Category Archives: personal color analysis

Rethinking the wardrobe plan

Earlier this summer, I decided that for at least the next year, I want to work only with certain colors, and only specific hue angles within those. Here they are:

Color wheel

I’ll be working with the colors where my Bright Winter palette and my custom palette from John Kitchener overlap.

Now the question is how to plan a wardrobe around these colors. In the past, whenever wardrobe planning came up, whether as a SWAP, 6-PAC, wardrobe capsule, or one of those minimal wardrobe concepts, the idea has been that everything should go with just about everything else. In other words, totally mix-and-match. I’ve worked with it many times, making plans complete with pictures and fabric selections. But I rarely finished any of these plans. And when I did, I ended up not wearing several of the pieces. So it’s time for a rethink.

I am not a mix-and-matcher. I have certain outfits I like and wear often. I’d like to have some variation, mostly in terms of color, but not so the whole outfit is different. I love bright colors but I don’t wear more than one bright color at a time, preferring instead to combine each with black, white, and/or gray. I’m also not big on separates. So let’s say the base of an outfit is a black dress. What I need is different colored collections of accessories that work with this dress. A red collection. A yellow one. A green one. You get the idea.

Yellow collection 1

The beginning of my yellow collection.

Right now I’m working on the yellow collection. It started in June when I ordered a custom hand-painted scarf in yellow and black, and some custom-dyed yellow fingering merino yarn as well. When I started working on yellow jewelry ideas, it turned out that glass beads are not quite right. So now I’m playing with polymer clay. I have made a pair of earrings, a set of two bracelets, and a matching necklace. The black and yellow Cameo shawl belongs in this collection too, and I am currently knitting a tweedy cardigan in black, gray, and yellow.

I have yarn in all of my selected colors, and fabrics in most of them. Polymer clay colors are easy enough to mix up to match just about anything. Over the next year, I’d like to get a reasonable start on each of the colors – a set of jewelry, a scarf, and a cardigan or shawl (or some other shoulder warmer). I’m going to give it a good try to see if this way of wardrobe building will get me further than the mix-all-match-all way.

Stay tuned for some colorful polymer clay news.

See you soon!

Fabric rainbows

Hello again! I am back from a two-week stay with my family, refreshed and almost recovered from the cold my dad so generously spread all over. It’s always wonderful to see my parents, and then it’s also always great to come back home. This time it was even better than usual because there was a rainbow of fabric waiting for me when I returned.

Rainbow 1

Here’s how that happened: when I called Banksville Fabrics* to order the fabric needed to recut the fronts of a recent unfinished project, I asked for swatches of other bright solid-colored knits. The swatches got here in record time and the colors were of the spirit-lifting variety. See for yourself:

Rainbow 2

The short pieces are the ones I ordered. I keep a part of each swatch in a plastic baggie for matching purposes when shopping.

I promptly ordered a bunch of them, in 3-yard pieces, which should be enough for a sleeveless dress and a cardigan. Also, before the swatches arrived, I realized I was out of the black Sophia knit and when I went to order more, Vogue Fabrics* had other interesting colors like turquoise and lime green and pretty neutrals like winter white and burgundy. Of course, I ordered those too.

*no affiliation, just a happy customer

Fast forward to yesterday. I came home to two large boxes of fabric. As I opened the one from Banksville Fabrics, this was on top:

Rainbow 3

I put it aside right then because I wanted to see and touch my fabrics first. When I stacked them all on the cutting table, I just wanted to hug them. They looked like a rainbow. So happy and bright. Much like the Bright Winter color fan.

When I opened the envelope, out came another rainbow:

Rainbow 4

They have my number, don’t they?

How cool is that? Fabric rainbows everywhere!

