Despite the fact that we women are taught almost from birth to obsess about the appearance our bodies, what looks good on us is determined almost completely by our faces. (Read more about this here.)
Style systems that rely much more on body shape are probably going to put a disproportionate number of heavier women into the Romantic category.
That's often going to be a mistake, though. There are plenty of really big ladies who just aren't flattered by velvet and draping and ruching.
Chrissy Metz is an example of one. Romantic is much too mature for her, despite what some people would call her "womanly" figure.
She looks best when she dresses for her super-cute face, not her curvy body.
What about as a person gains or loses weight -- if one's face becomes more or less rounded, does this add or remove Romantic Style ID?
Women with a lot of Romantic essence tend to have very rounded and characteristically feminine features -- full lips, full cheeks, narrow chins, high foreheads.
I do think additional weight can sometimes add Romantic to a face.
But OTOH, it can add Gamine or Ingenue instead, by making the face appear rounder and cuter. There's overlap on those points between Romantic, Gamine, and Ingenue.
I think it takes a lot of weight change to make a significant change in one's Style ID.
And features that tend to read as R -- luscious lips, delicate chins, high foreheads, sexy eyes -- are often pretty stable, regardless of weight.
Star Jones famously had a big weight change. I think she had a good bit of Romantic before -- I liked her in blingy jewelry, lace, and a smoky eye.
Did she lose some Romantic when she lost a ton of weight? Perhaps. I can identify a few changes. Younger Star's nose reads as tiny and delicate in the context of her fleshier face; when her face is leaner, her nose reads as more strong and angular. Her overall face, though still somewhat rounded, appears a bit narrower. Maybe there's a bit more Natural or Dramatic?
But she's still pretty good in curls and cleavage emphasis. I think she retains a lot of her Romantic from before.
Star Jones' weight loss was reportedly over 100 pounds. If that really big change in a person's body results in only minor changes to the face, it's reasonable to expect that a person's style identity won't change much from less drastic changes in weight.
Yes, I know I'm late to this party! But I don't have network TV, and I have two kids. I'm just now catching up with the rest of the world TV-wise.
Anyway, here are the color seasons of several of the actors on Mad Men, as best I can tell.
Elisabeth Moss: True Summer
Her best colors aren't particularly dark, but they're very cool. Soft Summer is also a possibility for her, but what really convinced me of True Summer was seeing how pink her lipstick can get. The pinker it is, the prettier she looks. Most seasons can't wear those super-pink lippies.
Jon Hamm: Dark Winter
His best colors are certainly cool, and quite dark. They're not vivid enough to be Bright Winter colors, and they have the "sooty" quality (as Christine Scaman puts it) that characterizes Dark Winter colors.
January Jones: Light Spring
Her best colors are warm, clear, and rather light and delicate. I don't think True Spring is impossible for her, but I think it's unlikely; it's telling to me that her very worst colors are dark (remember when Betty dyed her hair black?) I also find some colors to be too clear and warm for her; pure orange and bright red are not great.
Jessica Pare: Bright Spring
This woman was obviously a Bright from her first moment on screen. I decided on Bright Spring rather than Bright Winter because so many warm, clear colors are glorious on her, and because too-cool colors can make her look a bit goth.
I love how often she's costumed in her best colors. It's a joy to behold.
Linda Cardellini: True Winter
What a gorgeous example of a True Winter. The way black, white and grey make this skin look amazing -- it's just beautiful.
Although I know it will disappoint some people, I have to say that I can't accurately type Christina Hendricks. :-(
You might be thinking, "She's obviously a Bright, or a True Spring!" But don't let yourself get distracted by the colors she's costumed in as Joan -- they're generally very bright colors, but they're also brighter than she is.
Your best colors should let us see you; Joan's colors force us to just see lips, hair, and curves.
Which is probably the point.: the colors make her into a cartoon.
I suspect that, IRL, Christina Hendricks is probably a Soft Autumn, or just maybe a True Autumn; warmth seems to be good for her, but she needs less saturation than she's given on Mad Men.
What do you think? Any ideas about Christina Hendricks' color season? Do you think I've missed the mark on any of the other characters? Let me know!
Here's an interesting paper documenting some scientists' efforts to develop a computer program that can identify the relative masculinity/femininity of human faces as accurately as humans can. It's a great article to read or skim for a quick exposure to the world of "subjective gender scoring" in scientific research.
Overall, human raters tend to agree about how masculine or feminine any given face is.
Human raters are also pretty good at determining whether someone is a man or a woman based just on the face, although a large minority of faces are ambiguous enough for raters to disagree about their sex.
(There is actually some evidence that people perceive these androgynous faces as more beautiful, but that's another post.)
All of which is to say, "masculine-looking" and "feminine-looking" are things. They are qualities humans perceive, and they're fairly objective, inasmuch as people (even across cultures) mostly agree with each other about them.
Although human biological sex is binary, masculine and feminine appearance is a dimension, not a binary.
