Colors and Me

Ah, that 80s fad: getting your colors done! Are you a Spring, Summer, Autumn, or Winter?

Ah, the key to developing inner beauty, outer beauty, self-confidence, and higher self-esteem, all in one booklet.

Ah, the key to developing inner beauty, outer beauty, self-confidence, and self-esteem–all in one booklet!

I can still remember that day when I was about eleven or twelve: my mother had had her colors done, and, in a moment of extravagance, decided that I ought to know what colors would suit me, too. I recall kicking my heels as I sat on a high stool before a big mirror in a local specialty fashion and makeup shop while the “expert” attempted to divine my season. It wasn’t easy, perhaps because of my pre-teen shape-shifting.

Or perhaps the saleswoman waffled because the she was savvy and knew Mom could be “upsold.” Whatever the case, the verdict she reached was that I, in fact, was between seasons and fit into two: Summer and Winter.

As I was going through my drawers in my mom’s new place the other day, I found the swatch booklets she bought. All these years, I’ve kept them socked away–just in case I needed to know what colors would make me look especially good.

It’s interesting to reflect on the “Color Me Beautiful” fad. Until I looked online last week, I hadn’t realized that there was a book. Something I had realized–way back in 1991, as I perched on that stool–was that it was a rather unfair system. I remember the saleswoman being flustered when I asked her about seasons for anyone who was African-American or Asian (I don’t think I was globally aware enough in my little Southern town to think beyond our region’s not-very-diverse community). Only Caucasian women could be any one of the four seasons, I learned. I thought that was unfair and probably demanded to know why.

I have always liked the question “why.” The saleswoman did not. Funny. I have to say that I felt vindicated when I read the internet reviews for Carole Jackson’s Color Me Beautiful that pointed out the inherent bias in her system.

For twenty-two years, my “Summer” and “Winter” color and advice booklets have sat in my dresser drawer. Now, while acknowledging the bias in Jackson’s system, I find myself flipping through the two mini-wallets and asking myself . . .

Was “Color Me Beautiful” right?

Bad hair. You're not supposed to have a natural red cast, and I shouldn't accentuate it.

Bad hair. You’re not supposed to have a natural red cast, and I shouldn’t accentuate it (2012).

Certainly, it’s hard to get past the dated language. Then, I come to some things that make me shake my head:

Winter: Hair color–cool ashen tones, ash brown–ash blond–blue-black. Avoid: frosting, bleaching or streaking. Avoid: red and gold tones.

Summer: Hair color–Frosts: are very good; Platinum-Ash. Lighten and tone with Ash–Ivory–Beige–Silver. Avoid: golden, auburn, or black.

My natural hair color–now that I am an adult–is reddish-brown. You could call me a brunette, or say I have auburn hair. Ooops. I’ll have to protest to my parents. That said, Carole Jackson can rest assured that I will not be getting my hair frosted anytime soon.

But . . . the colors? Were the colors right?

Ok, ok. I’ll let go about being two seasons, and I’ll let go of the fact that my natural hair color is apparently all wrong (though after taking the quiz on the website, I am just as confused as that saleswoman about what season I should be).

Several years before I got my swatches, I nailed "true green" for my school photo. I also borrowed mom's beads.

Several years before I got my swatches, I nailed “true green” for my school photo. I also borrowed Mom’s beads. Smashing! (1989).

The real question is, “Do the swatches flatter me?”

Yes. Yes, they do.

Color Me Beautiful got my colors right, even if they did put me into two different seasons. When I open the (twenty-plus-year-old!) swatch-book, I find that the fabric samples (which have not even faded) are pretty much what I pick when I shop.

There are some colors missing, though: I look really nice in corals and burnt oranges that are decidedly not in my suggested spectrum. The color that I’m wearing in my 2012 head shot (above) is nowhere to be found.

At the same time, both books suggest that I should look good in yellow, which I’ve always avoided like the plague.

I’m left wondering if “Color Me Beautiful” isn’t a little like a fortune cookie. Its little tests find out enough about your basic coloring to throw a few good options at you (in my case, I look good in the suggested colors because of my pale, blue-tinted skin). Then, as you wear only those colors, you get convinced that Carole Jackson’s got you all figured out.

But what about all the other colors? What about my burnt oranges and purpley-pinks? Am I just lucky that I can wear a lot of colors? Am I deluded? I’m not sure. What I am sure of is that–even if the suggested swatches are a bit too limited for my taste–the system guessed pretty well.

But then, so do fortune cookies, most of the time. There is a horoscope-quality about these booklets:

The Summer Woman: Classic feminine, soft-spoken, highly social and a good listener. If you have a problem, she will try to help. She is conservative, an excellent creative home-maker and mother, is patient, even-tempered, trusting, can be stubborn and set in her ways. She is involved in community and social affairs, and is a gracious and poised hostess.

Erm . . . well. Let’s try this one:

The Winter Woman: Is known for her calm, dramatic, and sometimes formal quality. She is confident, and always seems to be in control. This air of confidence can make her appear aloof and difficult to get to know.

Her positive attitude, good organization, and ability to delegate responsibility makes her a good leader in career and community activities.

She is always striving for perfection. She is sometimes over-organized, emotionally strong, has a strong will, and is not easily intimidated.

Who knew you could tell so much just by finding out if my hair is dark or light and my skin-tone is warm or cool? Perhaps I should put Aquarius up next . . .?

It’s easy to tease “Color Me Beautiful,” but there is validity to her system. I’m tempted to check Jackson’s book out of the library just to find out of the swatches for my seasons are more extensive in the full-length book than they are in my mini-wallets. Regardless, I’ll be taking my swatch-books home with me. They may be of assistance as I plan my sewing and knitting.

The colors are made to look good together, after all, which is essential to planning a wardrobe.

Have you had your colors done? What did you think of the results?