Romantic beauty is feminine beauty in its mature, womanly form.
It may be the easiest type of visual feminine to spot, because it's the kind of feminine beauty hetero men are most interested in -- so it's a beauty we often see portrayed in popular culture.
Other systems call this type Sensuous, Soft, or Alluring. They're beating around the bush.
The straight truth is this: Romantic beauty is sexy beauty.
I initially searched for a better way to word this, because I have been afraid of coming across as objectifying Romantic women.
Of course, it could be argued that Style Identity Analysis is inherently objectifying, because it analyzes women based purely on their physical qualities.
I don't believe this is true, though. We're not ranking women, or judging their inherent worth, based on their appearance; we're analyzing appearance for the purpose of helping all women have tools to feel simultaneously authentic and beautiful -- if that's something they want. The point of Style Identity Analysis is to empower women in their own authentic beauty.
Yet talking about Romantic women's appearance is difficult for me because, traditionally, women have been judged by how well we conform to the standard of Romantic beauty. And we're all pretty sick of it, aren't we?
Even the Romantic women, who "win" in that system of judgment, may be tired of being valued for their feminine beauty.
Is it possible for us to celebrate Romantic beauty without implying that Romantic women's worth lies in that beauty?
I believe it is. I hope it is.
Because there's no way around it: Romantic women embody sex appeal.
It goes without saying that Romantic women are no more or less sexual than any other women. But visually, they read as pure womanly sexuality. Romantic women tend to have sensuous mouths, smoldering eyes, narrow jaws, and large foreheads.
Think about what happens to the female body at puberty. Push those changes to the extremes, and you're picturing a Romantic's best look. Romantics are flattered by clothes that create the impression of an extreme hourglass figure. They benefit from cinched waists, hip emphasis, cleavage emphasis, and butt emphasis.
Let's put aside that this may be the embodiment of the hetero male fantasy. What's important is that it's the Romantic woman's particular form of beauty. For that reason, and no other, we celebrate it.
Dark hair tends to read as Romantic because human hair naturally darkens with sexual maturity. (Just as light hair reads as youthful because prepubescent children tend to have lighter hair than adults.)
A flush in human skin is an indicator of sexual arousal. Palette-appropriate reds, which echo that flush, look perfect on Romantics.
Romantics look like themselves with half-closed eyes, a cocked eyebrow, and a knowing smile -- or no smile at all. This "come-hither" face is silly on pretty much everyone else, but on Romantics it's perfect. It looks wise and confident.
Feminine beauty is defined by the curving line. Perhaps because a curved line is more visually complicated than a straight line, Ethereals and Romantics look great surrounded by a lot of detail. (While Naturals and Dramatics are unattractive in highly detailed contexts.) A Romantic looks gorgeous in ruffles, gathers, ruching, elaborate hair, and ornate jewelry.
Red roses symbolize romance and sexuality, and a Romantic woman's beauty is like a red rose: beautiful, delicate, detailed, and composed of curving lines.
So you're a Romantic, but you don't want to be defined by your sexy appearance. As a woman, I completely get that.
But if you instead choose shapeless, roomy clothes, you risk looking dumpy and unprepared. (Though a Natural could pull this off.)
When you honor your Romantic beauty by choosing feminine, figure-hugging clothes, it reads as dignified and self-aware.
But you can also perfect your Romantic beauty with an over-the-top use of jewelry or profuse detail near your face. This is a great choice for Romantic women who don't want to wear figure-hugging clothes.
The more jewelry you put on a Romantic, the better she looks. The rest of us start to look silly or mannish very quickly.
If you know what looks good on you, but you don't know your style identity, try the Style Identity Calculator.
A version of this post was published in May of 2015.
The Ethereal type embodies a variety of beauty that exists, but that most systems don't allow for: feminine beauty that's neither youthful nor sexual.
Some systems describe the Ethereal type as the most "yin" -- a synonym often used for "feminine." But I don't think that's accurate.
Physically, the Romantic type -- not the Ethereal -- most closely embodies a physical form with exaggeratedly estrogenized features. So Romantic, I think, comes closest to being the most feminine type. Romantic is certainly the most womanly type.
Ethereal beauty, like Ingenue beauty, reads as distinctly feminine but not overtly sexy. Ingenues are girlish and perpetually youthful, while Ethereals are at the other end of the spectrum: even at a young age, they have an air of great maturity and wisdom. You might use the word "ancient" to describe them, but in the sense that they seem to be old souls. It's easy to imagine that they've traveled here from a far-distant time.
