Color Me Beautiful Colors Me Confused



In Colors and Me, I wrote about the Color Me Beautiful fad of the 1980s and my experience as a pre-teen when my mom got my colors done. For those who didn’t read that post (or don’t remember it!), I was diagnosed as both a Summer and a Winter, in what was either a brilliant sales tactic or genuine confusion about what category I fit.

Since returning from my visit to my mother with my two “Color Me Beautiful” swatch books, I decided to follow up the color theory by getting my hands on a copy of Carole Jackson’s original book and Doris Pooser’s Always in Style with Color Me Beautiful (an expansion of Jackson’s system that acknowledged that people are often on the border between seasons and can successfully wear at least some of the shades of the “secondary” season).

The editions of the books that I got are used and deliciously 80s, but the color pages seem to be in good shape; I don’t think the swatches have deteriorated much in the years since the books’ publication. The books are actually quite detailed, each offering their own system for a complete style overhaul, and I think that they deserve book reviews (perhaps in tandem).

However, right now I’m interested in the basic question that was left unanswered all those years ago: What season am I? Winter or Summer?

Somehow, I expected that–with age and the hair-color-change from blonde to brunette/auburnish that happened during my college years–finding my season would be easy. I’m sorry to say that, even with the help of both gurus, Jackson and Pooser, I am still uncertain! My skin tone is definitely blue, which makes me one of the two categories I was assigned at age 12. As I go over the checklists and descriptions, I fit them both right down the line.



The only exception, following Jackson’s system, is related to my freckles. According to Color Me Beautiful, Winters, when they have freckles, have charcoal colored ones. But then Summers can have “rosy or charcoal brown freckles.” My freckles are golden brown, which Jackson classifies as Autumn.

So, um . . . yeah. When I check the palettes in the books, I regularly wear colors from both the Summer and the Winter palates, plus I do very well in burnt orange (what she called “terra-cotta”) and coral, which should be “warm” colors.

Jackson is rigid in her insistence that you should only be one season, and her explanation is sound: by committing to your best season of colors (rather than mixing in second-best), you raise your likelihood of looking good each and every day and ensure that your wardrobe will coordinate seamlessly. That second part is, perhaps, the most important. Limiting those colors to a bare minimum (30 swatches per season that definitely go together) means that if you follow Jackson’s system, you are much more likely to have a harmonious and versatile wardrobe.

But that doesn’t help little ol’ me, who still doesn’t know if she’s a Winter or a Summer, nor does it answer why I look good in colors that aren’t in either season’s palette.

Pooser’s Always in Style is written for people like me, people who don’t fit neatly into Jackson’s four categories, and also for those who are feeling a bit rebellious against Jackson’s meagre 30 colors and want permission to branch out. I need to look more closely at how Pooser approaches color; so far, I’ve only been able to skim these two books. However, here’s the gist:

Pooser’s system creates “flow” charts for those who are between seasons (and gives a system of analysis to help you determine which seasons you cross into from your main one). Her flow-charts group your major season’s colors on one side, the minor season’s on the other, and puts a band in the middle of good “cross-over” colors.

I have to admit that–when I look at Pooser’s Winter/Summer “Cool Chart”–I see me. Well, me without several of my favorite colors–but with many more of the ones I feel comfortable wearing. But then I think, “Perhaps this is cheating! Perhaps you like this just because it lets you do what you want, without actually facing up to what looks really good and what doesn’t!”

In addition to the color analysis, both these books are full of tips for makeup, wardrobe, and general image overhaul; I look forward to reading those sections more carefully (and trying to update them to suit the 2010s rather than the 1980s). Nevertheless, I’m left feeling a bit disappointed because I haven’t found “the answer” to what colors would suit me best. Having a system would, in fact, be nice–as long as it isn’t too restrictive.

Color analysis isn’t going anywhere; it may not be as big a fad as it was when Jackson’s book first came out, but it’s flourishing. When I search online, I find a lot of consultants–and those consultants look to be mighty expensive. Moreover, they seem to have made Jackson and Pooser’s systems even more complex, and the color palettes they sell seem to contain 60+ colors. That’s an almost overwhelming amount–and though it might ensure a flattering color, you’d have to shop with great care to have a lean, coordinated wardrobe.

It makes me wonder: If Jackson’s four season approach with her spare colors for each was too restrictive, perhaps we’ve now gone too far in the other direction?

For now, I think my best bet is to set up hubby’s photography light, cover my hair with a shower cap (Hm, I’m gonna need to get one of those . . . ), and try on the colors in my closet. I simply do not have the fabrics on hand to do a full-scale “drape” test.

I wish I had a buddy doing color analysis training so that I could be her test subject!

ETA: If I were to go by the colors in my closet that I like to wear, then I am a Summer more than a Winter. Hm. But what about the orange and coral?