RTW fast and inspiration

Yesterday, Sarah of Goodbye Valentino issued a challenge an invitation to join her for a year of RTW fast. I hemmed and hawed, and asked my husband for his opinion, then went off to procrastinate read some other blogs, but after a while I sent her an email to say I’m in. My reasoning went something like this:

  1. My summer 6-PAC gave me confidence that I can make six coordinating garments in three months.
  2. The Project 333 exercise is showing me that a small wardrobe is perfect for me and that I am definitely an outfit person (as opposed to mix-and-match).
  3. My preliminary SWAP board has mostly simple-to-sew pieces that reflect what I really wear.
  4. Participating in the YLF forum is helping me with ideas for incorporating elements of my inspiration board into my wardrobe.

All this means I have low needs, sufficient skills, and plenty of ideas so I can definitely make it happen. I’m already looking forward to it, especially because I envision making some special pieces based on my inspiration board. For reference, here it is:

Inspiration board

When I posted it on the YLF forum in November with a plea to help identify the vibe, I received a lot of wonderfully helpful analysis in response. Here’s the recap:

Old-hollywood glamour, retro, classic, ladylike/feminine, luxury,
dramatic, statuesque, majestic, queenly, sophisticated drama, bold, romantic, sleek, film noir, bombshell.
Sexy without being trashy; classic without being boring; dramatic without being costumey; think Joan from Mad Men.
Neutral clothes, colorful accessories.
Defined waist. Draped above waist, fitted below.
Textural mix – “dimension meets smooth”, shine.

This is quite interesting because it meshes really well with what Christine writes about Bright Winters. Funny because I made the board back in the beginning of 2011, long before my Bright Winter “diagnosis”. That goes to show that we often really do gravitate to what’s innately ours, even if we’re not yet ready to see it.

From Christine’s book, the keywords for Bright Winter:
“sharp, luxurious, polished, gleaming, symmetrical, repeating, imperial, composed, thrilling, brilliant, bold, dramatic, Asian, original, expensive.”

I’ll keep all of this in mind as I plan my sewing projects. Of course, I wouldn’t wear the most dramatic/retro/bombshell outfits as they are on the board. But I would like to incorporate some of their elements. Maybe a cape over an otherwise classic outfit. Ooh a cape! With a fur collar maybe!  Wouldn’t that be fun?

Over to you, dear readers: are you joining Sarah’s RTW fast? Thinking about it?

Project 333 and SWAP

You know how sometimes the universe is telling you something? Your friend makes a comment, you read something on a forum or a blog, the library has some interesting new titles… and when you look at all of it together, there’s a message for you. (No? OK, just me then.)

Whenever we move, it always takes me close to a year to develop a good understanding of how I need to dress for the new climate/lifestyle/work status. I’m getting close to that point now. I’ve been planning my SWAP, then Mary made a comment on SG about needing a strategy, and then I came across several articles about wardrobe simplification with links to Project 333. Hmmm… yes, hello! Strategy! I totally need this! I read and took notes, and then I went through my wardrobe. Take a look:

I started with a core of eight dressy items – a four piece suit and four fine-gauge sweaters.

Plan - part 1

Then I added jeans, a black leather skirt, and four casual tops.

Plan - part 2

Then came color – lime green and red. Both of these are straight from the Bright Winter palette. Even though I don’t wear red very often, there are days when nothing but red will do. And of course, I love the lime green.

Plan - part 3

Just a few more sweaters. You may have noticed that I don’t have any T-shirts in here. That’s because I consider them undergarments. As in, I wouldn’t wear them without another layer and a scarf (so they don’t show).

Plan - part 4

And it’s done. 22 pieces in all. Manageable.

Plan - part 5

Now I’ll add the coats, scarves, footwear, and accessories. Without scarves and jewelry, my total comes to 30. Once we count the scarves and jewelry, the total will be over 33 items, which is okay because the number is arbitrary anyway. The point is to have a small, cohesive wardrobe. I’m good with extra accessories.

Plan - part 6

I just realized that I forgot to add the gloves and hat – very much a necessity here in the winter. I’ll be wearing them even though they’re not in the picture.