Physically, Ethereals are defined first by the curving line, as all feminine types are. But their curving line is an elongated S or oval. Their faces tend to be long and gently sculpted.
Ethereals look very much like themselves when they're looking into the distance, with a knowing half-smile or an air of distraction. One gets the impression they're actually looking inward, or seeing something others can't see.
Faded-looking, subtly colored hair and skin read as Ethereal, for a few reasons:
- Subdued colors suggest age, since human coloring naturally fades with age. So muted coloring helps create the ancient or timeless quality that Ethereals have.
- As objects move farther away in our vision, they appear less saturated. So people of low saturation often have the Ethereal quality of seeming to retreat or fade into the distance.
- Misty coloring on an Ethereal contributes to the impression that she is a misty entity, only partially present on this plane.
Look at actors who have played magical beings or figures from myth or legend, and you'll likely see people with Ethereal qualities. Casting directors know how important appearance is in communicating a character's nature.
Ethereal beauty is aesthetically appealing but not erotically appealing. It's passionless. For this reason, Ethereal women are often the women that other women find beautiful but that some straight men find weird-looking. If a rude guy has ever looked over your shoulder at a fashion magazine and asked, "Is she supposed to be pretty?" you were probably looking at an Ethereal.
Ethereal beauty is often confused with Dramatic beauty, because it's unusual-looking, and rare, and because both types tend to have long faces and frames.
But Dramatic edges seem pointy, while Ethereal edges are gently rounded. And Dramatic energy is aggressive, even threatening, while Ethereal energy is peaceful. Dramatics look ready to attack; Ethereals look as if they can maintain Buddha-like calm even if they're punched in the nose. Dramatics feel like they're moving toward you and Ethereals feel like they're drifting away.
Ethereals are flattered by light-as-air fabrics, translucency, ornate detail, and anything suggesting flight, such as winged shapes or feathers. Ethereals look like themselves when they look as if they're clothed in clouds, mist, starlight, or moonbeams.
When you read about personal color analysis, you'll often come across the term dominant trait.
We know - hopefully we know! - that color has three dimensions, and any given color can be described as being high or low in each of the three dimensions. So a color can be
- warm or cool in hue
- light or dark in value
- high or low in chroma (bright or soft)
The palettes of each of the 12 seasons are harmonious within themselves. Any given palette can be said to show a dominant trait in its colors.
The Dark Winter and Dark Autumn palettes, for example, are predominantly dark, or low in value. The Bright Spring and Bright Winter palettes are predominantly bright, or high in chroma.
Now, some writers will suggest that you can identify a person's season by identifying the dominant (and secondary) traits of that person's coloring. You see this a lot online. I call it the "dominant trait" method of color analysis.
The thinking goes like this: you can look at a person's skin, hair and eyes, and judge whether her personal coloring is mainly dark, light, soft, bright, cool or warm. Once you figure this out, you immediately have her narrowed down to two seasons.
Unfortunately, personal color analysis doesn't work this way. If only it did!
Departure from this idea is part of what separates the followers of Kathryn Kalisz's teachings from other thinkers in the world of color analysis.
Season can't reliably be determined by identifying the "dominant trait" in someone's appearance. It can only be determined by identifying the traits that characterize the best colors for that person.
A Bright is not always obviously bright in personal coloring. A Dark is not always obviously dark. A Soft is not always obviously Soft. And so on.
A great example: Lupita Nyong'o.
If you're using the "dominant trait" method to determine Ms. Nyong'o's season, you will likely think something like this:
"Her skin tone is quite dark. Her eyes are very dark. Her hair is very dark. 'Dark' must be her dominant trait; she must be a Dark Autumn or Dark Winter."
But that's not right!
Her best colors are not dark and rich. Instead, she's most fantastic in super-bright hues.
The dominant trait of Ms. Nyong'o's best colors is brightness.
Would you have looked at her face, hair, and eyes and called "brightness" the dominant trait of her personal coloring? Probably not easily.
(This is one big problem with the "dominant trait" method of determining season: it often results in women of color getting automatically, inaccurately slotted into Dark Autumn and Dark Winter.)
