thanks.
One of the beauties of accurate color information is the compatibility within an individual’s color range. It makes wardrobe coordination so much easier. I couldn’t agree more about the absence of mid-range colors in the retail marketplace — whether it’s mid-temperature, mid-value or mid-intensity. And ironically more people are “mids” than not. I work hard to include choices for those middle folks in the scarves, accessories and fabrics that we offer for that very reason.
About lighting – your assumption is right. Those dressing room lights don’t flatter anyone, do they?
That’s so helpful, thank you. And yes, I’ve drooled over the fabric and accessories you carry.
If you happen to be attending the Sew EXPO in Puyallup next month or the ASG National Conference in Orlando this summer you can see them up close and personal. And I’m always happy to send fabric swatches so you can see the true color.
Yes I agree about the limited colors in retail stores. I’m a plus-sized woman and so the selection is even more limited. If I wanted black and white, I’d be set. But things on my chart are really hard to find.
In addition, even fabric color choices are limited for me, since I live in SW Florida where it’s hot all the time and so don’t use polyester, which has more color choices!!
It’s true that color selection is increasingly limited … and getting worse. That’s why we’ve started selling fabrics, especially when we can find things in those hard-to-get colors. For my Florida tour the end of this month I’ve sourced a couple of new fabrics – with lovely dusty colors – that are more friendly to that hot climate … hope we can catch up while I’m in your area.
The last time I was ‘colorized’ was years ago. Since then, my hair is now white (which I LOVE). Changes up everything. I have light skin, and dark brown eyes. Not even sure now which neutral would be best for me. Don’t know where to start. I like bright, jewel tones, and always get compliments when I wear hot pink saying that’s my color. Need to redo my wardrobe with more dressy things as I’m a jeans and sweatshirt/teeshirt kind of gal.
Wow Kathleen – it’s like you read my mind. Next week we’ll be talking about neutrals and one of my models has striking white hair and dark eyes. And as we move thru successive weeks we’ll consider how to achieve that more dressed-up, polished look without sacrificing comfort or easy-care features in our clothing. It’s going to be great fun. Glad you’re joining us.
It’s good to go over one’s swatches now and then. We change! I originally was an “autumn” and now am a “summer.” Both categories were correct for me at the time they were done.
“Back when”, we told people that their Season was theirs for life — crazy when you think of how we change over time, isn’t it? As we lose pigmentation, we all tend to move cooler and paler — exactly what your autumn-to-summer shift is reflecting.
where can I go to get my colors done, I have asked at stores and they look at me like am crazy!!!! Thanks
Once we all got over the big (but drastically over-simplified) color craze years ago, lots fewer people were willing to put in the hard work of doing colors in a more sophisticated way. Hence there aren’t as many color consultants around. There are a few folks around the country whose skills I can vouch for and happily recommend. Feel free to email me directly with your location and if I know someone in your area I’ll happily share that info. I also share my travel schedule thru my newsletter, so perhaps we can meet up in that way. Or sometimes clients visit me in St Louis for color and shopping services. And I also do color consults long distance via photos (prints, not emailed). You can read about that under the “Services” tab on this site.
I have a Pocket Color Wheel. Can I use it to determine my colors? How do I go about it?
A color wheel is a great tool for planning combinations of colors, but really not designed for helping determine an individual’s best choices. If you want to use that color wheel as the basis of a deeper general knowledge of color characteristics, I strongly recommend the Craftsy.com class “Color Play for Quilters” with Joen Wolfrom. Don’t let the title fool you – it will improve your color awareness whether you are quilting or not.
I have found Joen Wolfrom’s Color Play books and classes extremely helpful both for quilting and wardrobe planning. C&T Publishing carries her Color Play tool too which I use to sort my fabrics — quilting and clothing.
Thanks for mentioning that class – I loved it too and was already planning to mention it in a future blog post. Not at all focused on chooseing optimal colors for people, but fabulous for deepening one’s understanding of just how color works. I second your recommendation!
