The Triumph of Individual Style – part 7

We’ve looked at face and body lines, shape/silhouette, length proportions, balance points, symmetry/asymmetry, and scale. Now let’s move on to chapter 6 where we examine coloring.

This is another heavy-on-information chapter. It starts out with a color wheel and a bit of color theory. We learn about:

  • hues  – pure pigments organized into hue families (reds, oranges, yellows, greens, blues, and violets);
  • color temperature, both psychological (how colors affect us) and relative (how they appear in comparison to other hues of the same family) – warm(er) or cool(er);
  • value – the lightness or darkness of a hue relative to another hue
  • resonance – refers to how a pure pigment was altered to get a derivative hue: washed (added water), tinted (added white), shaded (added black), toasted (added brown), and muted (added complement);
  • intensity – relative brightness of a hue: high (pure hue is bright, its resonances as not as bright – think lemon yellow or magenta) or low (pure hue needs to be lightened to appear brighter – think indigo).

The color chart that follows is amazing, showing the various derivatives of each hue, labeled with resonance, relative and psychological temperature, and even arranged along gray scale. I discover new things in it every time I study it.

The next part of the chapter is about creating your personal palette of colors. In this section, you use the color samples included in the book to match your skin, hair, and eyes. I cannot recommend this at all. When I tried it a couple of years ago, I couldn’t get any decent matches. Maybe it was the light, maybe the color samples are too small, maybe I had no idea what I was doing. In any case, I found this particular bit an exercise in futility and frustration.

I decided a personal color analysis by a trained color analyst would be much more valuable. With my coloring (very dark hair, very dark eyes, very pale skin), most people think Snow White and automatically put me in True/Cool Winter. I wore those colors and then decided to see for myself. As it turns out, I am a Bright Winter.

After PCA

I recommend that you make an appointment with a good color analyst (you could check out for a list of Sci/Art analysts as well as Christine’s own students) and ask her to explain to you exactly what to look for as she changes the drapes. Seeing it with your own eyes, happening in your own face in the mirror, is a very empowering experience.

Back to the book now, we’re going to look at the color palette. I’ll be using my Bright Winter color fan. The color temperature here is neutral or combination, containing both cool and warm hues, though still heavily weighted towards cool (Bright Winter is warmed by a little sunshine from Spring’s influence but it’s still Winter). The values range all the way from white to black, with a lot of medium value hues in between.

Color contrast is interesting. According to the book, if your skin, eyes, and hair all light or all medium or all dark, your contrast level is low. If your skin, eyes, and hair are light and medium or medium and dark, your contrast level is medium. If you only have light and dark values, your contrast level is high. And lastly, if you have all three values, then your contrast level is medium/high and you can wear light, medium, and dark colors all at the same time. I think I fall into the high contrast category.

I’m going to stop here for a moment and go back to that amazing color chart, where I see that the pure red pigments are all medium value, the blues and violets are all medium to dark, and the greens are mostly medium to dark. Oranges are not in my palette at all because there is not a cool version of orange. The basis of my wardrobe is black and dark gray. The only pure hues that will provide the appropriate contrast level, other than white, are lemon yellow and sap green. This likely explains my lifelong attraction to bright yellow-green. (That said, I’m not going to wear black, white, or yellow-green lipstick, so some of those medium values are still going to be useful.)

Another Bright Winter with a high contrast level might want to wear white every day. She could then choose among the dark greens, blues, and violets to get the right contrast level. (Hmm, now that I said that, I really like the idea. I might explore this for a summer wardrobe capsule next year.)

This next part is best applied if you actually did the personal palette exercise from the book. Each of those color samples is labeled with its hue family, temperature, and value. You select the samples that match your skin, eyes, and hair. Then you paste them into an empty color wheel and a neutral family chart provided for that purpose.

Now you look for your color harmonies – monochromatic, complementary, analogous, triadic, or neutral. The evidence of my attempt at this exercise shows that my primary color harmony is neutral, with analogous or triadic secondary.  The idea is to repeat your natural color harmony in your clothing. As each harmony has a different effect (neutral is elegant/sophisticated, complementary is dramatic/intense, analogous is friendly/calm, etc), you are again encouraged to choose what you want to emphasize.

Last but not least is intensity, which may from natural coloring or from personality. Personal intensity comes from an intense, magnetic personality or from a sparkling, energetic personality. In terms of natural coloring, a complementary primary harmony and high contrast level are both high in intensity so if you have one or the other, you’ll be looking at bright colors and/or lustrous, shimmering, or shiny fabrics. Based on the high contrast level, my intensity is high. This is what the personal color analysis showed as well – bright colors work best for me.

And that, my dear readers, is it for this chapter. Next up will be texture.

See you soon!

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3 responses to “The Triumph of Individual Style – part 7

  1. Vicki Wingo Grant

    Did you actually determine your skin pigment/melanin colors?

    I was sitting and waiting to pick up my son, reading TOS and holding the chapter with the skin colors up to my face while looking in the rear view mirror. I must have looked pretty weird but at least the lighting was good. I’m still not sure I’ve got the colors right–the best match says it’s an orange base, which I can’t hardly believe. My coloring is cool and low-to-medium contrast. My eyes are the darkest value. Guess I’d better get another set of eyes to look at my skin.

  2. Vicki, I did the best I could with those little color swatches but I don’t think I was very accurate. I just found it too difficult to find a good match. The swatches I glued on those pages are in the yellow, orange, red, and violet families. I’m not sure if one is supposed to have all of those or if the idea is to narrow it down some.

  3. Alexandra, Wow. I know I haven’t kept up in a chronological way with this series — because somehow I missed your post about your “personal palette of colors” — Reading this recap of that reminded me that is exactly where I got stuck when I first started reading this book. I have a terrible sense of every aspect of color, but you have given me hope, and I’m going to look into 12blueprints. Thank you!

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