In other words, it's not the case that the most feminine-looking male face is still perceived as more masculine than the most masculine-looking female face.
Instead, both men and women vary in how masculine or feminine their faces appear to others, and there is a lot of overlap.
You have probably noticed that I use the words "masculine" and "feminine" quite a bit in my system, to describe what faces look like.
This sets me apart from some other theorists who use euphemisms like "yang and yin," or "sharp and soft," to describe exactly the same differences. (There are plenty of other euphemisms in use as well.)
I could use words like "sharp" and "soft" where I mean "masculine" and "feminine," and it wouldn't necessarily be inaccurate. I know that some women just don't like having the word "masculine" applied to them in any way.
But I prefer to use the words "masculine" and "feminine," even so, for four main reasons.
1. The first reason I use the terms "masculine" and "feminine" as descriptors is accuracy.
In my system, the terms "masculine" and "feminine" are literally accurate. I use them to describe traits that characterize members of one sex more than the other, and that therefore signal biological sex to human raters.
It's just a fact, for example, that a short nose bridge is more common in women than in men, and that human raters perceive a short nose bridge as feminine.
I care about facts, and about reality, and I assume you do too. I don't care to pretend things aren't true when they are. I prefer to accept the truth, and proceed from that acceptance.
2. The second reason I use "masculine" and "feminine" as visual descriptors is that the seven style archetypes largely depend on gender for their meanings. They derive in large part from our culture's pre-existing ideas about certain archetypal men and certain archetypal women.
For example, features that read as both youthful and feminine tend to communicate sweetness and innocence, and that's because, as a culture, we have a pre-existing idea that "girlhood" is synonymous with innocence and sweetness. The Ingenue archetype is the physical embodiment of this assumption.
(Of course, little girls are neither more innocent nor more sweet than little boys, and to proceed as if they are is to proceed on a stereotype. But we can acknowledge the existence of these obviously sexist archetypes, and use those archetypes to communicate meaning in fashion, without mentally swallowing the stereotypes. I am aware that girls aren't more innocent than boys, but I also know that other people interpret girlish visual cues as signaling innocence, so I am going to use that knowledge.)
3. The third reason that I think it's important to say "masculine" and "feminine" is that understanding your balance of masculine and feminine elements is key to looking your most beautiful.
Almost all of us women have a mix of masculine and feminine elements in our visual appearance. Yet we are choosing clothes and accessories made for women, so they tend to be feminine choices. This can result in us looking less beautiful, because when our clothes or accessories are more feminine-looking than we are, we go from looking "chiseled" or "striking" to looking actually mannish -- which is quite different, and unlovely, because it's jarring.
Consider Jamie Lee Curtis, one of my favorite examples of a woman with a lot of masculinity in her features. Is she her most gorgeous with longer, feminine, hair, or with shorter, more masculine hair?
In the picture on the left, her hair is more feminine than she is, and the result is that her face looks mannish, rather than striking or majestic, by comparison. She's more obviously a woman in the picture on the right; the relative masculinity of her hair is directly proportional to the relative masculinity of her features, and she's a striking, powerful-looking woman -- her best look.
I talked about this phenomenon -- that an appropriately masculine context actually makes a woman with masculine elements look more lovely -- with regard to Winona Ryder, in my blog post about Gamines. Google pictures of this objectively pretty woman: the more feminine her clothing and hair are, the less lovely she becomes. The same is true for Cher, for Hilary Swank, for Jennifer Aniston, for Sandra Oh, for Whoopi, for Frances McDormand, for Elisabeth Shue, and for tons of other women celebs with a lot of Natural or Dramatic or Gamine: when their context becomes too lacy and ruffly -- too feminine -- they are less lovely, not more lovely. The same is true with me! I have a huge helping of Natural, and too-feminine looks are unpretty for me. Messy hair, some gloss, and an unconstructed top, on the other hand -- gorgeous. If I do say so myself. :-)
IMO, we have to talk about "masculine" and "feminine" in order to achieve the proper masculine-feminine balance in our clothing context, to allow us to look our most beautiful.
4. The final reason I prefer using "masculine" and "feminine" to using euphemisms is this:
To change my language would be to say that I think it's right or appropriate for the word "masculine" to be insulting as a descriptor of women's features.
To change my language would be to say that I agree that masculine features are somehow inherently unlovely in women.
I won't agree that it's an insult to describe women's features as masculine, because I simply don't believe that's true. Women with more masculine features are beautiful. Women with more feminine features are also beautiful.
To say otherwise is like saying a circle is somehow inherently more attractive than a square. It's all about context. A woman with more masculine features is gorgeous when her context is more masculine; a woman with more feminine features is gorgeous when her context is feminine. (I mean, just compare the makeup in the two pics above: matte finish, neutral colors, high contrast, and straight lines suit the woman on the left; shimmer, gloss, curving lines, and pinks and reds suit the woman on the right. Each would be less lovely in the other's makeup. In their proper context, each is gorgeous.)