5 thoughts on “Color Me Beautiful Colors Me Confused

  1. bgballroom says:

    Hi Demoiselle! I had my colours done a couple of times in the 80s and was very happy that there was an audience each time. Nothing like having 5 or 10 women saying “Wow!” or “eeeew!” to verify the “expert’s” opinions. The kicker for me for warm vs. cool was the silver vs. gold test. Totally obvious that I was a cool. The winter/summer thing is tricky, but when they put a faded denim against a strong blue, it was pretty clear. Strong blues look nice, but the faded pastels make my grey-ish eyes pop out strongly blue. Pretty amazing. But I was told I could wear the stronger colours close to my face if I wore more makeup:-)

    As for your corals, oranges and terra cottas, it is possible that you are actually choosing “cool” versions of them that really do flatter you. My mother always said I could never wear yellow, but there are indeed some yellows I can wear. We had a family friend who wore the most gorgeous corals, peaches and salmons and I desperately wanted to wear those because she was so lovely and looked so good in them. Alas, ’twas not to be! But I will also never be a 5’8″ svelte and elegant redhead, so I have kind of let go of that dream now.

    Enjoy your sewing journey! And the denim pencil skirt looks fabulous. Don’t worry about the wrinkles;-)

    • demoiselle says:

      Thank you for the compliment on the pencil skirt! I am proud of it, though I need to re-hem it (a thread snapped and the top-stitching is coming out).

      I agree that having an audience would help with the color analysis. I’ve always known I was a silver-not-gold girl (always had an aversion to yellow gold, honestly). It is possible that there are some cooler tones in the oranges and corals that I pick. Certainly, they tend to be muted (burnt orange, for instance, rather than orange-peel orange).

      It is amazing what color can do. For example, I have always considered myself to have blue eyes. I decided this by comparing to my dad’s blue and my mom’s hazel.

      But when I wear a certain light-green floor-length gown, my eyes pop out and look truly green. I stared at myself in the mirror for quite a while when I noticed that effect, and decided that my eyes must be more multi-colored than I’d realized.

      Did you bring your own audience to the analysis? Have you used the system since?

  2. bgballroom says:

    Haven’t used the system since those couple of times. Once was in a department store with my then very young DD and whoever else clustered around the display and once was at a “girls’ weekend” retreat so there were some people I knew and some I didn’t. Now I just tend to stay in what I think is my colour range but put the odd “warm” on from time to time just to check. And I am wearing bright jewel tones now for our dance competitions but that is to help me show up on the floor.

    Have fun making pj’s! They are so nice and easy plus working with flanelette is so nice.

    • Victor says:

      I am sorry it has been so confusing, and maybe sharing something can help you decide. My wife and I both had our colors analyzed in a Color Me Beautiful session, and have the same books you mentioned. I am Winter she is Autumn. It was not clear to me either, because I picked clothes from all four seasons! In the original system each color set has 36 swatches for each of four seasons. The new system uses depth, clarity, and tone (and 42 swatches for each of 12 classifications). Beside each other on a seasonal wheel diagram are Cool Winter (cool colors, but avoid soft pastels like sky blue or light lavender) and Cool Summer (cool colors, but avoid bright and clear or overpowering). You may be able to tell which one you are from the power colors. Cool Winter Power Colors: Black, White, Chinese Blue, Icy Blue, Fuchsia, Plum. Cool Summer Power Colors: Navy, full range of blues, soft Pink, soft Grey, Soft Fuchsia, Berry.

  3. Paul says:

    I was trained as a colour consultant in this system and there are several things that need to be considered.

    1) What lighting was used during the test? It should be a fluorescent cool light.

    2) Was your hair dyed? It should be its natural colour.

    3) The cloth swatches have to be chosen very carefully. A navy blue swatch can have a yellow underlying foundation to it that would ruin it. Choosing the swatches is of utmost importance because choosing colour swatches from a store that sells cloth means you are choosing what manufacturers have chosen for the season which can change.

    The goal is contrast. The viewer’s eye should look at your face, go down your body and then because of the lines and colour of your clothing be drawn back up to your face and stay there. Everything should frame your face.

    The majority of people in the world have yellow-based skin. Yellow-based skin needs cool colours to frame it. Some people, mainly of Irish/Caucasian descent have white-based skin and need yellow-based colours to frame their face but those people are rare.

    People with yellow-based skin (East Asians in particular) should never dye their hair a yellow-blonde. East Asians should only have white or black hair or shades of such. Yellow hair on Summers and Winters only serve to blende the person’s face into their hair and then the viewer’s eye doesn’t know where to rest.

    Do you want to wear your clothes or do you want your clothes to wear you? What is more important? It’s not a right or wrong question. If you want to wear Armani to make an impression on a business client, then adjust your hair and make-up colours accordingly. If you are in a counseling session of some kind and want the other person to stay focused on your eyes, go with your season.

    I won’t say names but certain direct-marketing companies very foolishly sent out a bunch of amateurs to give rotten advice to thousands. Carole Jackson’s system actually does work and it is an incredible system if done properly. We need to all practice direct and honest communication with others and part of that is to develop wardrobes that always direct attention away from every but our eyes and souls.

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