Understand the age progression to cooler and paler. However, many people I see are red-faced (possibly due to health issues) when they weren’t so at an earlier age. How do you handle that? Thanks!
I teach clients to use a mint-green color corrector under their foundation to neutralize that redness. Just as complimentary colors (like red and green) brighten one another when placed by side, they neutralize each other when combined.
I had my colors done in 2008 and again in 2014 after I began to significantly lose my hair coloring. I was right that I needed to mute the colors that had looked great before, and I prefer the newer palette. I also find shopping for my colors, even in fabrics, is challenging. I especially like the sites that give the pantone colors of the fabric.
I’m really enjoying this series. Thanks for all the work in putting it together.
It is absolutely true that finding colors outside the classic “winter” palette is more challenging. That’s true at wholesale too. When I went in search of browns in ponte knit, every manufacturer gave me very patronizing advice that I shouldn’t buy brown because it doesn’t sell. Well of course it doesn’t sell when it isn’t available, right? Good news is that they were happy to dye it for me. Not-so-good news is that their minimum for custom colors is 550 yards – yikes! But I believe in the importance of finding the right neutral so strongly that we bit the bullet and have custom-dyed chocolate and caramel so far. Camel and taupe are next on our list.
Thanks Nancy – looks like I may have to face up to paying customs on fabrics from the US !
Hate the customs barrier, but we’d be honored to be your fabric “home”. Please contact me via email rather than just ordering from the web site because we aren’t set up for international transactions online.
As I have commented before, thanks to you doing my colors, I have completely given up black and it has been one of the best decisions I have ever made! I always knew black wasn’t “my color”, but I admit to wearing it to work as there just weren’t many other colors to choose from in RTW. Thankfully I sew, but when working I just didn’t have the time. However, now I’m retired and I’m in the process of losing quite a bit of weight. I’ve been planning and re-planning my new wardrobe that I’m going to be needing in just a few months. In the meantime, I have plenty to choose from as far as basics and accessories. Nancy, I’m really looking forward to sewing up some of that gorgeous fabric I bought from you and I’m looking forward to acquiring some more. I am planning on being at the ASG Conference in Orlando this summer, so you will definitely see me at your booth and in some of your classes. Every time I hear you speak I capture some other tidbit that I missed during your other presentations I’ve attended. As you have said many times, wearing the correct color is the best thing you could ever do for yourself!
Luckily, I still suit my summer palette – I really do have the english complexion, blue eyes and pink lips, rosy eyelids and so on. And as I lighten with age, I will just move lighter on the palette. My main problem is that I live in a small regional town in Australia, and can’t get suitable shoes and accessories in anything other than black, gold, red or tan. So I tend to use summer colours on top, but the more muted ones (muted colours are of course mixed with black). Not perfect, but the only solution I have found to the problem. As I am petite. I wish I could do otherwise, but I have to work with what I can get.
Sounds as if you are doing a great job — obviously we are all constrained by availability, but the more we know what we’re looking for the closer we can come to finding it.
I am enjoying this weekly series SO MUCH!!! I really like the small doses of information from you Nancy, and seeing the other readers’ comments always makes me think “me too!”
I wanted to add an anecdote to your discussion of lighting. For years, I have been getting dressed in my master bath because it is the only room that has bright light in the morning. And for years, I have wondered why my clothes don’t match and/or I suddenly don’t look so great when I put them on, even though I know that they really do match and they really are good colors for me.
Well, did you know that you should not get dressed in a room with hi-gloss pistachio green walls? LOL Of course you did! I am probably the only person in the world that did not figure out until recently that the green was reflecting that lovely bright light onto my clothes and skin and making me look quite ghastly.
Anyway, the moral of the story is, you need to have bright, natural light, and it needs to be neutral. That’s the hard part. No tinted glass, no colored curtains, and, obviously, no shiny green walls. I will be doing some painting sometime in the next couple of weeks. 🙂
I really enjoy these articles! Thank you!
