I love the colour black and do on occasion wear black from head to toe. Growing up, my dad referred to me as ‘a goth’ more than once; he likes to tease me a lot, but sometimes I walk right into it. While having luminescent skin isn’t something I have a lot of control over, what I do have a say in is the colour of clothing I choose to wear, and the contrast of dark clothing against my white skin only makes me look paler. My season is autumn and, alas, black is not on the autumn swatch.
It was in my last year of school, before our end-of-year dance, that I heard about colour swatches for the first time, and the idea that our skin tones, hair colour and eye colour should affect the way we choose our outfits. I joined a few others from my year at a day course a couple of months before the dance, where we learnt about colouring, hair styles and other beauty-related information for the purpose of better preparing for the dance ahead (we took the occasion quite seriously). That’s where I discovered that my colour swatch was autumn and the fact that some colours suited me, while others really didn’t. I nervously waited to receive my card, expecting that I would soon be destined to wear oranges, reds and yellows for the rest of my life. But it was with great relief that I spotted a multitude of colours on my swatch, including a bright shade of pink, this made choosing the colour of my dress a simple decision, and other colours that I wouldn’t have necessarily associated with autumn.
Investigation into colour and the four seasons began a long time before my discovery of the autumn swatch. The book, ‘Theory of Colours’ by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, published in 1810 and translated into English in 1840, studied colour extensively. In 1961, Johannes Itten’s ‘The Art of Colour’ discussed a natural correspondence between the four seasons.
But it was colour theorist Suzanne Caygill’s Method of Seasonal Color Analyis that really investigated the relationship between our colouring and the seasons for the purpose of wardrobe styling. From the 1940s, Caygill identified sub-groups within the four seasons and coined terms such as ‘metallic autumn’ and ‘early spring’. She appeared on TV, taught seminars, published her book ‘Colour: the Essence of You’ in 1980 and founded the Academy of Color. Also around this time, it became affordable to print books in high-quality colour, and more authors began publishing books about colour analysis. In particular, Carole Jackson’s book, ‘Color Me Beautiful’, published in 1980, caused many a woman to analyse their natural colouring and make the appropriate wardrobe changes. Jackson built on the success of her book, publishing sequels and creating swatch packets for shopping convenience.
Over time, the seasonal palettes were expanded from four to twelve and authors also focused on the contrast between skin tone and hair and eye colour.
What’s your swatch?
Now for the fun, practical stuff. So the four general categories are, of course, winter, spring, summer and, saving the best for last, autumn. Working out which you are relates to two basic principles; the undertone of your skin, hair and eyes, and your overall colouring, and specifically the colour of your hair.
Below is a basic way to work out which season you are. It can get a lot more detailed, and there can be the odd exceptional case, but the majority of people will be able to work out their season by answering the below questions.
1. Is your natural hair colouring lighter than medium brown? Then you’ll be spring or summer.
2. Or is your natural colouring darker than medium brown? Then you’ll be winter or autumn.
3. If you answered yes to question 1, does your skin tone and hair have a warm undertone? Are you a natural redhead? If you can answer yes to one or both of those, you are spring.
4. If you answered yes to question 1, does your skin have a ‘blue’, cool undertone? Is your hair more ashy (no red or golden highlights)? If yes, then you are summer.
5. Winters and autumns – if you answer yes to question 3, then you are autumn.
6. Finally, winter, you will answer yes to both question 2 and 4.
Below you’ll find your basic swatches for each season and on these you will see the colours that best suit your colouring.
Getting more specific
But in order to better put this knowledge into use, we have to get more specific. Answering the above questions isn’t always that easy since some people may find that they have a more neutral colouring (either in skin undertone, hair and eyes, or overall colouring and hair colour). While Carole Jackson’s book stated that everyone fits into just one season, other authors built on her ideas, expanded the categories from four to twelve and added sub-categories to the seasons. The four categories are quite broad, which means that some colours on your swatch will suit you more than others.
So these sub-categories are light, clear, soft, warm, deep or cool. Spring will either be light, clear or warm. Summers will either be light, soft or cool. Autumns will either be soft, warm or deep. Winters will either be clear, deep or cool.
Here’s how you work out which one best suits your colouring.
If the colour of your hair is light, the shade of your skin is light and your eyes are light blue, green or grey, then you are a light spring, e.g. Ellen Degeneres, Kate Hudson, or light summer, e.g. Reese Witherspoon, Naomi Watts, Jodie Foster. You should wear the soft, light and muted shades of your swatch, like peach for light spring and pale lavender for light summer.
If your colour is high in saturation and contrast, you have medium brown to black hair or bright blond hair, and your eye colour is blue, bright green, amber, turquoise or topaz, then you are a clear spring, e.g. Heather Graham, Brittany Snow, or clear winter, e.g. Liv Tyler, Megan Fox, Vanessa Williams. Look for the saturated, clear colours on your swatch, such as bright, warm pink for clear spring and hot pink for clear winter.
If the contrast between your skin, hair and eyes, as well as your overall colouring, has little contrast and is close to neutral, your hair will is neither very lightn or very dark and your eyes are hazel, brown, green or grey-blue, then you are soft autumn, e.g. Giselle Bundchen, Drew Barrymore, the Olsen twins, or soft summer, e.g. Sarah Jessica Parker, Jennifer Aniston, Rihanna. Your best colours are soft, muted shades, like olive green for soft autumn and blue teal for soft summer.
If your overall colouring has a warm undertone, your hair ranges somewhere between golden blond and brown, or between strawberry blond and deep auburn, and your eyes are hazel, green, topaz, or light to medium brown, then you are a warm spring, e.g. Amy Adams, Nicole Kidman, Christina Hendricks, or warm autumn, e.g. Debra Messing, Lindsay Lohan, Kate Beckinsale. The colours that best suit you are mid-range colours that are neither too intense nor pale, such as a medium tomato red for warm autumn and a soft aquamarine for warm spring.
If you have black or dark brown hair and green or hazel eyes, then you are a deep winter, e.g. Kim Kardashian, Lucy Liu, Jada Pinkett Smith, or deep autumn, e.g. Julia Roberts, Eva Mendes, Jessica Alba.The colours that best complement you will be deep, vivid shades; black for deep winter and deep terracotta for deep autumn.
If your overall underlying colouring, whatever colour your skin and hair, is cool, you will be either a cool winter, e.g. Jennifer Connelly, Brooke Shields, or cool summer, e.g. Kate Middleton, Paulina Porizkova. Try mid-range shades on your swatch, such as emerald green for cool winter and periwinkle for cool summer.
Finally, here is a broad overview of the 12 categories for more inspiration. Hopefully knowing your season will help to give you a better idea of what colours to look out for when you next go shopping.
Oh, and by the way, I still on occasion wear head to toe black, even though there’s nothing near that shade on my swatch. But I think it’s OK to break the mould every now and then. I like the colour black so much that I’ll happily pretend to be a deep winter for a day, goth or no goth (dad).
All pictures courtesy of babscloset.com