I have all of these pieces already. (Some of the pictures are of the exact item, others are a close approximation.) I am going to wear them from now until the end of February. I think the original Project 333 starts the new season on January 1 but that doesn’t seem long enough so I’ll extend it a bit. And if it works well, then maybe all the way to the end of March to coincide with the start of the next P333 season.

I plan to post my outfits once a week to get a good idea of what I wear the most, which combinations work the best, and where I need to make changes for next time. That way I can modify my SWAP plan to get the best working wardrobe possible. Remember my SWAP board?

SWAP 2014 visual

The suit and coat will be the first five pieces in my SWAP. The suit in my P333 board is a placeholder for the new one. All four pieces will be replaced because 1) I want all four to be from the same fabric, and 2) I’m looking to switch from black to dark charcoal gray.

For coats, I have a very warm winter coat and a very thin trench coat but I need to make one for those in-between temperatures. Then I’ll be able to keep just two coats each season – the new one and the warm one in the winter, and then the new one and the thin trench coat in the spring.

After the suit and the coat are finished, I can focus on adding some lighter sweaters in gray, white, and lime green for the spring. And of course, some things may change as I learn more about my needs and preferences. I’ll keep you posted.

See you soon!

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!

Planning for fall sewing – colors

Even though it is still incredibly hot outside, it is time to plan for fall. Some of the fabrics and yarns I ordered have already come in. I am continuing with black and charcoal gray as my neutrals, and adding lime green (of course).

These are the newest additions:
New fabrics and yarns

The yarns are fingering weight Nature Spun (100% wool) by Brown Sheep Yarns, in Pepper (black) and Spring Green. The fabrics are from Banksville Designer Fabrics. On the top is a lime green double knit with a closely matching Ambiance lining. (I couldn’t capture the saturation of the knit – it doesn’t look washed out in real life.) The next fabric below is a dark gray wool/cashmere woven that will be perfect for pants. And then two more double knits – the houndstooth is a dark gray/light gray with a silvery metallic thread outlines, and the solid is a slightly heathery charcoal gray.

I pulled the other lime green fabrics and also some blacks and dark grays from my existing stash. Here you can see how they all look together:
New fabrics with stash

The colors work well with my Bright Winter color fan. I added the yellow yarn (Impasse Yellow – same yarn as the cones) after seeing the yellow/green strip against the stack of fabrics. I don’t know that it will ever play a major role, but it could work well as an accent.

More fabric will still be coming my way, including some black coating and lime green leather from Nancy Erickson. Now I just need to flesh out my outfit ideas and decide on the sewing order. I’ll be back with a plan.

See you soon!


It seems like I’ve been sewing up a storm in black and white fabrics lately, even though I said I would be adding bright colors. The problem is my stash – about 90% of it is black and dark gray wool suitings, and the other 10% are cotton shirtings and heavier wool doubleknits – not suitable for my current plans.

But I really am adding bright colors to my wardrobe and fabric collection. I have recently bought these lovely cottons (plus a chartreuse one that I’m not sure why it’s not in the picture) at a quilting store.  See how nicely they harmonize with the Bright Winter color fan? These cottons are destined for PJs. I washed them all today so the project is imminent.
PJ fabrics

On the knitting front, I have been practicing edges, hems, and necklines on the knitting machine in preparation for larger projects. These are cut & sew samples. I don’t care for the neckline on the right, which was sewn on the sewing machine – it turned out wonky and I didn’t care much for the process. The other one is better in that it was rehung on the machine after cutting and the neckline trim knitted right onto the piece. My favorite sample is the houndstooth. I love houndstooth! It is such a classic, pretty pattern.
MK practice 1

On Saturday, I found this bright turquoise 100% cotton yarn at our local yarn store. It’s a good weight for knitting on the standard gauge machine. The gauge swatch is drying right now. I envision this as a cardigan but that may still change.
Baby Cotton by Lang Yarns

But wait, there’s more! (sounds like an infomercial, doesn’t it?) I also have some bright colored yarns coming in from what was my local yarn store when we lived in Wyoming.

