I’ve been thinking a lot about colour lately. It started the other day when I tried on a lovely bronzey sweater from Vince at the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale. Oh, I loved it. It was just the right weight to slip under a blazer, long enough, and loose enough to skim the body, but not too bulky or heavy to wear in the early fall. Maybe even on our trip to Croatia in late September, I thought. But there was a problem. My face. My face and that sweater did not love each other. The colour was all wrong for me. It made my make-up disappear. And I thought it made me look older, and kind of ill.
That’s because the sweater is a warm colour. And as a person with blue undertones to my skin, warm colours look terrible on me. I learned that years ago. And I can’t for the life of me explain why I keep forgetting it. But apparently I do.
That same evening I had dinner with my friend Krista, and we talked about fashion. About shopping, how we shopped, what we like or don’t like to wear, what we think suits us and what doesn’t. I’ll tell you all about our conversation in a post later this week. Anyway, Krista mentioned a style website called “Dressing Your Truth.” I had heard of “Dressing Your Truth” a while ago from a reader of this blog who mentioned it in a comment on a post about knowing your own style. It’s a program developed by Carol Tuttle which advises women on style, hair, and make-up based on their personality or their “energy profile,” as she calls it on the website.
I have to say right up front that I’m not usually a fan of programs that purport to tell us how to dress. So I was skeptical when I checked out the website later that night. But it was interesting. You can have a look for yourself here. I found that personality-wise I fit into what they call the “type one” category in many ways: idea person, easily excitable, talks with hands etc. But I really hated the clothing suggestions for that type. The style of dress I prefer was much more aligned with a “type three” personality, until they suggested I avoid cool colours, and switch everything black in my wardrobe for brown. Uh, that wouldn’t work for me.
I know, I know. I’d started off skeptical. And after watching a couple of the videos, unable to buy into the energy thing, I became totally resistant. That doesn’t mean it won’t work for you, just that I don’t think I will be “dressing my truth” any time soon. But my appetite for style advice had been whetted. So I moved on.
I couldn’t get that bronze Vince sweater out of my mind. And I remembered the long ago advice from Mona, my hairdresser back in the nineties, that although I had been a redhead as a child, and still had a redhead’s colouring, I was “a cool red, not a warm red.” Our conversation had begun when I moaned about shopping for a new lipstick. How there were so many wonderful peaches and corals that year, and how I loved them. How since I had a redhead’s complexion, every cosmetician in the city kept trying to sell me peach lipstick. (Okay, that may be a slight exaggeration; I only went to three cosmetic counters.) And how crap all those peach lipsticks looked on me. Like I had fake lips. “That’s because as a cool redhead, you need cool colours,” said Mona. And proceeded to show me.
So, the other night, still on my quest for advice and information about colour and style, and with Mona’s words in my head, I checked out this You Tube channel. Justine Leconte’s lovely, quirky videos were recommended by my friend Wendy from York, who reads this blog. Oh my, I love this girl. Justine is a trained fashion designer. And her advice is quintessentially French, eschews trends, and advises viewers on everything from how to tell their skin tone, to the ten things every French woman has in her wardrobe. I am hooked.
I started with her video on how to tell if you have cool or warm undertones in your skin. Have a look.
I tried all of the methods Justine suggests. The veins in my wrist are clearly blue, silver jewellry really does make my skin look creamy compared with gold, and the pink in my neck was clear when I held up a white piece of paper. I most definitely have a cool undertone to my skin. And if you have a cool undertone in your skin, cool colours will flatter you.
That’s why I love wearing the raspberry fleece, below. And why I’ve kind of fallen out of love with the yellow gingham scarf that I bought in the spring. These two photos are not necessarily a fair comparison, but they were as close as I could get. They were taken months apart, but in the same space, at around the same time of day. Of course, on any given day, the light in my sun room will be different, particularly the spring versus the winter light. But, if you look closely, the yellow scarf makes my make-up look like it’s just sitting on my skin. While the other shot looks so much more natural, even though I have on pretty much the same make-up. I did darken my lipstick in the yellow shot, because I felt as if my face needed to be brighter.
But now I’m thinking maybe it wasn’t my face. Maybe it was the scarf.
Here are another couple of interesting shots, taken out on our street one winter morning, a few minutes apart. I shouldn’t be able to wear that red sweater. Red isn’t usually a good colour on me. But when I put on the scarf with all the cool blues, and purples in it, the sweater looks great, I think. I used the scarf to tie together the sweater and my fuchsia Max Mara tweed coat. But isn’t it odd that the same lipstick looks more red in the shot on the left, when the only difference is that in the right shot I’d pulled on the fuchsia coat?