About 5 years ago, Nancy, you did my chart for me. I still love the colors, but I wonder if they are still current. When you did it, I had just changed my hair color myself to one that was more red, kind of amber–lovely. Then I couldn’t find that same color again, so now it’s brown with many golden highlights. Do you think my chart still works? Do I need to do it again,and/or every time my hair changes?
A major hair color change would probably call for some tweaks to a woman’s Color Fan, but it’s impossible to fully answer your question without seeing you. I’m doing an all-day program for the Central West Coast ASG chapter on March 20 — maybe you can join us there. I’ll be happy to give your colors a quick review.
Nancy, I picked up your class, Sew to Color, on Craftsy and thoroughly enjoyed it. Like many others, I had my colors done years ago and was assigned to be a summer. At the time I had medium blonde hair with natural, but not golden, highlights, fair skin and very dark blue eyes.
Now, I am in my early 70’s and think I look like a ghost with my mostly grey hair, not white, darn it, and little color left in my complexion or lips that used to be so pink. I’m planning on doing a photo consult with you in hopes to brighten up my presentation.
A really bad thing for me is that I have become very sensitive to make-up. I have found 2 foundations that I can wear along with a rose powder blush and dark blond/light brown brow pencil. Lip color is something I have the most difficulty with. My lips are very sensitive to the dyes used, so if I wear it at all I put a lip balm on first then the color. Of course that lasts about an hour!
I can’t wait to find out how I can improve my colors to better reflect me!
I’ll be looking for your photos in the mail. And about lip color – have you tried using a pencil color rather than lipstick? Possibly the dye formulations differ enough to eliminate or minimize the irritation.
I forget when my first CMB color analysis was (late 70s maybe) but the two instructors actually argued over me – summer vs winter. They decided on winter but took away black, pure white, deep navy, and charcoal. They also told me to wear oyster white. Try to find that in a fabric store. I went back when they brought out flow colors and one of them asked me who told me I could wear the colors i was wearing and I told them that they did! I went to David Kibbe in NYC who saw me as an autumn like Ann Margret and wanted to color my hair like hers. i refused, thank Heavens. Then I tried Color 1 and felt they were spot on with “muted”, pulling the colors from my skin, hair and eyes and finding the complementary colors. For confirmation, I went back to CMB when they did the 16 season breakdown and was told I was a soft summer, more or less confirming Color 1. I am content, even 40 years later. Finding my colors in natural fibers is another story completely. Because of menopause and medication reaction, I cannot wear synthetic fibers. There used to be a wonderful fabric by mail company in British Columbia (Four Seasons) which sold its colors by your season. All natural fiber and my colors. How wonderful. Of course, they are gone. I make myself hard to dress as I do not like lapels on blouses or jackets, favoring Chanel style or soft v-necks with one soft ribbon tie for closure on the latter. I am best in soft, blended, watercolor florals but cannot find them. Once I recover from my most recent orthopedic surgery, I will try your fabrics and maybe Mood. I still have several gorgeous silk tweeds from Four Seasons that I have saved for 25 years. Maybe I will get around to them soon. Another problem comes from having been decidedly “preppy” in high school in the 60s – in style if not odd color combos. In the Philadelphia area, most preppys grow into twin sets and pearls. I love the pearls but would prefer a silk cami. I wore Villager and Lady Bug in high school and college and it is hard to stay classic without sometimes looking dated. David Kibbe said I was so far yin as to fall off the charts, but meaning soft fabrics, not ruffles. I must get your new book and check out your fabrics. Maybe I can finally find a greyed navy. Thanks for all the wonderful updates.
Thank goodness you sew – finding the perfect thing in ready-to-wear is quite a challenge. I have just found a greyed navy in a lovely Tencel rayon lightweight twill – looks a lot like a washed silk and totally breathable. I’ll be premiering it at the ASG Conference inj Orlando in July, then ordering colors based on the customer reaction. Are you going to be there?
Hi, Nancy. Unfortunately, I will not be at the July event. I just had a total shoulder replacement with rotator cuff repair and it ia not going as smoothly as the one I had last year, but I will be watching your fabrics in hopes that a greyed navy, or blue-grey, will show up. Thanks.