Avoid the "dominant trait" method of determining your own season. It may well lead you astray. Instead, focus on figuring out your best colors. You can do it. :-)
First published in March 2014.
Dramatic is a style type I am always delighted to encounter in a virtual analysis.
Women with a lot of Dramatic tend to have strong jaws, strong brows, strong cheekbones, intense, narrow eyes, and an overall powerful energy.
These women can pull off avant-garde clothes that most of us can't; in fact, they require extreme minimalism, sharp corners, and straight lines in their ensembles in order to appear as the gorgeous women they are. Clothes that are unstructured, very detailed, or noticeably feminine tend to exaggerate the masculine aspects of Dramatic features in an unlovely way.
To wrap my head around style types, I find it helpful to use visual thesauri and word association tools.
"Striking" is already a word I use when I think about Dramatic types, but "spectacular' is new. I love "spectacular" for Dramatics in its literal sense -- having the quality of a spectacle. Dramatic clothes beg to be looked at. (What's ironic is that when a Dramatic wears them, we're more likely to notice her and not her face, because her face is exactly as spectacular as the clothes are.)
"Large" and "big" are definitely important for Dramatics. In a Dramatic look, everything gets turned up to 11.
Dramatic clothes are thrilling on the runway or on the hanger. And, of course, they are merely correct on a Dramatic woman. (This is an interesting corollary to Classic clothes, which can be boring on a hanger but sensational on a Classic woman. There's a version of this for every style type: On a Natural, sloppy clothes aren't sloppy; on a Gamine, weird clothes aren't weird; etc.)
"Striking" leads us to "strike," which is fitting, because Dramatic energy feels like it's hitting you. Dramatics and Ethereals can be easily confused, because they both have sculpted, unusual-looking features, but one way to distinguish them is that Dramatic energy "strikes" you with its forward-moving, aggressive energy, whereas Ethereal energy feels like it's floating away.
Here are some more fun words associated with "dramatic":
Of course, there are many associated with the theater; Dramatic clothes, by themselves, are performances. I like here also "decisive" (nothing about Dramatics is wishy-washy!) and "sharp."
Here are some additional adjectives I commonly use for Dramatic looks:
You might be a Dramatic blend with a gentle, peaceful nature. Rest assured that your sharp, intense, attention-getting clothes will look at home on you, and you'll stand out less than if you wear the clothes that are all wrong for you.
The lines on the right are much more extreme than the traditionally feminine lines on the left, but in which picture does model Hailey Baldwin look most like herself? For me, it's the one on the right. I'm not thinking about that edgy red top; I'm just looking at her face. :-) Whereas on the left, I keep getting distracted by that ostrich trim and those hair. She doesn't have enough Ethereal to look normal in those delicate feathers, and her beauty is not feminine enough to be really flattered by those waves. She has a lot of Dramatic, and looks her best in strong, straight lines and little detail.
(I've said before, but should probably mention again, that masculine beauty and feminine beauty are both wonderful, and it's no slight to a woman to notice that her beauty is masculine rather than feminine. Most supermodels have strongly masculine beauty.)
Not sure of your style type? Try the Style Identity Calculator, or consider investing in a Virtual Analysis.
Your palette seems inherently gentle and graceful. Yet your Dramatic or Gamine Style Identity calls for a bold use of color. Can you do that?
Sure you can!
Definitely wear your Light Spring colors.
But wear them in solid blocks, rather than in watercolor or ombre effects.
This would not be so good for a Dramatic or Gamine:
This use of Light Spring blue is excellent for an Ethereal blend, but not so fitting for a style type with a more aggressive energy.
A use of Light Spring color more like this , below, would be more appropriate for a Dramatic or Gamine:
The color is in solid blocks, not gently blended. It's still the Light Spring palette, but on a person with Light Spring skin, the effect will be bold.
Even better, consider doing head-to-toe charcoal, vanilla, or raspberry (Light Spring's versions of black, white, and red) to create a Dramatic effect. Or try unusual combinations of your palette's "primaries" and "secondaries": ocean blue with popsicle orange, butter yellow with grape purple, and so on.
Your seasonal coloring does play a small role in your style identity -- people with highly contrasting coloring tend to make a more intense visual impression, and people with very low-contrast coloring tend to make a more gentle physical impression.
But your coloring isn't determinative of your Style ID. Light and Soft seasons are definitely represented among Dramatic and Gamine style types.
Hope this helps!
First published November 2017