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?