And more still! I had requested samples of charcoal and lime green fabrics from Banksville Fabrics a couple of weeks ago and they came through as always. I placed my order on Friday so there will be more colorful fabrics coming soon.

See? My fabric collection is about to get very colorful. And then my wardrobe too. It’s exciting! These colors make me feel so happy that I just want to spread the joy. So stay tuned!

How to integrate new colors after color analysis

Integrating your new colors after color analysis is exciting but can also be a little intimidating. There are so many colors! And as Janis said in her comment, “… some colors are scarier than others.”

So what should you do?

I think the best bet is to pick one color – the one that speaks to you the most. It may be your favorite color, or one you didn’t think you could wear, or one that everyone tells you would be great on you but you’d never thought to try it. It doesn’t matter, as long as the color you choose is from your palette. For me, it’s the lime green. (You knew that, didn’t you?)

Lime green pieces
Sweater – Ralph Lauren, peplum top – Chalayan, bracelet – Macy’s, necklace – Ross-Simons, earrings – Blue Nile, shawl – Pashmina Art. Bottom right: 3 yards of double knit bought on a recent trip to Cologne, and my new peridot earrings.

The idea here is to add the new color in small doses, not to paint your whole wardrobe with it. Let’s keep it on the upper half of the body, especially if (like me) you’re not used to wearing much “real color” on the bottom or if you want to get more mileage out of not-quite-right color but serviceable bottoms. I’ll start with a couple of garments – a sweater and a sleeveless top. Tank top, T-shirt, blouse, and cardigan are other possibilities.

And I’ll add some accessories. A pair of earrings, necklace, and bracelet. (OK, probably not a bracelet, I’ve never been much of a bracelet person. Maybe a matching watch strap instead.) And the always useful pashmina shawl. A scarf or a bandanna will work just as well to bring in the color but they won’t keep you warm on the plane or in an overly air-conditioned office.

Here’s how the new additions look with pieces from my existing (and planned) wardrobe.

Lime green integrated
How this Bright Winter incorporates lime green

I like it. Seeing it like this is highly motivating for me. I’m off to work on my 6-PAC so I can finish it and focus on doing some magic with the lime green knit.

How did you integrate your new colors into your wardrobe? Did you find new favorites? Or signature colors? Please share in the comments.

I am a Bright Winter

For years now, I’ve been living in True Winter colors. I “had my colors done” several times and was always told my season was True/Cool Winter. I had a couple of color fans to help with purchasing decisions and life was pretty easy.

After PCA
After PCA, with Bright Winter luxury drapes.

Except…. there was a part of me that didn’t quite find a home in those colors. The spunky child who loved lime green, who always claimed the “pretty” green crayon first, and didn’t consider a picture complete unless there was plenty of lime green in it, where was she in those colors? How could I, drawn to any bright yellow-green display like a moth to a flame, not have that color in my palette?

Recently, I had a chance to train with Christine Scaman of 12 Blueprints. Part of that training involved being draped (also known as Personal Color Analysis or PCA). Expecting to come out a True Winter like so many times before, I wanted to *see* for myself why this was the case. I didn’t want to just be told. Deep inside, I was hoping for a season that included “my” green but figured that it was unlikely. So imagine my surprise and joy when it turned out that Bright Winter colors suit me best. And yes, they do include lime green.

I love the Bright Winter colors. Even so, it will take a little bit of time to adjust to them. They are similar to True Winter but with a few drops of sunshine yellow added. Think snowdrops instead of fresh snow. Color intensity goes to maximum so the colors are brighter, and coolness is dialed down a bit so colors are more neutral.

Personal color analysis is only the beginning of the color journey. It will take me some time to figure out what works best, which colors, which combinations, and in what proportions. Then there will be body and face shape, line, bone structure, silhouette, and other fun things to consider. I plan to use Polyvore to explore these concepts before cutting into fabric but there will still be misses and near-misses. It may be a year before I find my holy grail but the journey should be quite interesting. Will you join me?