Some people won't be comfortable having the words "masculine" and "feminine" applied freely to both men's and women's physical appearance. For those people, another style system may be a better fit.
I intend Truth is Beauty to be a value-free zone, where we can objectively discuss physical features without applying any positive or negative judgment to the fact that they appear masculine or feminine.
My long-term vision is of a world where neither of those words has a positive or negative connotation associated with it.
Knowing your Style Identity can save you time and money. If you're not sure of your Style Identity, try the Style Identity Calculator, or consider booking a virtual analysis.
We interpret scents in the same way we interpret colors and lines. Some scents smell masculine, and some smell feminine; some are mysterious, some are delicate, some are earthy, some are cheerful, some are intimidating, some are sexy.
If you want to, it's possible for you to apply these principles toward the goal of smelling like you look.
As an Ethereal Natural, I love the delicate, earthy scents that harmonize with the delicate and earthy aspects of my beauty. I'm currently lusting for After the Flood by Apoteker: "The scent of soil, water, and the delicate stirrings of undergrowth in spring..." Doean't that sound gorgeous? Notes of soil, mushroom, and water lily -- delicate and earthy, for sure!
But what if I want to smell playful? Or girlish? Or sexy? None of those words really describe my beauty; am I committing some sort of "style crime" if the way I smell doesn't harmonize with my visual presentation?
I think the question of how closely to match a fragrance to a style ID is a pretty personal one.
If you're absolutely in love with your style ID, you might naturally want to recreate that impression in your fragrance.
But if you dream of being someone else, perfume might be a way for you to play with that fantasy.
Even though I'm an Ethereal Natural, I'm also drawn to pure Ethereal fragrances, and Ethereal Ingenue fragrances too.
I'd love to own Kenzoki White Lotus and Jardin des Nymphes, both of which I know are more delicate than I am -- aquatic and green floral notes without any weighty, earthy notes to balance them out.
But why shouldn't I play dress-up with my scents? If I want to pretend to be a pure spirit of the air, I'm going to do it, gol darn it. :-)
* * *
Classique by Jean Paul Gaultier is one of my favorite fragrances of all time.
It has a ton of sweetness , which is Ingenue, and a ton of sexiness, which is Romantic: orange blossom, plum, ylang,-ylang, tuberose. It also has quite a bit of Classic, because of the orchid and sandalwood (and vanilla too), and Dramatic as a fourth-place essence, via the sharp qualities brought in by star anise, ginger, and cinnamon. So, a great fragrance for a Romantic Ingenue or a Romantic-Classic-Ingenue, especially one with a tiny dash of Dramatic.
RC, the Sexy Sophisticate, and RCI, the Prim Princess, are pretty far from me. I'm Ethereal Natural; I'm the Dryad.
Yet I love love love this sexy, sweet, sophisticated fragrance.
I mean, why shouldn't I experiment with other personae through my fragrance, if I feel like it?
A special night alone with the man I'm crazy about could a good time to bring out my inner Sexy Sophisticate, right? It seems like a good excuse to wear this fragrance that I've loved since college.
* * *
People are often influenced by scent at an unconscious level. Maybe a person can use this fact to say more about oneself than mere physical appearance might reveal.
Maybe I have an unpleasant confrontation coming up, and I need to be intimidating. A pure Dramatic fragrance, while conflicting with my physical appearance, might send the message that I am not to be trifled with.
Formula 1 Steel by Walter Wolf would be a good choice for this. Strong metallic notes; that's a threatening message if ever there was one.
Or perhaps I could choose a scent that's me, but with an intimidating edge that's missing from my appearance: so, Ethereal-Dramatic-Natural. Intimidating Earth Goddess, I could say.
La Curie by Larrea would be perfect: ozone, leather, and vetiver mean it's abstract and earthy, but with some sharpness and aggression too.
If I'm meeting my boss's boss for the first time, I'm going to want to dress like the most professional version of Dryad that I can present, because looking like myself signals confidence.
At the same time, I could choose a fragrance that's pure Classic, to send the subliminal message, "I am reliable. I have it under control. You can count on me."
Madam President by Clash would be great for this purpose: you don't get more traditional than iris, cedar, and patchouli. (And the name is perfect, isn't it?)
You might consider playing with fragrances as a way to manifest elements of your personality that aren't obvious from your appearance. Have you done this already? Do you prefer to smell like you look? I'm curious to hear your experiences with this.
I'm coming back to an idea I had a few years ago: an outfit-generating tool for each of the different Style Identities.
Here's the tool I've created for Dramatic Classic:
Hopefully you can access that ^.
When you refresh the page, new ideas for tops, bottoms, and dresses are randomly generated. There are thousands upon thousands of unique outfit ideas.
I'd love for all of you to play around with it. I think such a tool might help "word people" visualize what to shop for and what to put on in the morning.
What do you think? If there's interest, I'll create these for all of the types, and sell them at a reasonable price.
Not sure what type you are? Try the Style ID Calculator, or consider a virtual analysis.