This morning before I headed off for coffee with my friend Marina, I tried to do what Justine had recommended. I pulled several scarves out of my closet and tried them all, one after the other, up next to my face, taking photos of each one, in natural light. I had my make-up on, but no blush or lipstick. The difference was not nearly as dramatic as I expected. I can’t see that my skin looks particularly good in the cool shots, or less good in the warm one. But I will say that in real life, the difference between how these three scarves look next to my skin is obvious. Even Hubby said so. And even though I love the coral pashmina that I bought at Liberty of London way back in 2000, it doesn’t go with my face. Sigh.
Cool colours flatter me. And as much as I think I should be able to wear warm colours considering my skin tone, I can’t. “Your undertone,” Justine said, “is the hidden colour in your skin.” So even though I have a redhead’s complexion, I have cool undertones in my skin. Justine told an interesting anecdote in her video on undertones. She said that a professor gave them, as homework, the task of mixing with paint the exact shade of their own skin tone. And she could not believe how much blue she had to use to recreate her own skin colour. She must have a cool undertone as well. If I had a palette and some paints, I’d try that exercise just for fun.
In another video, Justine talks about finding the primary colours or RGB values in your dominant skin tone using an ap. I downloaded the free ap “Colour Inspiration” onto my i-phone. The idea is to take a photo of the skin on your inner forearm in natural light, and let the ap analyze how much red, green, and blue is in your skin tone.
This is harder than it seems, folks. Especially when one has ruddy skin with freckles. I identified everything from “pale silver” and “dark vanilla” to “American orange” and “liver” all on the one arm. Hopefully I zeroed in on a freckle with those last two colours. The commonality in all of these is that my red values are always high. Well, no surprise there. I’m still not sure what I’m supposed to do with that information yet. The fun thing about the ap is that it can help you tell if a colour is cool or warm. Maybe I can avoid buying any more yellow scarves that way. Maybe. And since it’s under $10.00 (Cad) I may order the colour wheel that Justine uses. So I can play around some more with colour. You can find it here, if you’re interested.
I’ve had a ton of fun these past couple of days, thinking about colour. Reading and watching videos about colour. Trying to pinpoint my own colours, and attempting to wrap my brain around the concepts of colour theory. Of course none of this is new. I remember back in the eighties when everyone, it seemed, was “getting their colours done.” But understanding why a particular colour works or doesn’t work is preferable, to me anyway, to using a prescriptive swatch of colours deemed suitable by someone else.
I used to teach about colour when I taught grade nine Science way back when. All about the colour spectrum: Roy G Biv for those who remember that old acronym for red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet. And lots of other fascinating stuff that I can’t recall. I wish I’d known about skin tone and undertone and choosing colours that suit us when I was teaching Science. So when a student asked, and they always did, “when are we EVER going to use this in real life?” I could tell them.
I’m mostly kidding. I know colour theory is relevant to lots of other important things in life, more important than choosing outfits. It’s just I’m imagining the fifteen-year-old girls in this one class I had back in the nineties. Due to a timetable anomaly my class was scheduled opposite a boys’ Phys. Ed. class, and as a result it was all girls. Imagine twenty fifteen-year-old girls in one room. So chatty, so breathlessly exuberant, so caught up in the drama of being a teenager. Gosh, I loved that class.
One girl could put on her makeup and check her homework all at the same time. Seriously. One day I chastised her for not paying attention as we took up the questions I’d assigned the previous day. “Janice,” I said, “Are you with us here? What’s the answer to number five?” She had her lips half done, her little mirror in one hand, and her lipstick in the other. Without moving the hand that held her lipstick pressed against her upper lip, she swiveled her eyes to her notebook. And with pursed lips mumbled, like a ventriloquist, “3.254 centimetres” or something similar. Then went back to her lipstick. Now you had to love a kid who could do that without blinking an eye.
So I just think if a few of the kids like Janice thought that Science could help them choose better outfits, or lipsticks, well, I might have had an in there. I’d definitely have caught their attention better than I did.
In fact I wish I could go back and give those girls a colour theory assignment that involved choosing outfits. How much fun would that have been to mark? No, no… I’m just kidding. That would be totally shallow. Teachers can’t design assignments simply because they’d be fun to mark. As much as I loved to have fun in the classroom, I did take my job seriously.
Now how about you, my friends? How much do you think about colour? Have you figured out yet if you have cool or warm undertones in your skin? Maybe this is old news for you. It probably is. But a little refresher never hurt anyone.
P.S. That link to the colour wheel at Amazon and to the Vince sweater are affiliate links. If you buy something by clicking on it, I will earn a commission.